Passengers aboard the Titanic were Dartmouth-bound

By Kristin Yu | 4/15/12 8:42pm

In April 1912, 16-year-old Mary Lines and her mother Elizabeth Lines boarded the R.M.S. Titanic. The Parisian residents were planning to see Mary Lines's brother, Howard “Rainy” Burchard Lines, graduate from the College in the Class of 1912, Mary Lines’s son, Bradford Wellman, told The Salem News.

"They were told, 'This is serious,'" Wellman, who is now 80 years old, said. "'Get your life jackets on. And get up on deck.'"

"A lot of people were ignoring it," Wellman said. The Titanic “was a ship that couldn't sink" for many passengers aboard.

The Lines’ lifeboat was allowed to leave the ship nearly empty and devoid of all survival gear except the oars, Wellman said.

As the Lines' lifeboat bobbed along the icy black sea, the Titanic submerged in the ocean. With no lifeboats remaining, the desperate passengers on deck leapt into the frigid water.

"She remembered that the most frightening or heart-rending (time) was people crying for help and the sailors refused to take the boat back because they were afraid of it being swamped by people trying to climb on,” Wellman said.

Mary Lines was haunted by the cries of the people left behind in the water, Wellman said. As the cries of the dying faded, the survivors on the Lines’ lifeboat huddled together for warmth and wondered if they would be rescued. Mary remembered the kindness and compassion the passengers and crew of the New York-bound Carpathia showed the 705 Titanic passengers rescued from the ocean, Wellman said.

Upon arriving in the United States, Mary Lines and her mother were reunited with her father, Ernest Lines, who devoted himself to tending to French soldiers wounded in World War I. Mary Lines married Sargent Holbrook Wellman in 1920. She became a nurse’s aide and tended to wartime casualties in France.

Howard Lines graduated from Dartmouth in the class of 1912 and attended Harvard Law School. From September to December 1915, he drove an ambulance for the American Ambulance Field Service. Howard Lines contracted pneumonia in the Argonne district of France while ferrying wounded French soldiers from the battlefront to a field hospital. In 1916, he contracted appendicitis and received an operation for his abdominal injury. He contracted pneumonia again in the winter of 1916. The day before his death, Lines wrote a letter to his friend Conrad Snow, another member of the Class of 1912, asking Snow to raise money for a hospital bed in Dartmouth’s honor:

“Dear Snowball,

Many thanks for the poster you sent; even tho’ your name was not on it the family decided it was from you. I have a pleasant little amusement for you to while away the long winter days. They are getting us a college ward in the Ambulance and we should like awfully to have a Dartmouth bed. Do you think you could collect 600 Dollars to support a bed (with a patient in it) for 1 fl. year. It would then have a neat brass plate affixed to the wall behind it proclaiming Dartmouth to the world. I am so glad you are for preparedness. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year,

Rainy C. Lines.”

Lines’s letters to Snow remain in the Rauner Special Collections Library. A Howard “Rainy” Burchard Lines memorial can be found at the bottom of Baker Library's west stairwell.

Mary Lines rarely spoke of her experiences on the fated ship until Walter Lord’s 1955 book "A Night to Remember” became a bestseller, Wellman said. The book failed to list her as a survivor, so Mary wrote a letter to the publisher to add the correction in subsequently published editions, according to Wellman.

Wellman has never seen a Titanic movie, but has read articles and visited museums dedicated to the historic catastrophe. He has also visited Antarctica several times aboard cruise ships. Upon seeing the ring of a female passenger whose body was never recovered from the wreck, Wellman said he became emotional.

"I was fine until I saw that," he said in an interview with The Portland Press Herald. "It could have been hers."

The wreck of the Titanic should not be disturbed because it is the final resting place for many of the passengers, Wellman said.

The Titanic story continues to be told to this day, 100 years later, because "the sinking was a disillusionment, a tragedy of the newly engineered mechanical world," Wellman said.

"Everything was bigger and better and faster," he said. "And this kind of stopped it, this great machine that didn't work."

Kristin Yu