100 years ago this week, a state of the art ship was making its way across the North Atlantic, oblivious of the danger that lay in its path. On board, 10 people who listed the Inland Northwest as their final destination. Though they didn't know each other, nine of them are forever linked in the city they would have called home.
On April 15, 1912, news of the Titanic disaster hit the front pages of Spokane's two daily newspapers. The Titanic, then, was wounded and on its way to a final resting place. But, the Spokane papers didn't know that day that 10 people from the Spokane area were on board that sinking ship.
"This is one of my favorite stories to tell," said Duane Broyles, former president of Fairmount Memorial Cemetery. He tells this story, standing near the place where history intersects coincidence. It's a single monument, marking the grave of William Rice. Rice was a Great Northern Railroad worker, killed in a train accident in Hillyard. Two years to the day after he was laid to rest, the man who dug his grave was a second-class passenger on board the Titanic.
"John Chapman goes home to marry his childhood sweetheart," Broyles said of the former Fairmount worker. "He finally had a job, he's working at the cemetery, life's gonna be good in Spokane. And, he's gone - just like that."
Chapman's bride Lizzie refused to get into a lifeboat without her husband; neither body was ever recovered. What Chapman never could have known was that William Rice's widow was on board the Titanic as well. After her husband's death, Margaret took her four boys back to Ireland for a long visit. They were heading home in third class.10739516
"The thing that fascinates me the most," Broyles said, "is that had these people seen each other on the Titanic, they would have no idea that they were connected at all. How many of us walk around the world like that every day?"
A survivor reported seeing Margaret Rice and her children in a holding area as the ship went down. They were never seen again.
And there were more. A man named John Bertram Brady was heading home to Pomeroy, Washington. And, when Agda Lindahl and Johan Lundgren boarded Titanic, they listed Spokane as their final destination. Specifically, they were heading to a home at 421 E. Carlisle.
Broyles pieced their story together and helped erect a monument at Fairmount. Etched on that monument is a picture of Margaret Rice and her children and of the stopwatch John Chapman was wearing that night. It stopped at 1:45 am, the moment his body hit the water. That monument sits steps away from the grave Chapman dug for William Rice, two years to the day before the ship went down.
"I never had a problem working in a cemetery," Broyles said. "To me, it's this gigantic museum with all this mystery for me to solve."
Their stories were supposed to end in the Lilac City, but they now rest with Titanic at the bottom of the sea. But, with the monument at Fairmount, they're forever remembered in the city they would have called home.