100 years ago, the RMS Titanic set out on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. At 11:40 p.m. on April 15, 1912, the ship made its fatal collision with an iceberg just south of Newfoundland. Several Titanic passengers can be found at Mount Auburn, each with a unique story and experience of that fateful night.
Caroline Lamson Brown was a first class passenger on the Titanic. She was born in New York City in 1852 and married John Murray Brown, son of publisher James Brown. Caroline boarded the ship in Southampton with her sisters; the women had attended a family funeral in England and were eager to return home to Belmont, Massachusetts.
While on board, Caroline made the acquaintance of the young Miss Edith Corse Evans and Col. Archibald Gracie, who had watched over this group of solitary female travelers. On the night of the sinking, the Col. led the women to the rapidly-filling lifeboats on deck. Collapsible D was almost at capacity, and a steward stopped Caroline and Edith from overcrowding the vessel. It was at this moment that Edith turned to Caroline and urged her to take the seat because of the children waiting for her back home. Caroline boarded the boat, and Edith was never seen again.
Caroline found her sisters aboard the Carpathia and safely returned home. She was a long-time Belmont resident, devoted to her church and civic duties. She later moved to Acton, where she lived on a farm and actively participated in her community. She died in Concord on June 26, 1928, at 75 years old.
John Bradley Cumings was born in Boston in 1872 and later moved to New York City to work as a stockbroker. His body was lost at sea, and his wife, Florence Thayer Swain, erected a monument in his memory. The inscription is a Bible passage from John: “Greater love hath no man than this/that a man lay down his life for his friends.” It is the only Titanic-related monument at Mount Auburn that explicitly references the ship.
Elizabeth Mussey Eustis, granddaughter of Henry W. Dutton, founder of the Boston Evening Transcript, was born in Boston in 1858. She boarded the Titanic as a first class passenger in Cherbourg with her sister, Mrs. W. B. Stephenson, to return to her home in Brookline. Elizabeth was awakened by a loud ripping sound one night, and despite being told to go back to bed by a steward on the ship, she dressed, put on her rings, and went up on deck.
Once there, she heard the order for all women and children to begin boarding lifeboats because of a safety issue with the ship. From the vantage point of her lifeboat, Elizabeth quickly discovered why she had been asked to disembark. The Carpathia transported Elizabeth safely back to the States, where she devoted her life to civic and welfare work in Brookline. She died on May 17, 1936.
Arthur Newell was born in Chelsea, MA to a family of modest means. A hard worker, he made his way from a Boston bank clerk to chief cashier, allowing him to move his family to Lexington, MA. Arthur was known as a man devoted to his community and his church, Hancock Congregational. He took two of his three daughters, Marjorie and Madeleine, along on a trip to the Middle East to see the land described in the Bible, and suprised them with return tickets home on the Titanic.
On the night of the sinking, after a particularly indulgent meal, he turned to his daughers and asked if they would last until morning (an ominous jab at their insatiable appetites). Several hours later he ushered Marjorie and Madeleine onto a lifeboat and perished with the ship. His body was recovered, and some of his personal affects returned to his family. Arthur’s widow, Mary, slept with his recovered gold pocket watch under her pillow for the rest of her life. The couple is buried together on Orient Path.
Born in Lexington, MA, Marjorie Newell Robb was passionate about music, and loved playing her violin. When she traveled to the Middle East with her father and sister, she made sure to bring the beloved instrument along. When her father surprised her with first-class tickets on the Titanic, she relished the opportunity to practice for an hour each night before bed in her state room. She was awoken by her father on the night of the sinking and encouraged to dress and prepare for the worst.
Following the tragedy and her personal loss, Marjorie remained silent about the event. She married and gave birth to four children, and became a music instructor before founding (with others) the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
At the age of 97, after her mother and sister passed away, she became vocal about what happened, giving numerous interviews and accounts to the press. She was particularly interested in discussing the injustices seen in the treatment of lower-class passengers. Marjorie was the last surviving first-class passenger, and died in Fall River, MA at the age of 103.
Madeleine Newell was also born in Lexington, MA, and attended Smith College. Traumatized by the sinking of the ship, Madeleine never gave testimonials to the press or spoke openly about her father’s tragic death. She lived in Lexington for the duration of her life.
All photographs by Jennifer Johnston