The Titanic's Manitoba Connections

Originally posted July 2008. Updated Mar / Apr 2012

White Star postcard (source)

On April 10, 1912 the RMS Titanic of the White Star Steamship Line left Southampton on her maiden voyage. Of the 2,223 people aboard, ten were from Manitoba and at least sixteen new immigrants listed Manitoba as their final destination.

At 11:40 p.m. on the night of April 14, the Titanic struck an iceberg 640 km south of Newfoundland. By 2:30 a.m. the next morning she was gone and
1,517 people were killed. Only four of the Manitobans, or want-to-be Manitobans, survived.

Minnedosa Tribune, October 22, 1908

By the time passage on the Titanic's maiden voyage was being advertised in summer of 1911, Manitobans were well aware of the world's largest ships, the Olympic and the Titanic. From their commission through to their launch, local newspapers provided regular updates on their status.

An unlikely Winnipegger who had a small part in their construction was Mrs. Helen Sandford, an immigration agent who specialized in importing British girls to work as domestic servants in Western Canada. Beginning around 1902 she would return from each of her recruiting trips with dozens of girls in tow.

In 1910 while on a visit to Belfast, she was invited to visit the shipyard where the ships were being built. According to a passing mention in a September 30, 1910 Free Press story, she “...has the proud distinction of having driven a rivet in each of these steamers …” and a paperweight made from a part of steel plate from the construction site.

White Star's office in Farmer Building, Portage and Main.
(Sources: left p.31, right)

Tickets for the Titanic could be purchased from the White Star's Western Canadian passenger ticket office in the New Farmer Building at 333 Main Street, immediately south of the Bank of Montreal building at Portage and Main.
(The building was demolished in 1980.) The windows featured numerous, regularly updated, photos of the construction.

The general manager was W. M. McLeod who began working at the Winnipeg office in 1890.

Advertisement, Manitoba Free Press, July 29, 1911

Most of the Manitobans aboard were from Winnipeg's business elite. They were keeping a long-standing tradition of leaving as a group in December, touching base at various overseas locales, then returning together as a group in the Spring. (Source).

In December 1911 the S.S. Franconia arrived in Gibraltar carrying Winnipeggers Hugh Sutherland and Family, W. H. Gardner and Family, C. J. Campbell and family, D. R. Dingwall, Mark Fortune and Family, J. J. Borebank, Hugo Ross and Thomson Beattie. Many in the party met up in Cairo and again in London.

The Fortunes, Ross and Beattie booked their return passage on the Titanic.

One Winnipegger who had a ticket on the Titanic was Tom Dunderdale, Superintendent of Winnipeg’s gas works. In what he later called a “fortune of chance” urgent business in Winnipeg caused him to take an earlier voyage back.

April 15, 1912, Manitoba Free Press

April 15, 1912, Brandon Sun

On April 15, 1912 Manitobans awoke to the shocking news that the Titanic had struck an iceberg. It began an agonizing wait for loved ones, the length of which varied by passenger, to find out who survived.

The Winnipeg White Star office does not appear to have been a source of information, that all came from New York. The Alloway and Champion Bank, which had large steamship holdings and access to shipping news and passenger manifests, were at least able to confirm for some families whether or not their loved ones were even booked on the Titanic or on another ship.

The Brandon Sun, April 19, 1912 (view more articles)

Even after the main rescue ship the Carpathia landed in New York, there was still confusion as to who survived. Some passengers shared the same name, which led to Winnipeg's George Graham being confirmed as rescued when he was not. Edith Fortune's name was badly misspelled either in the Morse code transmission or transcription leading some to believe she did not make it.

In the end, at least 23 passengers with a Manitoba connection died. Here are their stories.

The Titanic's Manitoba Victims:


The Fortune Family of 393 Wellington Crescent were returning from an extended winter vacation and travelling first class. Mark, 64, was a millionaire land developer, the Avenue Building and the Fortune Block were part of his portfolio. Wife Mary, 60, was born Mary McDougald in Portage la Prairie. Also along were children: Ethel 28; Alice 24; Mabel 23 and Charles 19.

The New York Times included the Fortunes on their front page list of the "well known persons"about to set sail on the maiden voyage.

On the afternoon of April 18 the Fortunes were the first to get a message back to loved ones. A relative and a family friend each received the following telegram: "Mother and three girls are well, Charlie and Father missing- signed Ethel Fortune."

Portage la Prairie Weekly Review, May 1, 1912 (source)

The bodies of Mark and Charles Fortune were never recovered. The Fortune women, the only Manitoba survivors, arrived in Winnipeg by train at 1 p.m. on May 1, 1912 dressed in black.

