20 knots on her way to our next stop at Bar Harbor, ME, the 21-year-old,
719-foot M.S. Veendam rolled gently in a middling rough sea. The
cruise ship, as the captain had explained, had a stabilizer system
to keep the vessel from swaying overmuch in the swell.
Thankful for that piece of nautical engineering, not to mention
modern radar and sophisticated maritime communication, I sat in
our cabin reading a book about the disaster that claimed the lives
of 1,517 passengers and crew. With wind whistling around the glass
door leading to our veranda, I got up to look outside. The early
September sea air felt mildly cool, but staring at the empty, dark
vastness of the Atlantic made me really appreciate our warm, well-lit
What would it have been liked bobbing around in that icy water with
nothing but a life vest on or sitting in a crowded lifeboat watching
the giant ship stand on end before it broke in two and slipped beneath
the surface to settle on the bottom three miles below? Shortly after
we'd left Montreal, Canada, our captain had ordered a mandatory
emergency drill and we knew where to go if we had to abandon ship.
We also knew, unlike the Titanic, that the Veendam had ample lifeboat
space for all aboard.
of the Titanic victims who ended up in Halifax's cemeteries have
never been identified. Though DNA testing has led to some modern
identifications of some of those buried in Nova Scotia, no one knows
whether Samuel Beard Risien and his wife Emma lie among them. They
may have been buried at sea or their bodies never found.
Though not Texans by birth, they had been living at Groesbeck
in Limestone County
when they left on one of numerous trips they had taken from the
Lone Star State to Risien's native England as well as to South Africa.
Before heading back to Texas, Risien sent his son a postcard:
"About the time you get this we will be leaving for N. York. We
expect to sail on the new ship 'Titanic' largest in the world (45,000
tons)...we shall sail...on April 10th that is if they can get coal
enough to go on. It [coal] is getting very scarce and dear. Both
former Texans also died in the infamous disaster -- James H. Bracken
and Alfred Rowe. Bracken had lived for a time near Bend,
a small town on the Colorado River in San
Saba County. Rowe owned a large ranch near Clarendon
in Donley County.
Bracken, born in Kentucky in 1881, gained his Texas connection in
marrying San Saba
county native Addie Greathouse in 1907. Later they moved from
Bend to New Mexico, and
it was from there that he left for England on a cattle-buying trip.
On his way home as a second-class passenger when the ship sank,
his body was never identified.
the late 1870s, British citizen Rowe, born in Peru in 1853, bought
a ranch in the Panhandle
and spent most of his time in Texas until the early 1900s. In 1910,
he moved back to Kensington, England but still made business trips
back to his ranch. He was traveling as a first-class passenger when
the ship went down. His body was recovered and his remains were
shipped to England for burial.
Titanic Texan likely never expected to end up here. Born in England
in 1879, Albert Edward James Horswill (occasionally misspelled with
an "e" instead of "i") was an able bodied seamen aboard the Titanic
who survived the tragedy.
Only 11 years old, he had "run away to sea," shipping out on a sailing
vessel operating out of the then-bustling English port of Liverpool.
Later he joined the Royal Navy and served on a variety of warships
until an accidental artillery explosion left him with a severe hearing
On April 6, 1912, for 5 pounds a month in pay, he signed on as a
crew member of the Titanic. Eight days later, he lay asleep in his
bunk when the world's largest ship crashed into a large ice berg.
He helped row Lifeboat No. 1, which could have held 40 people but
only had 12 on board.
Horswill remained with the White Line Co. until 1913, when he moved
to the U.S. He spent some time in Chicago, married, and later settled
in Gary, Ind., where he worked at various industrial jobs until
retiring in 1946. In the early 1950s, to be closer to his grandkids,
he and his wife moved to Texas. He never got over his survivor's
The old sailor died at 83 in 1962 and was buried at Rosewood Memorial
Park in Humble
on April 10 -- the 50th anniversary of the Titanic's departure from
her port in Southampton.
"Texas Tales" October
5 , 2017 column