Did you know that a Sturgis Woman Survived the Titanic Sinking?
It's been over 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic. This Thursday makes it 109 years to be precise.
Since I share a birthday with the anniversary of the Titanic sinking, I have been inundated with information about the tragic event since I was a child. From school reports on 'memorable events' that happened on your birthday to the 1997 blockbuster smash hit, 'Titanic'...I think the majority of us could give a summary of what happened that day.
But, today, thanks to a listener, I learned that a woman from Michigan was not only on the ship but survived. And that a fortune teller warned her about her fate long before she was ever on the Titanic. *cue eerie music*
Her name was Helen Walton, or at least that was her maiden name. At 19 years old she boarded the Titanic with her husband, Dickinson H. Bishop, a 25-year-old wealthy widower who hailed from Dowagiac. They were returning from a 4-month honeymoon where they delayed their journey to specifically board the 'unsinkable' Titanic, according to encyclopedia-titanica.org.
Their story from the night of the sinking matches most others. At first, Helen wasn't even aware that the Titanic had struck the iceberg. When she went on deck to investigate, an officer told her that she, "might as well go back to her cabin as there was no danger." Well, we all know how quickly things take a turn for the worst in this story. Very soon after returning to her cabin, they were ordered to put on their life vests, and, fortunately for them, they were loaded onto a lifeboat.
One of the ongoing themes surrounded the case of the sinking of the Titanic is the fact that:
- There weren't enough lifeboats for everyone on board
- A number of lifeboats departed the ship below capacity
That last point seems to be true for Helen. According to her testimony, her lifeboat was lowered to the water with 28 people on board, less than half of its capacity. They were rescued the following morning and returned to New York.
While Helen's story doesn't end with her tossing a giant, heart-shaped diamond off the back of a ship, there is an interesting twist here.
During their honeymoon in Egypt, a fortune teller said that Helen would survive a shipwreck and an earthquake before an automobile accident would take her life. Are you ready for this?
- She survived the sinking of the Titanic
- While on vacation in California, the couple experienced an earthquake
- The next year, the couple was returning to Dowagiac from Kalamazoo when their car ran off the road and struck a tree.
Helen did survive. Barely. She had a fractured skull and was expected to pass. The only reason she survived is because doctors were able to place a steel plate on her skull.
However, three months later Helen took a spill while visiting friends and passed away on March 16, 1916. She is currently buried in Sturgis. Did the injury from the accident ultimately kill her? I don't know. But, I do know that I'll be paying close attention should I ever visit a fortune teller in Egypt.
Thank you so much to our listener, Lori, who brought this to my attention! What an incredible piece of history to have right here in Michigan. Encyclopedia Titanica has a wealth of information about both Helen, her husband Dickinson, and endless stories about the Titanic if you'd like to learn more.