This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. This year will mark the 120th anniversary of the Borden tragedy. It would be hard to conceive any possible connection between the two- until last month’s revelation.
With the publication of BUILT FROM STONE: THE WESTERLY GRANITE STORY, the sketch and work order for the Borden Oak Grove monument revealed the names of all the workers who worked on the main monument and the four small headstones. The headstone lettering, A.J.B. (Andrew Jackson Borden), A.D.B. (Abby Durfee Borden) for the victims, S.A.B. (Sarah Anthony Borden, Lizzie’s mother), and ALICE (Lizzie’s other sister) were cut by William J. Drew. R&P stand for “raised and polished”on the headstones. J.F. Murphy did the polishing of the letters.
William John Drew and his two brothers came to America in the 1880’s from Cornwall, near Falmouth, England. The sons of an early-widowed mother, the boys had gone to work in the famous granite quarries of Cornwall at a very young age. Simon Drew would head to Maine but William and his brother James Vivian Drew would eventually start a marble and granite monument business in Greenport, Long Island, N.Y. William’s first wife, Louisa, died in 1894 and for a time William J. Drew lived in Westerly, and did some work for Smith’s Granite Company, easily the most prestigious monument company in the Northeast. Orders came in from all over the country for the Westerly blue, red, and rose granite which had a fine grain. The blue was especially easy to carve. Smith’s was the most-desired company to fill the order. Lizzie and Emma Borden placed their order through the Smith’s Providence branch.
William Drew soon found a new love in Elizabeth Brines of Westerly, and on June 24, 1903, they were married. With the Greenport business now growing, the two brothers and their wives found a home together. James Vivian Drew married Mary Louise (Lulu) Thorne Christian and they all settled happily into married life and work at the new business on the harbor in Greenport. William’s son by his first wife had died in 1898, and when his new bride of only a year gave birth to a son on March 30, 1904 life was looking hopeful. The child was called Marshall Brines Drew. About three weeks after his birth, Mrs. William Drew (Elizabeth), died, leaving Marshall motherless and William Drew yet again, without a wife.
His brother James V. Drew and his wife Lulu took the infant in to raise. They had lost their only son Harold not long before so Marshall seemed a godsend.
James Vivian Drew
Marshall at 7
In October of 1911, James, Lulu and little Marshall decided to go back to Cornwall to visit Grandmother Priscilla Drew. They sailed on the sister of the R.M.S. TITANIC, the OLYMPIC, making them among the very few who ever sailed on both. In April, 1912, Marshall, now aged 8, boarded TITANIC in second class with his aunt and uncle. On the night of April 14, the ship hit the iceberg and sank on the morning of April 15th about 2:20 a.m. Uncle Jim had bundled Lulu and Marshall into lifeboat #11 and both were saved. Jim never had a chance. His body was not found. Back in Greenport, his brother William was devastated at the news and hastened with Lulu’s father to meet the rescue ship, CARPATHIA, in New York harbor, only to find the worst was true. Jim was gone. William Drew carved this monument, a cenotaph, to his late brother Jim out of Westerly blue granite. The brothers were famous for their carved lilies and roses. It is in Oak Grove Cemetery– but not Oak Grove in Fall River- in Ashaway, Rhode Island where Aunt Lu and Marshall lived after Aunt Lu remarried Mr. Richard Opie.
William Drew also carved the stone for his first wife Louisa in River Bend Cemetery, Westerly and is buried there with both wives, and both sons.
William Drew died of tuberculosis in 1917 in Greenport, L.I. His son lived to be 82, and died in June of 1986. His stone was designed by this site’s administrator and funded by Titanic International Society, It is made of Westerly blue granite and carved by one of the last of the old Westerly granite men, Donald Bonner.
Marshall Drew was a much-beloved figure around Westerly. He had taught art and was acclaimed for his photography.The epitaph is his own, the name copied from his own german fractur handwriting.
Below is the work order showing William Drew’s name. History is full of strange coincidences and unlikely links. It is hard to know if William Drew was familiar with the notorious case of Lizzie Borden, or that his work would find its way to the heads of two of crime history’s most famous victims.
Work order from Smith Granite Co, archives containing William Drew’s name as carver of the four headstones, courtesy of Linda Smith Chafee, Babcock-Smith Museum, Westerly.
Photos and text: Shelley Dziedzic, March 2012