Adding to the sadness is that according to a Brandon Sun story, Ethel was engaged to be married to Hugo Ross (see below) in summer 1912.

Robert Fortune, a son who did not go on the holiday, made the journey to Halifax to search through the hundreds of bodies brought back by recovery boats. On May 5 he told the Free Press that he could no longer face the task and was returning before the next boat arrived "... never look upon the Titanic's dead again."

The Free Press reported on April 20, 1912 that like many of the passengers, the Fortune's had little concept of how serious the situation was. They assumed that the Carpathia would arrive, take people off the stranded Titanic and they would all be reunited shortly after. In fact, one of the sisters gave her money roll to brother Charles for safekeeping before she left on the lifeboat and their last words were "take care of father." (Source)

Knox Church

A memorial service was held at the old Knox Church at Portage and Fort, the Fortune's home church. When the new church opened in Central Park in 1918 the bell chimes were dedicated to Mark Fortune.

Mary moved to Toronto and died March 8, 1929.

Fortune related links:
Fortunes tell how they left Titanic Brandon Sun, April 23, 1912
* Note: this wire story was printed world-wide but the Fortune women strongly denied that they claimed to see Ismay
departing the ship.
Women revealed as heroines by wreck New York Times
The Fortune family and the RMS Titanic MB Historical Society
Mark Fortune and Family


Portage la Prairie Weekly Review, May 15, 1912 (source)

The strangest story is that of Leonard Hickman of Eden Manitoba. Hickman, 25, came from Frithan, Ryndhurst, Hampshire, England and settled in Neepawa before taking a live-in job as a farmhand in Eden, Manitoba. Hickman returned home for a visit and to do a little recruiting.

Explains the Neepawa Press of Friday, May 3, 1912:

"Amongst the bodies of the Titanic victims found was that of Leonard Hickman of Eden who went home last December and was returning with two brothers and several other young men to accept positions with farmers in the neighbourhood. Private correspondence from Fritham tells of the terrible affliction of two families there as a result of the Titanic disaster. Parents of Mssrs. Leonard, Stanley and Lewis Hickman are so prostrated that there are fears for their recovery, and a Mrs Davies, whose son was also on the lost vessel en route to Eden is believed to be hopelessly unnerved."

Neepawa, Manitoba

Hickman's funeral took place in Neepawa on Friday, May 10, 1913, two days later than scheduled due to a transportation delay from Halifax. All Neepawa businesses and offices closed that afternoon out of respect and flags flew at half mast.

The service was held at the Presbyterian Church with Reverend H.G. Crozier presiding. A band then led the procession to
Riverside Cemetery where he is buried. It is the most westerly grave of a Titanic victim.

"Had he been a state dignitary or a millionaire, there might have been more pomp, but there could not have been more genuine sorrow and respect manifested. All honour to Neepawa..."

said the Neepawa Press the following day.

May 8, 1912, Brandon Sun

The Hickman story took a strange turn when it was disclosed that they had actually buried the body of one of Hickman's brother Lewis. How could this happen ? The remains could only be identified by the name on a membership card for the Eden branch of the IOOF in his jacket pocket. The assumption is that he grabbed his brother's coat in the rush to leave the boat.

A modern relative says that the error was noticed in Neepawa the day of the funeral but I have read previously that the error was confirmed after the burial by his brother's widow in England. Either way, there was little that could be done and the Neepawa headstone was changed to read as a memorial for all three Hickman brothers, Leonard, Stanley and Lewis.

The Hickmans were travelling with others that they had recruited to come to Manitoba. Charles Henry Davies, Percy William Deacon, William Dibden, and Ambrose Hood would never see their new home. (See below.)

Hickman related links:
Leonard Hickman documents Nova Scotia Archives
Leonard Hickman page Encyclopedia Titanica
Titanic centennial brings back memories
Titanic victim's great-nephew pays respects Neepawa Press (Aug 17, 2010)

Graham (38, first class) had worked for Eaton's in Toronto for nine years before he came to the new Winnipeg store in 1906. By this time he was head of the China Department and one of Eaton's international buyers. He and a number of colleagues were in Europe on a buying trip but Graham was the only one to make it back to Southampton in time to sail.

April 20, 1912, Manitoba Free Press

At the news of the sinking, his wife Edith went to Toronto and stayed with relatives while waiting to hear if the body was recovered. She was under medical care for stress which was not helped by some confusion over names.

There were a number of Grahams aboard. At one point it was reported that SHE was the Mrs. G. Graham on board that had survived. Later, word came that George was found alive but Eaton's could not locate him. It took the Eaton's office in New York to investigate the matter and have to break the sad news that, in fact, her G. Graham was among the missing and presumed dead.

