“I have not given up hope but what my husband was saved in some way,” Carrie Toogood Chaffee told a Minneapolis newspaper reporter in April 1912.
Carrie had grown up in Manchester, Iowa, but moved to North Dakota when she married a well-to-do businessman named Herbert Chaffee. She remained close to her family and friends in Iowa after her marriage and visited often.
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As was the custom with small-town newspapers in the late 1890s, the local Manchester Democrat reported social news including who visited from out of town. Carrie’s name appeared frequently over the years. “Mrs. Carrie Toogood-Chaffee departed Monday morning for her home in Amenia, North Dakota, after a visit of several weeks with relatives in this city, her former home,” the paper reported in November 1899.
When the citizens of Manchester heard that their former hometown girl had been a passenger on the Titantic when it collided with an iceberg and sank on April 14, 1912, they were worried. But news soon reached Manchester that Carrie’s name was on the survivors’ list. Her husband, Herbert, was listed among the missing persons.
The Chaffees had been traveling in Europe when they decided to get back to the United States as soon as possible. They had received news that a grandchild would soon be born in St. Paul, Minn., to their son and his wife. They secured tickets on the Titantic.
When the Titantic was hit, Carrie made her way into a lifeboat while Herbert remained on the sinking ship. Eventually, Carrie was picked up by a rescue ship, the Carpathia. When the Minneapolis newspaper reporter interviewed Carrie, she was still in the suit she had worn throughout the ordeal. She also wore a “timepiece” strapped about her wrist; it had never stopped working throughout the hours in the lifeboat and on the rescue ship.
Carrie said she talked to a man on the Carpathia after being rescued who said he had talked to a man who was a lookout on the Titantic. The lookout said he was the only one in the crow’s nest just before the ship struck the iceberg. And he claimed he had three times tried to warn “the bridge” that there appeared to be icebergs ahead. But he had received no response.
The reporter stated that Carrie showed signs of “emotional strain” as she talked. Her voice broke “a number of times.” But she wasn’t willing to give up on her husband joining her and meeting their new grandchild.
“I simply cannot lose hope. Ever since we were picked up by the Carpathia I have been praying to God that he is somewhere, alive; and I believe there are some prayers that will be answered,” Carrie said.
However, Carrie’s story did not have a happy ending. Herbert Chaffee did not survive the Titanic.
- “Former Manchester Woman Among Titanic’s Survivors,” Manchester Democrat-Radio, Apr. 24, 1912.
- “Iowa Woman Lost Husband,” Webster City Freeman, Apr. 30, 1912.