Titanic Connections to Jacksonville

The Titanic, which sank on April 15, 1912 in the North Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg, seems far removed from sunny Jacksonville, Florida.  Surprisingly, there are some interesting connections that provide a unique perspective and provoke some good research questions about Jacksonville in the early 1900’s.

The Sage Family

    http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/john-george-sage.html

The Sage family was on their way to Jacksonville with their father, John George Sage.  John, a native of England, came to Canada with his son George to find jobs in order to help support their large family of eleven.  While in Canada they found out about opportunities in Florida, an area well known for farming prosperity.  John put a deposit on a farm in Jacksonville (though the exact location of the farm and other legal information has yet to be found).  He and his son returned to England and prepared the family for their journey to Jacksonville aboard the Titanic.  Everyone in the family was on board, including John, his wife Annie, and all nine children.  The oldest child, who may have boarded a lifeboat and then left it to be with her family, was twenty-one, and the youngest child was five.  Unfortunately, as Third Class passengers, none of the family survived.

The Sage family was the largest family lost during the sinking of the Titanic.  They were on their way to Jacksonville to grow pecans.  Had they not died on the voyage, their descendants would likely still be alive today.

Reverend Robert James Bateman

    http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/robert-james-bateman.html

The Reverend Robert James Bateman, resident of Jacksonville from England, intrigues me the most.  He ran the Central City Mission, which operated out of LaVilla.  LaVilla was becoming one of the music capitals of the United States, and at the time the area was filled with brothels.  Bateman’s mission helped to feed the hungry, heal the sick, help those who wanted to turn their lives around, assist in finding jobs for men and women (including women who were wanting to get out of the brothels), and place abandoned babies and young children into loving homes.  If you read the following link, you’ll understand why Bateman seems to have been one of the best citizens Jacksonville had (though I disagree about the section regarding the Garrett children, who I’ll talk about below):

http://www.cowart.info/Monthly%20Features/Titanic%204%20web/Bateman%204%20web.htm

Bateman is buried in Evergreen Cemetery here in town.  His sister-in-law, Mrs. Ada E Ball, was also on the Titanic, but he placed her on a lifeboat before returning to help others secure places.  (She later died in Jacksonville and is also buried in Evergreen Cemetery.) Eerily enough, it would seem that Bateman had set everything in order before he left just in case he were to die in the Atlantic Ocean, and even wrote a poem regarding his potential death for his loved ones to find (which can be viewed at the above link towards the bottom) .

Fr Thomas Roussel Davids Byles

    http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/fr-byles.html

Father Byles, from England, was on his way to Jacksonville via the Titanic, though I’m not sure why he was coming to Jacksonville.   He had performed mass along with two other priests every day on board the ship, so many passengers recognized him.  During the sinking he helped women and children onto the lifeboats and lead groups of people of all religious backgrounds in prayers.   It is interesting to think of Father Byles and Reverend Bateman, both headed to Jacksonville, on the deck of the sinking ship giving words of peace and comfort to those about to die.  There were six other religious men on board the Titanic, all of whom died.

The Garrett Children, as well as John Astor IV

    Jamila http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/jamila-amelia-garrett-nicola-yarred.html

       and Elias http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/elias-louis-garrett-nicola-yarred.html

I find the story of the Garrett children so moving and intriguing.  The children were both immigrants from Lebanon coming to Jacksonville to live with their family.  They were headed to be reunited with their father when the Titanic hit the iceberg.

Jacksonville today has a strong community of Middle Eastern families. The majority of those families here in town today are descendants of early immigrants, particularly from the countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.  Today, new immigrants arrive from those areas, often to live with distant relatives whose grandfathers came to Jacksonville in the 1880’s and 1890’s to work as grocers and to establish their own businesses.  This strong community is a particular research interest of mine, so I won’t delve further into it here, but having that context is particularly important to the story of the Garrett children.

Setting the children aside for a moment, consider John Astor IV.  The Astor family from New York had several connections to Jacksonville.  In particular, William Astor, Jr. came to Jacksonville to winter.  He helped to establish several buildings downtown, creating what was known as the “Astor Block.”  He also founded the now historic Florida Yacht Club in Jacksonville, even though he was the only man in the area to own a yacht.  The Astor family may not have spent all of their time and money in Jacksonville, but Jacksonville was an important leisure area for them.

