Independence, Iowa’s Connection to the Titanic and Carpathia
It’s amazing how many Iowans have ties to the Titanic, even all these years after the great ship sank. During a program at the Independence Public Library in June 2019, a lady named Ann Gitsch from Independence approached me following the program. As soon as she mentioned she had a relative on the Carpathia who helped rescue Titanic survivors, she had my total attention.
Ann mentioned that her family was from Northumberland in northeast England, and her grandmother, Wynanda Purvis was an aunt to Robbie Purvis, who was a steward on the Carpathia. Robbie Purvis was working on the Carpathia when the steamship rescued passengers from the Titanic during the early morning hours of April 15, 1912.
As Gitsch told me about Purvis, she handed me a copy of an unnamed publication with an article titled “Alnwick Schoolboy’s Experience.” (Alnwick is a town in Northumberland, England.)
The following article was taken from a 1912 letter Purvis wrote to his parents, including Mr. R. Purvis of Battery Hostel, Alnmouth, in northern England, following the Titanic disaster. The news article promised to be “of special interest to those were his [Purvis’s] schoolmates at the Duke’s School:”
We have reached Gibraltar at last after the most eventful voyage I have ever experienced. I suppose you have seen the papers about the Carpathia getting the Marconi message which was sent from the Titanic before she went down. The captain got the message at 12:15. All the crew were in bed, so he sent down the chief steward to call all the stewards and stewardesses. At first the men would not get up. They thought it was just some boat drill they were wanted for, but they got up quick enough when they heard exactly what had happened—that the Titanic was sinking, and that the Carpathia had turned around and was going as hard as she could to assist her.
We got all together in the dining saloon, and the chief steward told us exactly what to do. Some were sent to carry blankets, other to lay up tables and make coffee, and some to man the boats in case they should be lowered.
I have an oar in Number 12 boat. We had the ship ready to receive 2,800 passengers by half past two. We got the first boat [from the Titanic] at 4 in the morning full of women and children. There were all nearly mad with cold. There was only two men in the boat—one a sailor who had gone mad. We hauled them all up the ship’s side with ropes tied around them and the children in canvas bags. We picked the last boat up at ? o’clock [newsprint here was illegible] and took altogether 780 persons safely on board. [Purvis’ count wasn’t quite accurate. Later accounts reported that Carpathia rescued 705 survivors from the Titanic, and rescue efforts were completed by 8:30 a.m. on Monday, April 15, 1912.]
We took eight dead bodies out of the boat and buried them at sea. We did not take any dead bodies into New York.
We came quite close to the iceberg which the Titanic struck. It was about a mile long and 100 feet high. There were plenty of bergs scattered about, but none so big as this one. We had to come right through amongst them in the dark looking for lifeboats. We sailed exactly over the spot where the Titanic went down, just a dark patch on the water with deck chairs and cushions and dead bodies (some babies) all floating about amongst the wreckage. It was a heart-rending sight.
When we got to New York, we had about 200 boats down to meet us, two American battleships amongst them. Men were down taking moving pictures of the ship docking, and of the Titanic’s passengers leaving her [the Carpathia]. Several of the passengers we brought back wanted to give us dinner, but the captain would not let us leave the ship, as we were sailing as soon as we could get coal in.
I am sending you an account of the wreck written by myself. I must now draw to a close, as I have no time for more now. I remain, etc., Robbie
Iceberg “glistening in the morning sun like a tombstone”
Printed in this same newspaper, beneath Purvis’s letter, was a small section called “Notes from Carpathia,” which contained more details that Purvis jotted down:
“The Carpathia reached the scene of the disaster at 4 a.m. Everything was still. Lifeboats were scattered about the horizon, crowded with half-frozen, lamenting women and children, whose dear ones had been so ruthlessly snatched from them. A giant iceberg loomed up, glistening in the morning sun like a tombstone. A huge dark patch on the icy water with many bodies mingled with wreckage, marked the spot where the ill-fated Titanic went down.
Bodies floated about among the wreckage. Some were those of women and children, others of weather-beaten sailors, whose horny fingers had grasped a floating spar till God had relieved them of their sufferings. The Carpathia sailed on around the scene of the disaster, the dark, icy water lapping against her iron sides, as if mocking her for being too late.”
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator. My new non-fiction book, “Iowa’s Lost History on the Titanic,” will be coming out in 2019. In the meantime, click here to get a taste of the fascinating stories you’ll find in this book.
If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.
If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.
Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Let’s stay in touch. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com.
Talk to you soon!
- Do Press Releases Still Work?
