by Shelley M. Dziedzic (all rights reserved)
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.
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 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.
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.
Photos and text: Shelley Dziedzic, March 2012
April 15, 1912 was a morning the world awoke to the seemingly impossible news that the new White Star liner, the latest word in ship-building technology, was on the bottom of the North Atlantic. At Maplecroft, in the comfort of her breakfast nook off the kitchen, or perhaps in her blue, floral-papered dining room, Lizzie Borden must surely have read the news in her Providence Journal or Fall River Herald and was as shocked and disbelieving as the rest of the world. The sinking would be the talk in every city, town and village for many months to come.
With the great city of Boston so close to Fall River, some passengers aboard the ill-fated liner were Boston-bound after the ship was to have docked in New York city and some Fall Riverites knew or had connections to some of the lost and survivors. Some passengers called Massachusetts home, some were coming to Massachusetts from the old country for a better life.
The last first class survivor of the disaster, Marjorie Newell Robb, lived to be 103 and passed away on Highland Avenue at the Adams House in Fall River. She was a girl of nineteen on the ship and was returning home with her father and sister to their home in Lexington, Massachusetts. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/the-titanic-sisters.html
Her son, Newell Robb, was curator of the Fall River Marine Museum for a time, and the family made their home in nearby Westport. Mrs. Marjorie Robb had lived near the water at Westport Point until she was unable to live alone. She was a frequent speaker at area schools, churches and civic groups. She attended several conventions of Titanic societies and held audiences spellbound with her clear recollections of the disaster.
Today the Fall River Marine Museum has an excellent display of Titanica, as well as the 28 foot model of the ship used in the Barbara Stanwyck film from the 1950’s, TITANIC. The museum is a part of the Battleship Cove complex and houses many fascinating artifacts of the Fall River Line and Andrea Doria. http://www.marinemuseum.org/home.html