Mr Percy Thomas Oxenham

Mr Percy Thomas Oxenham was born in Aston, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England on 4 October 1889.

He was the son of Charles Edward Oxenham (1852-1920), a stonemason, and Phoebe Josebury Bond (1854-1920). His father was from Ware, Hertfordshire and his mother from Middlesex and they had married in London in 1873. 

Percy was one of eleven children and his siblings were: Charles Thomas George (b. 1874), Edward George (b. 1875), Henry Thomas (b. 1877), Amelia Sarah (b. 1879), Charlie (b. 1880), Phoebe Susie (b. 1883), George Albert (b. 1891), Ethel Maud (b. 1894), Eva Eliza (b. 1895) and Ernest Arthur (b. 1896).

Percy, sometimes better known as Thomas, first appeared on the 1891 census living at Redburn Cottage in Enfield, Middlesex where the family had moved to shortly after his birth. By the time of the 1911 census he was still living with his family, then at 86 South Street, Ponders End, Middlesex and he was described as an unmarried stone sawyer.

Percy boarded the Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912, travelling as a second class passenger (ticket number 14260 which cost £10, 10s). His destination was New Dunham, New Jersey to the home of his brother Charlie and he had sent notification ahead to another brother Edward "Theodore" who lived in Pleasant Plains, Staten Island, telling him of his intention to be aboard the maiden voyage. At least one other brother and a sister also lived in the USA. The Middlesex Gazette (20 April 1912) stated that he was travelling with Walter Harris, a close personal friend of his elder brother Charles1. The same article states they shared a cabin.

Whilst aboard Oxenham recalled being pleased to make the acquaintance of Samuel Ward Stanton.

Accounts vary, with some saying that he shared the same cabin with Walter Harris; one account has a steward alerting them both to the danger whilst another has Percy's own curiosity draw him to the upper decks to investigate any trouble. In any case, he and Walter watched several boats leave before they became separated with Percy ending up in a lifeboat (some sources placing him in lifeboat 13). He survived whilst his friend Walter Harris was lost. In an interview printed in the Perth Amboy Evening News (26 April 1912), it was stated:

... He was one of the second cabin passengers and when the crash came he was in bed asleep. He said that he hastily dressed himself, putting on trousers, shirt and a coat, and came out on deck. The orders were given for all hands to put on life belts and that women and children should leave the ship in the lifeboats first. He said that he assisted in placing the life belts on some women and one of the officers asked him if he could handle an oar. 

When he replied in the affirmative he was placed in the next to the last boat that left the ship. After rowing six hours they were picked up by the Carpathia. After landing in New York Mr Oxenham went to the home of his brother Charles at New Dunham, from where he came to Pleasant Plains to visit his brother, Theodore Oxenham, who has resided there some time. - Perth Amboy Evening News, 26 April 1912

With the press initially casting doubt on whether Oxenham had indeed survived, he was interviewed at the home of his brother Theodore in Pleasant Plains and declared that he would never cross the ocean again and would make the USA his home. He quipped that he would not return to Britain unless a bridge was built across the Atlantic. Whilst at Staten Island he attended a Titanic memorial in Tottenville with fellow survivor Mary Davis.

At a memorial service to be held in the South Baptist church, Tottenville, tomorrow night, Mr Oxenham and Miss Mary Davis, another survivor who is at the home of her sister, Mrs Austin Langford, in Sprague avenue, Tottenville, will be present. The memorial service will he held under the auspices of Coronation Chapter of Tottenville, Independent Order Daughters of the British Empire. National President Dr J. Elliott Langstaff Is to be the speaker of the evening. - Perth Amboy Evening News, 26 April 1912

Percy and Miss Davis remained in contact for a while after their arrival in New York and just over a year later he was a guest at her home:

Percy Oxenham a survivor of the Titanic was the guest of Mr and Mrs Archie Wilburn of Sprague avenue last evening. Mrs Wilburn [is] also a survivor of the Titanic. - Perth Amboy Evening News, 27 June 1913

Percy eventually settled in North Bergen, Hudson, New Jersey where he gained employment. By 1915 he was residing as a lodger at Maple Street in North Bergen and described as an unmarried stone cutter.

He was married around 1916 to Elsie Henny (b. 24 November 1896), the New Jersey-born daughter of German parents Eugene and Frieda Henny. Together they welcomed a daughter, also named Elsie (b. 1917, later Mrs Lawrence "Larry" Jackson). 

At the time of his WWI military draft Percy was described as being of medium height and build and with brown hair and blue eyes; his then address was stated as 652 Filmore Place in Hudson, New Jersey and he was described as a machinist. 

He and his family settled in Vineland, Cumberland, New Jersey around 1924 and Percy worked at the Dorchester Shipyard. At the time of the WWII military draft his address was Grant Avenue in Vineland and he was employed in the Navy Yard in Philadelphia. In the early 1940s both he and his wife were involved in an automobile accident from which Mrs Oxenham never fully recovered. 

Percy continued to give interviews regarding his experiences for many years after the sinking. Following a brief illness he died in Vineland on 8 April 1954 and was buried in Greenwood Memorial Park, Millville, New Jersey. His widow Elsie passed away on 10 January 1964.

Percy Oxenham Grave
(Courtesy of Trevor Baxter)

Notes

  1. The Middlesex Gazette (20 April 1912) stated that Harris was a close "bosom" friend of Percy's brother. The Perth Amboy News (17 April 1917) states that they were cousins. 
     
 

Pictures

Percy Oxenham in 1953
The Daily Journal  (1953) 
PERCY OXENHAM IN 1953
 

Articles and Stories

Vineland Times Journal (1953) 
Hudson Observer (1912) 
Hudson Observer (1912) 
Jersey Journal (1912) 
Belfast Newsletter (1912) 
Daily Home News (1912) 
 

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Credits

Trevor Baxter, UK
Gavin Bell, UK
Hermann Söldner, Germany

References and Sources

Hudson Observer, 20 April 1912, One Survivor Reaches Home Of Brother
Jersey Journal, 20 April 1912, Experiences of a Young Englishman
Hudson Observer, 23 April 1912, Leaves Sinking Ship in Boat 13 and Still Lives
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the United States Immigration Officer At Port Of Arrival (Date: 18th-19th June 1912, Ship: Carpathia) - National Archives, NWCTB 85 T715 Vol 4183
Middlesex Gazette, 20 April 1912, Local Men Aboard
Perth Amboy Evening News, 16 April 1912, Pleasant Plains Man in Sorrow
The Perth Amboy News, 17 April 1917, Are saved from Calamity, Oxenham and four of Ryerson family
Perth Amboy Evening News, 26 April 1912, Oxenham will stay in U.S.
Perth Amboy Evening News, 27 June 1913
The Daily Journal, 14 March 1944, Suit for damages against Charlson
The Millville Daily, 28 January 1946, Larry Jackson weds Miss Elsie Oxenham
The Daily Journal, 11 January 1964, obituary of Mrs Elsie Oxenham
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2019) Percy Thomas Oxenham Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #531, updated 11th December 2019 08:26:24 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/percy-thomas-oxenham.html