April 20, 1912, Manitoba Free Press

Eaton's Winnipeg and Toronto stores closed for the weekend at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 20th after staff were informed of the news.
"The whole store is permeated with gloom" the Winnipeg store manager said. Eaton's traditional full-page newspaper ads were printed blank with a small notice about the closing in the middle.

Graham's body was recovered on April 30 and buried in his home town of Harriston, Ontario. Mrs. Graham continued to live in Winnipeg until her death in 1960 though chose to be buried in St. Mary's, Ontario, the same cemetery that their child was buried in. George's body was then exhumed and transferred to St. Mary's. The family was again reunited.

Graham related links:
George E Graham page Encyclopedia Titanica
Intrigue of Titanic draws visitors Welland Record (Jan, 2011)


Thomson Beattie
was 36 and travelling in first class. A businessman, he was owner of Haslam Land Co. in Winnipeg and for ten years partnered in a real estate company with with sitting Mayor R.D. Waugh. He lived at 560 River Ave.

Morning Telegram, July 4, 1903

Beattie travelled the entire Winnipeg - Cairo - London vacation with John Hugo Ross (see below). His body, along with two others, were found adrift in one of the Titanic's collapsible boats a month after the sinking. It was assumed that they died of dehydration. The ship's log of The California noted:

May 13, latitude 39.56 north longitude 47.01 west.
Picked up collapsible boat containing three bodies. Committed same to deep. One apparently Thomson Beattie, passenger, one sailor, one fireman, both unidentified.

(Source: wire story in Manitoba Free Press, May 16, 1912)

In 1915 Beattie's sister-in-law went to visit her husband, Thomson's brother J.A., in London. She and her son set sail aboard the Lusitania
which sank en route. Both survived.


John Hugo Ross, (36, first class) was a Winnipeg land merchant who had an office in the Merchants Bank Building. Ross came to Winnipeg as a child in 1877. After going away for school he returned in 1894 and started a realty company. He had been a treasurer of the Winnipeg Stock Exchange and a president of the Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange.

Ross was big rugby supporter. When the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta unions merged in 1911 to form the Western Canadian Rugby Union it was Hugo Ross who donated the cup. By the time the Calgary Tigers won the league championship just months later, the cup had been renamed the Hugo Ross Memorial Cup.

The Hugo Ross Trophy remained the western football prize until 1949 when it was replaced by one named for N. J. Taylor.

J.P. Alexander (Boissevain)
J.P. Alexander was a Manitoba victim who actually wasn't aboard the ship. The former MLA for the Boissevain area, had a heart condition and when told the news of the Titanic's sinking died of a heart attack.

Victims with Manitoba Connections:

The Danbom Family

Manitoba Free Press April 20, 1912

The Danbom Family were listed in a press wire story as a 'Winnipeg Family missing'. That's not quite the case.

Ernest Danbom was an American who married a Swedish girl named Sigrid Bogren in Winnipeg. This city was chosen because the bride had once lived here with her sister,
Mrs. Zachrisson, in St. James. The couple left for a two-year European honeymoon, had a child and were returning to settle in the U.S..

All three died but only Ernest's body was found and is buried in the U.S..

The Andersson Family

Manitoba Free Press April 20, 1912

Poor Mrs. Zachrisson had a second sister on the boat.

The seven member Andersson family were travelling with the Danboms bound for Winnipeg. Travelling third class, the entire family died. Their bodies were never found.

J.J. Borebank
J.J. Borebank, (36, first class) was from Toronto but had lived in Winnipeg for ten years and worked in real estate. He left to visit his daughter at her boarding school in Europe and was returning to settle back in his native Toronto. He is included on the city hall plaque commemorating them.

Thomas McCaffrey
Thomas McCaffrey was from Quebec but spent time in Neepawa and Winnipeg managing Union Bank branches from 1894 to 1900. He was managing a Union bank in Vancouver but was travelling with old Winnipeg friends Ross and Beattie.

A mix-up in the spelling of McCaffrey saw him buried in Montreal rather than Vancouver, where his family was now living. Corrections to his death certificate were made after his burial.

The Hart Family
The Hart Family were emigrating from England to Winnipeg where Mr. Hart hoped to open a drug store. He died but his wife and seven year-old daughter Eva Miriam Hart survived.

Later in life she became a vocal opponent of
salvaging objects or "grave robbing" the site (see one of her interviews here.) ship. Eva died in 1996.

All of Hampshire, England were travelling with Leonard Hickman back to the Neepawa area to work on area farms.