- Erasing History? Budget Cuts Threaten to Gut Ag History at Iowa State University
- Machines that Changed America: John Froelich Invents the First Tractor in Iowa
- Bob Feller on Farming, Baseball and Military Service
- Classic Restaurants of Des Moines: A Taste of Thailand Served the "Publics" and Politics
- Want to Combat Fake News? Become a Better Researcher
- Communication Tips
- Dallas County
- Food history
- Iowa food
- Iowa history
- Small town
Archive by year
- When Agriculture Entered the Long Depression in the Early 1920s
- The Corn Lady: Jessie Field Shambaugh and the Birth of 4-H in Iowa
- Sauce to Sanitizer: Cookies Food Products Bottles Hand Sanitizer Made with Ethanol
- Myth Busting: No, Your Pork Doesn't Come from China
- Long Live Print Newsletters! 5 Keys to Content Marketing Success
- Shattering Silence: Farmer Helped Slave Find Freedom and Racial Equality in Iowa
- Meet Iowa Farmer James Jordan, Underground Railroad Conductor
- George Washington Carver Rose from Slavery to Ag Scientist
- Remembering the African-American Sioux City Ghosts Fast-Pitch Softball Team
- Want to Combat Fake News? Become a Better Researcher
- Classic Restaurants of Des Moines: A Taste of Thailand Served the "Publics" and Politics
- The Untold Story of Iowa’s Ag Drainage Systems
- Stop Rumors Before They Ruin Your Brand
- Finding Your Voice: The Story You Never Knew About "I Have a Dream"
- Warm Up with Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Soup
- Can a True Story Well Told Turn You into a Tom Brady Fan?
- Baking is for Sharing: Best Bread, Grandma Ruby’s Cookies and Other Iowa Favorites
- 4 Key Lessons from Bud Light’s Super Bowl Corn-troversy
- Could Your Story Change Someone’s Life?
- What To Do When the Travel Channel Calls
- Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes and the Magic of Maid-Rite in Iowa
- How Not to Invite Someone to Your Next Event--and 3 Solutions
- We Need FFA: Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig Reflects on His FFA Experiences
- From My Kitchen to Yours: Comfort Food, Conversation and Living History Farms
- Smart Marketing Lessons from an Uber Driver--Listen Up!
- Hog Trailers to Humidors: Two New Iowa Convenience Stores Reflect “Waspy’s Way”
- A Dirty Tip to Make Your Social Media Content More Shareable
- Are You on Team Cinnamon Roll?
- Senator Grassley on Farming: Any Society is Only Nine Meals Away From a Revolution
- Why We Should Never Stop Asking Why
- What’s the Scoop? Expanded Wells’ Ice Cream Parlor Offers a Taste of Iowa
- Independence, Iowa’s Connection to the Titanic and Carpathia
- Memories of Carroll County, Iowa, Century Farm Endure
- Iowa's “Peacemaker Pig” Floyd of Rosedale Helped Calm Racial Tensions
- How to Cook a Perfect Prime Rib
- How Did We Get So Rude?
- Mmm, Mmm Good: Soup’s on at the Rockwell City Fire Department
- Quit Using “Stupid Language”
- In Praise of Ham and Bean Soup
- Recalling a Most Unconventional—and Life-Changing--FFA Journey
- Events Spark Stories That Help Backcountry Winery Grow in Iowa
- Sac County Barn Quilt Attracts National Attention
- Doing Good, Eating Good at Lytton Town Night
- Young Entrepreneur Grows a Healthy Business in Small-Town Iowa
- Digging Deeper: Volunteers Showcase Thomas Jefferson Gardens in Iowa
- How to Tell Your Community’s Story—with Style!
- DNA Helps Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Return to His Family
- It’s Time to Be 20 Again: Take a Road Trip on Historic Highway 20
- The Biggest Reason You Shouldn’t Slash Your Marketing Budget in Tough Times
- Are You Telling a Horror Story of Your Business?
- Pieced Together: Barn Quilt Documentary Features Iowa Stories
- Unwrapping Storytelling Tips from the Candy Bomber
- Barn Helped Inspire Master Craftsman to Create Dobson Pipe Organ Builders
- Butter Sculptures to Christmas Ornaments: Waterloo Boy Tractor Celebrates 100 Years
- Ag-Vocating Worldwide: Top 10 Tips for Sharing Ag’s Story with Consumers
- Growing with Grow: Iowa 4-H Leader Guides 100-Year-Old 4-H Club for 50 Years
- High-Octane Achiever: Ethanol Fuels New Driver Tiffany Poen
- Shakespeare Club Maintains 123 Years of Good Taste in Small-Town Iowa
- Iowa’s Ice Queen: Entrepreneur Caroline Fischer’s Legacy Endures at Hotel Julien Dubuque
- Darcy's Bill of Assertive Rights: How to Communicate and Get What You Need
- Celebrating Pi Day in Iowa with Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie
- Cooking with Iowa’s Radio Homemakers
- Top 10 Tips to Find the Right Writer to Tell Your Company’s Stories
- The “No BS” Way to Protect Yourself from Rude, Obnoxious People
- Learning from the Land: 9 Surprising Ways Farmers Make Conservation a Priority
- Leftover Ham? Make This Amazing Crustless Spinach and Ham Quiche
- Iowa’s Lost History from the Titanic
- Coming Soon--"Dallas County," a New Iowa History Book!
