I have recently been doing some research for my History Happy Hour lecture next week (Thursday, April 6th at 7:00 pm at Tenacity Brewing), and I found myself intrigued by stories of nine survivors from southwest Michigan. What truly struck me, aside from the fact that these nine people survived, was the different circumstances that brought the three families aboard the ill-fated ship. Yet, despite these differences in wealth and origin, these people shared the fact that not only did they survive, they all ended up living within twenty miles of eachother.
One of the families, a newly wed couple, Dickinson and Helen Bishop from Dowagiac, was just returning from their honeymoon in Europe. They had first class tickets, as they were both from wealthy families, and as such, Dickinson faced some problems in his societal circles fo having taken a space on the lifeboat. However, the officer loading first class passengers gave priority to newly wed couples.
Nellie, Ruth, Richard, and Marion Becker, were aboard the Titanic for quite different circumstances. They were second class passengers, and were moving back to Benton Harbor from years of missionary work in India. Ruth, who was seperated from her mother and siblings at the time of the wreck but still made it to a life boat, told people of how she saw the ship break in half just before going under. No one believed her until divers photographed the wreckage in 1985.
Hanna, Miryam, and George Tu’mah had a completely disparate journey. From Tibnin, a small villiage in Lebanon, Hanna and her two children were immigrating to the US to be with her husband, who had moved to Dowagiac already. As this is my own family, and the focus of my lecture, I won’t get into too much about these steerage passengers. After arriving in Dowagiac, they eventually moved to Flint and became part of a growing Lebanese community there.
The Titanic had passengers from all walks of life and many varying circumstances. Yet despite these variations, survivors of that day always had that shared near death experience. That some of them also shared a destination in southwest Michigan is quite exciting for those of us Michiganders who love to hear about any piece of history involving our state. These are only three examples of Michigan Titanic survivors, but they highlight the diversity of the survivors of that fateful day.