John Astor IV’s connection to Jacksonville, via William Astor

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Backhouse_Astor,_Jr.

    http://www.metrojacksonville.com/forum/index.php?topic=9312.0

So, here we have two cases, John Astor the IV (http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/john-jacob-astor.html), and the Garrett children.

You can read the experience of the Garrett children above in their links, but the long and short of it is, they were frightened and alone on the deck of the Titanic.  They didn’t speak English, and people were vying for boats.  In all the confusion, the children froze.  They didn’t know what to do.  Unexpectedly, the wealthy John Astor appeared.  He had just put his pregnant wife into a lifeboat and was told that he could not join them until all the women and children had gotten on board the boats.

I don’t know anything personal about John Astor beyond his death, and so I don’t want to project anything onto him that may not be true.  I would have to imagine, however, that he had to have felt upset.  Here he was, one of the wealthiest men in America, trying to save his wife and unborn child, yet he wasn’t able to save himself in that lifeboat.  I’d imagine at the time he felt worried that he wouldn’t be able to get into another lifeboat if all the others filled up.

But in that moment where the possibility of life with his family and the possibility of death upon a boat was decided– when death became very, very real for him– he did something kind.

He saw two immigrant children who had no idea what was going on around them.  He saw two children who were literally frozen with fear, and he picked up little Amelia and little Elias and put them on the boat with his wife and unborn child.  Instead of saying how rich and powerful he was and insisting on being with his family, he helped to save two children who were very much alone in the world at that moment.
John Astor IV didn’t make it off the Titanic, but Amelia and Elias Garrett did.  They came to Jacksonville, and grew up with their father, and got married, and had their own families.  Their descendants stayed in Jacksonville, and I would suspect are still in town today, living among us.

Secondary Sources

I don’t just focus on Northeast Florida history– I also like researching the Marlboro County area of South Carolina, as well as the nearby regions of North and South Carolina.

I was going to pick up a new book (new to me, not recently published) called “Marlboro County, South Carolina: A Pictorial History” published by the Marlborough Historical Society.  I’ve read a few chapters and they’ve been really intriguing.  I’ve spent years studying the histories of particular families, particular regions, particular themes, etc., but books about the region are fairly rare.  After just a chapter or two of this book, which is hard to find and generally overpriced when you do, I’ve been able to pick up a really useful context for the region that years of researching wasn’t able to give me.

I’m going to reiterate that:  I have learned more about the general history of a region by reading a couple chapters of a book than I have learned in years of researching the region myself.

With research, one things leads to another.  That’s half of the fun and half of the battle!  A really solid book can give you very important context that you might not otherwise gain.

For instance, you can do all the research you want regarding JaxPort.  You can start looking into the history of the place, but that leads to thinking about the history of Blount Island (which was only named Blount Island when it was built because most of the island is man-made).  Maybe this leads you to start thinking of the the almost-presence of floating nuclear power plants and the history of the shipping industry in Jacksonville, and looking into the old shipyards, and why they moved, and shipbuilding during WWII and Jacksonville’s military history.  Or perhaps it takes you onto an environmental tangent, wondering about the changes of the river over time, the history of dredging, the type of marine life we had before dredging, the fishing industry, etc. etc.

At the end of that, you know about a lot of things, but it required a LOT of research just to learn about the shipping industry.  On the other hand, you could start with a book like “Jacksonville: Riverport-Seaport” by George E. Buker and, while it wouldn’t give you the level of detail your years [possibly] of research gave you, it would let you know about major themes before you started.  Then you wouldn’t have to run around hunting down the details of information that you might not need or want.  The book will also give you context of additional information that you might need and may never have found just by diving in blindly.

Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t believe that all secondary sources are going to give you enough context that you don’t need to research, or that they are going to tell you everything you need to know, or that you are going to be more knowledgeable by just feeding yourself more and more context (isn’t that what the internet is for?).  But I do believe that having context gives your research more meaning, makes the work that you need to do a tad more clear and directed, and may save you time researching in the long run.

We all know that research is addictive.  Who couldn’t use more effective use of the excessive amount of time we spend researching?

