Titanic bow in shipyard before its historic launch.
|Cottonwood residents Lawrence Robran and Madeline Shiers have very different family connections to the ill-fated Titanic.|
|"At the top of the stairs Captain Smith looked worried. The ship listed heavily to port."|
Two Cottonwood residents have different stories of the Titanic tragedy 100 years ago, April 15, 1912.
Madeline Shiers is probably thinking, "Thank God, Dad missed the boat."
For Lawrence Robran, two sisters, distant relatives, made the boat... Lifeboat #4, along with Lady Astor.
Going to America
Madeline's father, Archibald Hastings, was 18 years old in 1912, having been raised in Manchester England. His mother died earlier and he was anxious to go on an adventure. A boyhood friend, Harold Chadwick, had left Manchester to work for a distant relative in Western Canada two years earlier. One day Archie received a letter from a neighbor where Harold was working, who wanted to hire a man for the spring of 1912, to help with seeding and general farm work on his Saskatchewan homestead.
Archibald had to convince his father and sister, Beatrice, of the idea, and then find passage.
According to Hastings' memoirs, complied by Madeline, "It was important that I find a ship between the 1st to the 10th of March. There was no ship on that schedule, and we had under discussion as to the chances to ship on the new White Star Liner, Titanic. It was quite exciting to think of traveling on a huge ship on her Maiden Voyage!"
As it turns out, fortunately, there was a timing issue. "There would have been the problem of using the train to the Titanic's point of departure in Southampton, and not being able to leave until two weeks later. It also would mean having to take the train from New York back into Canada. Suddenly, we received word that the Allan Liner, Virginian, was returning from Canada and expecting to dock at Liverpool about March 10th, to leave again for Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 15th."
Archie endured a rough crossing in the North Atlantic, lasting eight days on the Virginian. After taking the train from St. John, New Brunswick, to Regina, Saskatchewan, he settled in.
An avid genealogist, Larry Robran of Cottonwood, was digging into the Eustice bloodline. His grandmother was a Eustice. He discovered that two sisters were passengers on the ill-fated Titanic, children of his great-grandfather's brother.
They boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France. Miss Elizabeth Mussey Eustis (as it was then spelled) and her sister Mrs. Walter B (or Martha) Stephenson were daughters of William Tracy Eustis.
"Sunday morning, April 14, 1912, was a beautiful clear day, high wind and cold," Martha Stephenson and Elizabeth Eustis, later wrote in "The Titanic: Our Story."
"Elizabeth and I wrote letters before service, remarking at the service that they did not sing the hymn 'For Those in Peril On the Sea.' We then read the chart and noticed we had made a run of five hundred and forty-seven miles. After lunch we spoke to Penrose, our steward, and he said today's run was nothing to what we would do on Monday, when they expected to do five hundred and eighty miles."
"Having finished all my books, I got the library steward to lend me Sir Ernest Shackleton's book of the South Pole and I spent half an hour looking at pictures of icebergs and ice fields, little realizing that I should ever see similar ones."
"I was sound asleep when at quarter before twelve, when I was awakened by a terrible jar with ripping and cutting noise which lasted a few moments. We both were frightened, sitting up in our beds. Our steward came down to close the port and I asked him if the order had been given to close all the ports, but he said "No, it's only cold, go to bed; it 's nothing at all."
Instead the sisters decided to "dress fully, as if for breakfast, even putting on our burglar pockets containing our letters of credit and money. I determined also to do my hair and put on a lined waist and old winter suit as it was so cold. While Elizabeth was doing her hair, the ship suddenly settled, frightening me very much, and I urged her not to take pains but to hurry.
"Mr. Thayer appeared at our door, and said he was very glad that we had dressed. He thought there was no danger, but we had struck ice and there was much on deck and he urged us to come up and see it, saying we would find him and Mrs. Thayer on the deck."
Once on deck, the sisters and other passengers were ordered back to their staterooms for their life preservers.
"I distinctly remember being beside the gymnasium on starboard side and seeing Mr. Ismay come out, noting the fact that he had dressed hurriedly, as his pajamas were below his trousers."
Ismay was a member of the firm that owned the White Star Line.
"At the top of the stairs Captain Smith looked worried. The ship listed heavily to port. Rockets were being fired over our heads. We fully realized if the Titanic was sending rockets, it must be serious. Shortly after that the order came from the head dining saloon steward to go down to the A deck.
"The ship had listed badly by that time and the lifeboat hung far out from the side so that some of the men said, 'No woman could step across that space.' The only gentleman I remember seeing at all was Colonel Astor, who was stepping through the window just in front of me when the crew said, "Step back, sir; no men in this boat." He remarked that he wanted to take care of his wife, but on being told again that no men could go, he called, 'Good bye,' and said he would follow in another boat.
"On reaching the water, they called from the deck to know who was in command, and a man answered 'The quartermaster.' They then asked, 'Who else?' and he said, 'I am alone.'
"They said, 'We will send you two more men,' and shortly a boatswain and common sailor came down over the davit ropes into the boat. My fear here was great, as she seemed to be going faster and faster and I dreaded lest we be drawn in before we could cast off.
"We could hear a cracking noise resembling china breaking, which we learned later was the cracking of the boiler plates. We pulled three men into the boat. One man was drunk and had a bottle of brandy in his pocket which the quartermaster threw overboard and the drunk was thrown into the bottom of the boat and a blanket thrown over him.
"We all implored them to pull for our lives to get out from the suction when she should go down. When the call came that she was going, I covered my face and then heard someone call, 'She's broken.' After what seemed a long time, I turned my head only to see the stern almost perpendicular in the air so that the full outline of the blades of the propeller showed above the water. She then gave her final plunge and the air was filled with cries. We rowed back and pulled in five more men from the sea."
"We found ourselves in the boat with Mrs. Arthur Ryerson, her boy, two daughters, governess and maid; Mrs. Thayer and maid, Mrs. Widener and maid, Mrs. Astor, her trained nurse and maid, Mrs. Carter, her two children and maid, Mrs. Cumings, and maid of Los Angeles, with many from second and third cabin besides the eight men whom we had pulled in from the sea."
"We have struck an iceberg. Badly damaged. Rush aide," signaled the Titanic on the new Marconi wireless.
The Carpathia was the first to reach the troubled vessel, though many other steamships were nearby. The Virginian, put on a full speed and headed toward the Titanic, as well as the Baltic, Californian and Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic.
The shock came at the end of April for Archibald Hastings. Someone in Saskatchewan had a ham radio and learned that the Titanic on her maiden voyage to New York had struck an iceberg and sank with a loss of 1,500 lives, the greatest disaster for any passenger ship to date.
"Only an act of Good Fortune prevented me from being on that ship," thought Archibald Hastings.
"My father never forgot that he was protected from that enormous tragedy, for some purpose, but he knew exactly what" Madeline mused. "He started a family in Chicago. He was a carpenter, homebuilder and lumberyard owner."
Madeline was the 13th child. Archie has 42 grandchildren.
According to the New York Times, Capt. Arthur Rostron, commander of the Carpathia, and the ship's surgeon were guests of Mrs. Astor and Mrs. John B Thayer June 2, 1912. Mrs. Thayer invited them to thank them personally for the part they played in the rescue. Mrs. Thayer accompanied her guests from the Astor mansion in New York to Haverford, Pa., in a private car attached to the mainline train
"Among those who attended the dinner was Mrs. Walter B. Stephenson, who lives near the Thayers and was another Titanic survivor."