- How to Clean a Burned Pan in 6 Simple Steps
- Iowa Beef Booster: Larry Irwin Takes a New Twist on Burgers
- Get Your Grill On: How to Build a Better Burger
- "Thank God It’s Over:" Iowa Veteran Recalls the Final Days of World War 2
- How to Thank Veterans for Their Military Service
- Imagine That! Writers, Put Your Reader Right in the Action
- Remembering Ambassador Branstad’s Legacy from the 1980s Farm Crisis in Iowa
- Busting the Iowa Butter Gang
- Lightner on Leadership: “Everyone Has Something to Give”
- Show Up, Speak Up, Don’t Give Up
- Small - Town Iowa Polo Teams Thrilled Depression - Era Crowd
- Ethanol:Passion by the Gallon
- Cruising Through Forgotten Iowa History on Lincoln Highway
- Why I'm Using a Powerful 500-Year-Old Technology to Make History--And You Can, Too
- 5 Ways a “History Head” Mindset Helps You Think Big
- Behind the Scene at Iowa's Own Market to Market
- Let’s Have an Iowa Potluck with a Side of History!
- Iconic State Fair Architecture: Historic Buildings Reflect Decades of Memories
- Iconic State Fair Architecture- Historic Buildings Reflect Decades of Memories
- Iowa Underground - How Coal Mining Fueled Dallas County's Growth
- Ultra-Local Eating: Jennifer Miller Guides CSA, Iowa Food Cooperative
- The Hotel Pattee and I are Hosting a Party—And You’re Invited!
- Tell Your Story—But How?
- Mediterranean Delights: Iowa Ag Influences Syrian-Lebanese Church Dinner
- 6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations
- 6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations!
- 6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write—Even When You’re Not in the Mood
- Always Alert-How to Stay Safe in Any Situation
- Does Accuracy Even Matter Anymore?
- Soy Power Shines at Historic Rainbow Bridge
- Free Gifts! (Let’s Talk Listening, Stories and History)
- How to Connect with Anyone: Lessons from a Tornado
- Soul Food: Lenten Luncheons Carry on 45-Year Iowa Tradition
- Top 3 Tips for Writing a Must-Read Article
- Darcy's Top 10 Tips to Better Writing
- Top 8 Tips for Building a Successful Freelance Business
- 10 Steps to Better Photos
- Reinventing the Marketer of 2010
- Extreme Writing Makeover
- My Top Social Media Tips for Farmers: REVEALED!
- Honoring the Legacy of Rural Iowa's Greatest Generation
- Iowa's Orphan Train Heritage
- Dedham’s Famous Bologna Turns 100: Kitt Family Offers a Taste of Iowa History
- Iowa Barn Honors Pioneer Stock Farm
- Darcy's Top 10 Tips for Better Photos
- Soup and Small-Town Iowa Spirit
- Savoring the Memories: Van's Café Served Up Comfort Food for Six Decades
- Mayday, Mayday—The Lost History of May Poles and May Baskets in Iowa
- Iowa's Vigilante Crime Fighters of the 1920s and 1930s
- Very Veggie: Iowan's Farm-Fresh Recipes Offer Guilt-Free Eating
- Iowa Public TV's "Market to Market" Features Expedition Yetter, Agri-Tourism, Des Moines Water Works' Lawsuit
- 62 Years and Counting: Calhoun County, Iowa, Families Maintain 4th of July Picnic Tradition
- “A Culinary History of Iowa” Satisfies: Iowa History Journal Book Review
- For the Love of Baking: Lake City's Ellis Family Showcases Favorite Iowa Farm Recipes (Caramel Rolls, Pumpkin Bars and More!)
- Remembering Sept. 11: Iowa Community’s Potluck Honors America
- Talking Iowa Food and Culinary History on Iowa Public Radio
- Talking "Stilettos in the Cornfield," Taxes, Trade and More on CNBC
- FarmHer #RootedinAg Spotlight--FFA Attracts More Women to Careers in Ag
- Rustic Cooking Refined: Iowan Robin Qualy Embraces Global Flavors
- Voice of Reason: Iowa Pork Producer Dave Struthers Offers Top 10 Tips to Speak Up for Ag
- Iowa Eats! Why Radio Iowa, Newspapers and Libraries are Hungry for "A Culinary History of Iowa"
- Iowa Turkeys Carry on National Thanksgiving Tradition
- Riding with Harry: 2016 Presidential Election Reflects Truman's Iowa Revival at 1948 Plowing Match in Dexter
- All Aboard! Rockwell City’s “Depot People” Offer a Taste of Iowa History
- Is This Iowa's Favorite Appetizer?
- O, Christmas Tree! Small Iowa Towns Celebrate with Trees in the Middle of the Street
- Slaves Escaped Through Dallas County on Iowa’s Underground Railroad
- Adel Barn Accents Penoach Winery in Iowa
- Celebrating New Year's Eve in Style at a Classic Iowa Ballroom