Other Victims:

S.H.F. Chaffee

The nearest victim in the U.S. appears to be S.H.F. Chaffee of Amenia N.D., near Fargo.

April 16, 1912, Manitoba Free Press

Manitobans made up a large number of the Canadian victims.

Manitoba's Reaction:

The Brandon Sun, April 19, 1912 (view articles)

Like the rest of the world, Manitobans were stunned at the news of the sinking and struggled to come to terms with it. Flags were ordered at half mast throughout the province and church bells rang in mourning.

Portage la Prairie Weekly, April 24, 1912 (source)

Church services across the province were packed for many Sundays following the disaster as memorials for ever more victims were held. The tragedy was inescapable as for months newspapers carried daily tales of heroism, heartache, recriminations and the discovery of new bodies.

July 20, 1912, Manitoba Free Press

On April 20, 1912 Winnipeg City council passed a motion that those aboard who intended to settle in Winnipeg " ...will be cared for by the City of Winnipeg and aided in every possible way, both financially and otherwise" regardless of whether or not they eventually arrived here. (Manitoba Free Press, April 20, 1912.)

In Winnipeg there were a number of events to raise funds for widows and orphans. There was a musical concert at Grace Church featuring the Salvation Army Citadel Band. The Manget Theatre on Main Street donated an entire day's receipts. Other groups held recitals, sports matches and other special events in aid of the fund.

November 24, 1913, Brandon Sun (Source)

Brandon, in particular, took to raising funds for the families. Immediately after the disaster the local Football Association played a benefit match and the Sherman Theatre donated a portion of a day's receipts. On November 23, 1912 a gala concert was held at the Sherman. That was followed in November 1913 by a repeat concert.

Titanic sign

Children's hospital on Aberdeen (source)

In the summer of 1912 the Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange, of which a number of the victims were members, decided to furnish a fourteen cot ward at the new Children's Hospital on Aberdeen Street in their honour. On November 16, 1912 a ceremony was held and a plaque unveiled that reads:

In Memorial, Mark Fortune, John Hugo Ross, Thomson Beattie, who perished on the 15th day of April. A.D. 1912 when the Titanic foundered at sea. To the heroic and inspiring memory their fellow members of tho Real Estate Exchange have furnished this ward and erected this tablet.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Titanic sign
Plaque from city hall

Saskatoon Phoenix, December 19, 1912

The main Winnipeg memorial was bronze tablet commissioned by the City of Winnipeg and placed in the main corridor of city hall in December 1912. It reads:

"Erected by the People of Winnipeg in memory of their fellow citizens:
Mark Fortune; John Hugo Ross; Thompson Beattie; Charles A. Fortune; George E. Graham; and J. J. Borebank
who with 1484 others lost their lives when the Steamship Titanic Foundered in mid-Atlantic April 15, 1912.

They died that women and children might live.”

Each year until the late 1930s flowers or a wreath were laid there on April 15th.

When the new city hall was built the plaque was relegated to a basement entrance. Recently it was moved to a more prominent place in the basement, next to the entrance to the print shop. It is accessible to the public during regular office hours.

Graham Avenue
It is said that a number of street names in Winnipeg were renamed after the disaster, which is not quite true.

Graham Avenue in Winnipeg, which ran behind the Eaton's store, was not named for Eaton employee George Graham as is sometimes claimed. It was named prior to 1895 for HBC employee James Graham.

Hugo Street is named for Hugo Ross but decades before the Titanic disaster. His father Arthur Wellington Ross was a land developer, among other things, and many streets in the city were named for him or family members including Wellington Crescent and Arthur, Arbuthnot, Jessie, Helen and Flora.

Borebank Street is said to be named for J. J. Borebank. If it was, it has to be a situation similar to Hugo as lots and houses were being advertised for sale on the street starting in 1906.

Carpathia Road may have been named after the ship, but not until the residential street was created in 1951.

There is a Fortune Street, said to be named for Mark Fortune. Barely a block long, the ca. 1970s street is an access route to a back lane with a few houses.