Maybe it sounds obvious to look at the secondary research first, but us research addicts typically don’t.  Maybe its a pride thing or a “I don’t want to be unduly biased by this person’s interpretation of the facts” thing, but either way it’s a silly thing.  Anything “wrong” you encounter in a book will still help you research more effectively, particularly because you get to see all the ways that other people are approaching the same facts.

I get people asking at the archives all the time for information that could be gathered by a simple search at the library for secondary sources.  I recently received a call from someone looking for information on Jacksonville’s architectural history.  The researcher wanted to know the architectural styles of every neighborhood in town, as well as a broad overview of how that information fit into national trends and what major architects designed the buildings, and he wanted to learn it all by looking at photographs of buildings in every area of town over time.  Kudos to the researcher for a) caring, b) trying to give some context to the research and c) coming up with a constructive way to find out the information, but Points Deducted for not just searching online for something like “books about Jacksonville, FL architecture” and then checking it out at the library.  It would have taken months and months, if not years, of both my time and his to find the information he wanted the way he wanted to do it, and it was all avoided by suggesting he go look at a book.

Don’t be that guy.

And before you think you’re NOT being that guy, please take into consideration that the JaxPort example above was taken from personal experience, and at the end of the day I still know very little about JaxPort and more than I need to about everything else, not to mention that the original thought that made me want to write this post was that I’m just now reading about Marlboro County after years of meticulous digging and very little insight.

http://www.worldcat.org

Don’t forget your secondary sources, and Happy Hunting! :)

Deaths in Jacksonville’s Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1888

The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1888 still remains, to me anyway, one of the most interesting events in Jacksonville history.  Most of you will probably be  familiar with the very basic facts of the story:  a visitor to the city brought the fever, the nation was well aware of the terrible extent of the epidemic which caused both sympathy/charity towards the town and extreme fear of anyone from the area, people fled Jacksonville, quarantines were put in place, and over 400 people died.

If you’re not familiar with the 1888 epidemic, these links give a good sense of what happened:

http://www.cowart.info/Florida%20History/YellowJack/YellowJack.htm

http://exhibits.lib.usf.edu/exhibits/show/discovering-florida/disease/1888-epidemic-in-jacksonville

Of course Jacksonville was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States in the 1870s and 1880s, and unfortunately the Yellow Fever heavily impacted that decline while at the same time ruining the Subtropical Exposition (http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2008-jul-back-in-time-the-subtropical-exposition).

There are a million interesting research possibilities that spring from the epidemic and my mind is always thinking about it.  The reaction to Jacksonville’s quarantine was severe, but how did the United States react to other cities under quarantine?  If the reaction was more severe, was that because of the tourist trade in the city?  The official death count was in the low 400s, but was that really true?  What about the death count within social groups that were often left out of official records?  Could there have been one or two hundred more people who died who were African-American?  Could the count have been kept intentionally low to provide tourism damage control?

I’m not planning on answering those questions right now, but I am interested in the answers and how to find them.

Unlike most people, I think about the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1888 every day, or at least 5 days a week, because I work in Old St. Luke’s Hospital.

For almost two years now I’ve wanted to get a plaque up inside the hospital (where the archives for JHS are held) that lists the deaths that occurred here from the epidemic.

Until then, I offer this list of names as a memorial to those who died from Yellow Fever in my office.  Maybe that sounds morbid, but if you had a list of people who died from Yellow Fever in your office where you type emails and answer phone calls all day, where you eat lunch and call your family and spend a large portion of your week, wouldn’t you think about it all the time, too?  Being a historian certainly doesn’t help.

George Bell, September 29, 1888.  Death # 253.

George Bell, November 10, 1888.  Death #401.

William Bergman, November 9, 1888.  Death #396.

Thomas Boulanger, October 13, 1888.  Death #321.

Mrs. L E Chambers, October 19, 1888.  Death #340.

Antonio Christopher, September 27, 1888.  Death #236.

V Civalle, November 2, 1888.  Death #374.

John Crawford, September 24, 1888.  Death #230.

C Croisant, September 9, 1888.  Death #70.

George Wheaton Deans, October 9, 1888.  Death #308.

