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The Sinking of the Lusitania: The Connecticut Connections ( Part 1)

Ten Connecticut residents were onboard the ill-fated Lusitania when German U-Boat U-20 sank it, and three of them died.

While cruising just off the coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915, the Cunard liner Lusitania came into the crosshairs of a German U-20's periscope. The Germans fired a single torpedo that tore into the starboard side of the Lusitania.

A secondary explosion — thought to be munitions under secret transport — soon followed. The monstrous ship sank within 18 minutes, taking 1,198 people to a watery grave. Three of those victims were from Connecticut.

Sailing just over three years after the , the Lusitania was en route to Queenstown from New York City — the same route in reverse of the Titanic. In fact, when the Lusitania passed over the site of the , several passengers dropped memorial wreaths into the water. Little did they realize that in less than 48 hours, their ship, too, would sink.

Two of the victims came from Farmington and were traveling with a third person from Farmington, a woman named Theodate Pope. Born into a wealthy Ohio family in February 1867, Pope was actually named Effie Brooks Pope. At age 19, she changed her first name to Theodate — her maternal grandmother' s odd first name. She was an architect of note and a spiritualist.

One of her traveling companions was Professor Edwin Friend, a Harvard graduate who was known for his interest in spiritualism and psychical organizations. The two were traveling to England to enlist the support of the English Society For Psychical Research for the founding of their own such similar group. They were accompanied by Pope's maid, Emily Robinson. Although Pope survived the sinking, both Friend and Robinson perished.

Edwin Friend had obtained a doctorate in philosophy from Harvard University and had also taught at Princeton. In addition, Friend had a keen interest in the American Society For Psychical Research and was appointed by Prof. James Hyslop of Columbia University to edit their journal. Another ASPR member, Theodate Pope, funded his salary of $2,000 per year.

Soon, Pope brought Friend and his wife, Marjorie, to Farmington to live with her at her Hillstead Estate there, where they conducted seances. Marjorie Friend supposedly wrote articles based on her communications with dead ASPR members. Angered, Hyslop dismissed Friend from the organization. Pope and Friend decided to travel to England onboard the Lusitania to seek the support of the English Society For Psychical Research in their efforts to found a similar new group in America.

Shortly after lunch on a beautiful, clear day, the German torpedo struck the Lusitania. Both Pope and Friend scrambled around the ship, looking for a way to safety. They soon encountered Emily Robinson. All three donned life vests at Friend's insistence and jumped into the water. Both Robinson and Friend did not survive.

Pope did survive, although she was sucked down by the sinking ship and temporarily caught between two decks. She surfaced near a lifeboat but was quickly pushed under again by a frightened man who couldn't swim. She resurfaced and looked for Friend. He was nowhere in sight. Finding an oar, she lay across it and passed out. A few hours later, the fishing trawler Julia saw her floating, and crewmen fished out her body. Believed to be dead, her body was placed on the deck of the trawler.

Belle Naish, a fellow passenger on the Lusitania, thought she saw faint signs of life and encouraged the crew to try to resuscitate Pope. The resuscitation efforts were successful. Eventually, Theodate Pope revived and was anxious to find Edwin Friend, but both his and Emily Robinson's body were never recovered.

Almost exactly one year later on May 6, 1916, Theodate Pope married a former ambassador to Russia named John Wallace Riddle. As a settlement for her pain and suffering and loss of personal property from the sinking of the Lusitania, Pope received $30,000 in compensation. She returned to Farmington and died there on Aug. 30, 1946, at age 79. Her home is now a museum that exhibits her architecture and artwork. As a reward for saving her life, Pope granted Belle Naish a pension for the rest of her life.

Just as Belle Naish's heroic efforts saved the life of Theodate Pope, so too did the heroic efforts of John Moore of Manchester, CT, save the life of his sister, Jeannette, following the sinking of the ship. Moore, originally from Ballylesson, County Down, in Ireland, had come to Manchester in 1911. He was returning to Ireland to enlist for service in World War I to join his brothers, Bobby and Archie. His sister, Jeannette Mitchell, and her husband, Walter, and their baby son, Walter Jr., accompanied him.

After the torpedo struck the Lusitania, John managed to get into a lifeboat. Unfortunately, the lifeboat overturned while being lowered overboard. Moore grabbed onto a rope hanging from one of the ship's davits. While hanging there, he was struck by several people who were jumping overboard, bruising him severely; nevertheless, he managed to climb back up to the deck, don a life vest, and entered the water as the ship sank. He swam to a lifeboat and hung on there until he was picked up by the minesweeper Indian Empire.

After returning to Queenstown, Moore saw the bodies of his sister and her husband lying among a group of corpses on the dock. Believing that he saw Jeannette's eyelids move, he quickly tried to resuscitate her. His efforts worked. According to a local newspaper, it was "chiefly due to John's presence of mind that his sister did not share the same fate as that of her husband." Later, Jeannette remembered being dragged along the deck with her head bumping along. Young Walter also died, and his body was never recovered.

John Moore scrapped his plans to enlist for World War I service and stayed on with his family in Ireland for a few months more. He then returned to Manchester aboard the Carpathia — the ship made famous for having rescued survivors of the Titanic just three years earlier. The return trip was eventful, however, as on July 18 off the coast of Ireland, a U-Boat periscope was sighted. The Carpathia took evasive action and a British patrol boat intervened to sink the U-Boat.

John Moore lived out his life in Manchester. He became a meter-tester and was married in 1924. He died 31 years after the sinking of the Lusitania on May 27, 1946, at age 54.

(Part II of Connecticut Connections To the Lusitania will appear next week. It will include the remarkable survival story and courage of Mrs. Emily Mary Anderson.)

Notes, Sources, and Links

1. The Lusitania sank on its 202nd Atlantic crossing.

2. Of the 10 Connecticut passengers onboard, seven survived.

3. A great source of information is www.rmslusitania.info

4. "A Lusitania Memory" by Colleen Frew.

5. U-Boat U-20 sank a total of 37 ships during the war.

6. "Lusitania" was the ancient Roman name for modern-day Portugal.

About this column: This Week In Connecticut History retraces the notable people, places, and events that happened in our area. This column appears on a regular basis. Related Topics: Lusitania, World War I, and connecticut history

Tim Beeble May 13, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Theodate Pope Riddle was the first woman licensed as an architect in CT. She designed the Avon Old Farms School in Avon, the Westover School in Middlebury, and the Hop Brook School in Naugatuck. Although licensed as an architect, she was required to have her work sealed by male architects. She was associated with the renowned McKim, Mead and White of NYC. Theodate's design of Avon Old Farms was inspired by the Irish cottages that she saw after being rescued from the sinking ship.

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