From the Newspapers

The Brandon Sun, April 19, 1912 (view more Sun articles)

"They died so that others may live and in dying they wrote their names on the pages of history in letters of gold for all the world to see..."
Portage la Prairie Weekly Review, April 16, 1913. (Source)

It puts a breaking strain upon the mind to try to imagine the scenes on the different decks of the great steamer when she suffered her death wound as the result of the collision with the iceberg that came bearing death to so many hundreds. The appalling suddenness of the disaster, the agonising terror, the heroisms that we may be sure there were, the partings, the terribleness of the ice-laden midnight ocean to the women and children in the life-boats - these things the imagination is powerless to realize in any of their actual poignancy as it was felt by those who passed through the disaster, either to be rescued, or to perish. Every feeling heart will sympathize with the families and friends of the victims of the shipwreck.
Manitoba Free Press editorial, April 17, 1912

It is impossible to exaggerate the horror of the occasion. The implacable calmness of the merciless and all-engulfing ocean; the absolute isolation from any possibility of escape for the majority; the darkness of night and 2,200 human souls in the full vigor and healthfulness of life, the agonizing farewells between the few that were being saved and the many that were doomed to be entombed in the cold, dark waters – truly a grim experience and a terrible catastrophe.
The Voice (Winnipeg), April 19, 1912 (source)

Titanic Links

The Titanic Western Grain Growers Guide
Manitoba newspaper coverage
Manitoba's Titanic Victims MB Historical Society
Manitoba Index Encyclopedia Titanica

Wreck and the sinking of the Titanic Neil Henry (1912)
The Titanic Historical Society (select "1912" form list of years)
The Titanic S.O.S. Canadian Disasters
RMS Titanic Nova Scotia Archives (new material added for April 2012)

For books related to the Titanic, check out the Titanic Histories page at my Amazon a-store. For Canadian-related items you can find Titanic Victims in Halifax Graveyards and Titanic: The Canadian Connection at McNally Robinson.

Victims at a glance:

George E. Graham, 38, Winnipeg.
Buried in Ontario.

William Dibden, 18, England.
Destination Neepawa. Body not recovered/identified.

Charles Henry Davies, 18, England.
Destination Neepawa area. Body not recovered/identified.

Thomson Beattie, 36, Winnipeg.
Body recovered one month after sinking, buried at sea.

John Hugo Ross, 36, Winnipeg.
Body not recovered/identified.

The Hart Family, England.
Benjamin, 43, Ester,45, Eva, 7, England
Destination Manitoba. Parents died, bodies not recovered/identified. Eva survived, returned to England.

Hickman Brothers
Leonard, 30, Eden MB. Lewis, 24, Stanley, 20, England - destined for Neepawa. Lewis mistakenly buried in Neepawa as Leonard. Gravestone commemorates all three.

Ambrose Hood, 21, England.
Destination Neepawa area. Body not recovered/identified.

J.J. Borebank (36), Winnipeg.
Body not recovered/identified.

Percy William Deacon, 20, England.
Destination Manitoba. Body not recovered/identified.

The Anderssons, Sweden.
Anders 39, Alfrida 39, Sigrid 11, Ingeborg 9, Ebba 6, Sigvard 4, Ellis 2.
Destination Winnipeg. Bodies not recovered/identified.

The Fortunes, Winnipeg
Mark Fortune 64), Charles Fortune 19. Bodies never recovered identified.
Wife Matry and three daughters survived, returned to Manitoba.


tub refinishing said...

This is a great post and i hear the news about the death of the last survivor of titanic in 2009 and i wish at least she live for the 100th Anniversary of sink.

internet business insurance said...

well the last survivor of titanic died in 2009 and the last remembered person leave us.

roof repair new jersey said...

Titanic is a great Ship and it sank in 1912 and i hear the last survivor of the titanic who was a little born girl named "Elizabeth Gladys Millvina Dean" died in 2009 at the age of 97.

Christian Cassidy said...

Thanks, i didn't know that. There was a local rugby cup called the Hugo Ross trophy so he must have been quite the sportsman.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that Mary Fortune's maiden name is spelled McDougald. Thanks.

I am her great-great niece. I appreciate your blog and thank you for remembering the Fortune family!

Much love,

Lisa McDougald

Christian Cassidy said...

Thank you. I have corrected the spelling !

Christian Cassidy said...

For those that have commented in the past, please note that I have done another major update of the Titanic post. More information and more victims with Manitoba connections found.

Chris said...

Hugo Ross' legacy lasted in Winnipeg until at least the 1970s with his Ross Realty company.
You might remember the TV ads: "Don't toss, ring Ross."

Christian Cassidy said...

I do remember those commercials ! I didn't realize that there was a link. Thanks !

Historiapassionata said...

This is a good article but about the Hart Family Only Benjamin Hart died and not his wife Esther !

Christian Cassidy said...

Yes, that was the same man. A big player in the amateur sport circles.

Christian Cassidy said...

Here's a video on how the Winnipeg Tribune covered the story:

mjf2u said...

There was elderly gentleman from Beausejour,MB. named Clement Relf who passed away a decade or so ago. He occasionally mentioned that his family was supposed to sail on the Titanic when he was an infant, but had to postpone their voyage when he took ill.