James Graves, September 18, 1888.  Death #157.

Berry Jones, October 4, 1888.  Death #281.

William A Jones, September 13, 1888.  Death #104.

Patrick Kelley, September 9, 1888.  Death #69.

Isaac Landis, September 8, 1888.  Death #66.

D LaTourette, October 7, 1888.  Death #301.

David Luidgi, August 30, 1888.  Death #27.

Hugh McDugal, October 27, 1888. Death #360.

Burton Mays, August 27, 1888.  Death #17.

Mary Pearce, September 29, 1888.  Death #252.

E R Pierson, September 5, 1888.  Death #44.

C H Pollard, August 27, 1888.  Death #15.

J P Pybus, October 15, 1888.  Death #329.

Nellie Reigles, August 23, 1888.  Death #9.

John Ryan, September 20, 1888.  Death #174.

Harry Scott, September 20, 1888.  Death #180.

Berry Sells, November 9, 1888.  Death #389.

Sister Rosa de Lima, August 29th, 1888.  Death #21.

Mrs H E Smith, September 18, 1888.  Death #153.

Julia Storck, September 9, 1888.  Death #71.

Clayton Summerall, November 10, 1888.  Death #399.

Andrew Thomas, August 31, 1888.  Death #29.

Arthur Turner, September 20, 1888.  Death #182.

A Venazi, November 13, 1888.  Death #407.

Mrs C K Weymouth, September 14, 1888.  Death #109.

C H Weymouth, September 16, 1888.  Death #121.

Anson Wood, October 1, 1888.  Death #272.

George N Woods, November 19, 1888.  Death #418.

J C Wright, September 10, 1888.  Death #82.

In total, 39 people were reported to have died in St. Luke’s Hospital.

For a complete listing of burials, as well as the complete report of the Auxiliary Sanitation Association of Jacksonville (formed to deal with the epidemic), click here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=uD0JAAAAIAAJ&pg=RA1-PA46#v=onepage&q&f=false

One thing I find important in history, particularly for me in genealogy and cemetery research, is the concept of memory in all its wonderfully intricate and curious fashions.  At least I can say that someone is thinking about 39 of the people who died from the Yellow Fever Epidemic in 1888 at St. Luke’s Hospital.

How to Use the Jacksonville City Directories

Often at work I get asked for histories of individuals or houses.  Sometimes the “facts” are easy to find, like in the case of famous people who have extensive information published about them, or houses that hold some particular significance to the community and have already been researched.  The majority of the time, however, the questions are about people or places that are not well known and are usually of significance only to the person asking the question.

In those cases, I usually point people to the City Directories to at least give them a good timeline of the building or individual.  I believe City Directories are a good place to start in almost any town in the U.S., and especially in Jacksonville where the majority of the city’s records burned in 1901.

The problem is, people are usually unaware of how to use the City Directories.  For some people research is instinctive and the directories seem fairly intuitive.  For the vast majority of people, however, the directories can seem overwhelming.  The directories are certainly time consuming to use (though not nearly as much as the Archibald Abstracts, which I’ll discuss in another post), but beyond that the directories can be quite simple to use.  You just need to know how they are laid out, where to start, and a couple of other tips.  If you use the directories armed with that information, they should be a breeze and provide you with a delightful bounty of information!  They are often my starting point when researching local history and sometimes lead me to clues that allow me to know where I need to look for other information.

The directories go back to the late 1870’s (as far as I know), which is quite exciting, especially for those looking for some possible way to supplement the missing 1890’s Federal census.  While they cover a goodly period of time, one important restriction applies to the directories:  they only cover the city of Jacksonville proper.  In other words, while you can find out about a business on Bay and Market Streets in 1880, you won’t be able to find out about a business on Park Street until it became incorporated into the city limits.  Unfortunately there are no real directories for areas in the county that were not within the city limits, although parts of South Jacksonville (Hendricks Avenue near the water) do appear in some directories.

The city directories are kind of like old phone books, but they aren’t centered around phones.  They are basically a directory of people who live in a town.  You can look people up by last name or by address.

If you look an individual by last name, you will see everyone in town that constituted an independent household.  Sometimes you get two people with the same last name listed as living at the same address.  They are likely related with two different families living at the same address.  The directory only lists the head of household and their spouse, so children are, unfortunately, not listed.  The directory also lists the occupation of the head of household, and some years also list the address of their job.

Check this out from the 1919 Jacksonville City Directory.

Example:  Roese, Charles (Lisetta), asst mgr Standard Fisheries Co, h 1720 Silver.

Means:  Charles Roese, who is an assistant manager at Standard Fisheries Company,  and his wife Lisetta, live at 1720 Silver Street.

The above example doesn’t list the address for Standard Fisheries Company, but if you were curious you could look it up under S.  Interestingly enough, looking at the other Roese names around Charles, there is the following listed:  Roese, Agnes L, bkpr Standard Fisheries Co, b 1720 Silver.

That means that someone named Agnes works as a bookkeeper for the fisheries, and in this case does so out of 1720 Silver Street (b=business).  This likely means that she does the bookkeeping from the house where Charles.  She probably lives there too, but it doesn’t specify.  This also COULD mean that the business is run out of the home.  Perhaps a street vendor?

If you look up Standard Fisheries Company in the same directory, you find the following:

Standard Fisheries Company, F M Elledge pres, Charles Roese asst mgr, ft of S Main.

So, now we see that the fishery is located at the foot of South Main Street, which means it is right on the waterfront.

If you were looking for information on Charles Roese, you’d now know a bit about what he did, where he lived, who he was married to, a possible relative, and where he spent most of his days at work in 1919.

One section of the city directories is by name, but the other section is by address.  The addresses will show the owner/occupant of a building, so even if an address wasn’t residential, the directory will show what business occupied that place.  If you’re interested in learning more about a particular company you can use the name section of the city directory to look up the the company for more information. Sometimes there is even an advertisement in the directory that will help you find out more about the company.

This is all very straightforward seeming, because you can use this feature to look up the history of a home or building.  You can look at an address year by year and it will tell you the name of the person or company who occupied that space.

Let’s look up 1720 Silver Street in 1919 so you can see what it looks like:

(list of numbers and names)

1648 W O Wilkerson

Fifth intersects

1706 J C Powell

(more numbers and names)

1720 C A Roese

(more numbers and names)

1760 Mrs D B Currier

Sixth intersects

1807 M J Joseph

(list of numbers and names continues)

There were a lot of numbers between the Fifth and Sixth Street intersections, so I shortened it, but you can see from the above example how the cross streets work and what a partial listing of Silver Street looks like.

Of course all this great information can’t come without some confusion.  In 1927, the majority of street numbers changed in Jacksonville.  So the current address of a home or building may not have same house number now as it did before 1927.  That problem is usually easily solved.  The directories show the addresses on a given street as well as the cross streets.  The cross streets then are generally the same as now.   Once you know your cross streets, you simply look between those cross streets in a pre-1928 directory with the older house numbering system and compare it to 1928 or later directory.  Often the same occupant will be in a building between the same two cross streets in the two directories, so that will be your key.    Also, if you check the 1928 city directory by name (not address) and the person is living in the same place as they did in 1927, the new house or building number will be listed with the old number in parenthesis.  Finding that information is much easier than the cross-street method that I use, but isn’t always available.  Also, sometimes so many homes get built on the street that the cross-street method doesn’t always work.  Just do this:  keep looking!  Eventually you will be able to figure out the old and new address.  You just might have to be creative, but the directory will help you find it.

Try explaining all that succinctly to a researcher on the phone!  

Nevertheless, if someone knows how to properly use the city directories, they can find a wealth of information on people/business and their locations, as well as house histories.

Introduction

Every blog has the requisite introduction, and this is mine.

I am historyglobe, more commonly known as Lauren Mosley.  I’m the archivist at the Jacksonville Historical Society.  I have an MA in history, a passion for genealogy, Florida history, cemeteries, and research in general.

I decided to make a blog partially to be informative to the public, partially to give myself an outlet for thoughts on history, and partially to avoid having to publish an article!  I also am working on two different books, and I believe this blog will give me a way to see my ideas together to help me see a better method of organization and hopefully get some good ideas from the public as well.

In absolutely no way should this blog be taken too seriously.