Unaware, two Salmon Arm researchers shared a mission last week to raise awareness of the community’s connection to an event that took place a hundred years ago in the North Atlantic Ocean. The date was April 15, 1912. Two relatives of Salmon Arm residents Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Fortune, were lost when the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage. One researcher came looking for proof. The other was asking if anyone was going to leak the story.
Both researchers were drawn by the 100th anniversary of the tragedy. Jean Jamieson, widow of history buff Rollie Jamieson, came into the archives for a visit. She told us about the home she lived in fifty-six years ago, its original owner, and the family affected by the tragedy. Jean lived in the special Arts and Crafts house constructed two and a half months after the Titanic sank. She described the house, located in the current Appleyard subdivision, as fit for a millionaire, “but had burned down some time ago, probably in the early sixties.”
Don Booth, son of A.D. Booth and grandson of the first Bank of Hamilton manager John Cousins Booth, was also interested. He did his research online and called in his question. “Is anyone doing anything about the connection Salmon Arm has to the sinking of the Titanic?” He knew all about the Fortune misfortune.
The family of R.H. Fortune was wealthy by Salmon Arm standards. The patriarch, Mark Fortune, was the son of a farmer, and a self-made man. Fortune was drawn to real estate speculation, spending several years in California before moving to Winnipeg. The official Titanic website says he had a bank account that matched his family name.
Mark Fortune married Mary McDougald in Manitoba and the couple had six children: Robert, Clara, Ethel Flora, Alice Elizabeth, Mabel and Charles Alexander.
Robert Fortune, the eldest son, made his way to Salmon Arm, marrying Olua (Alma) Bernadine Larson in Kamloops in 1906.The couple purchased Pat Owens’ place on Lakeshore Road in Salmon Arm. In December, Mr. W. Mason was contracted to build the foundation for a new home named Lake View. The white house with a stylish upper-floor dormers and veranda facing Shuswap Lake still stands. Described by the late Herb Turner as an Eaton’s catalogue or “package” house, the structure was probably delivered unassembled by CP Rail.
The Observer chronicles Salmon Arm events that kept Robert Fortune occupied. In 1910, he began shipping apples and won awards at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. He hired strawberry pickers and sold jam. Sports minded, he sponsored at least one turkey shoot near the CPR tracks. Like his father, Robert dabbled in local real estate. Just a week after he subdivided the Lake View property, he got terrible news. His family was on the Titanic and the dead were unconfirmed.
Robert Fortune’s extended family was known to local residents; the father had visited the winter before the ill-fated holiday and younger brother Charles had been here playing cricket the year before.
The story goes that, in 1912, all but two of the children went to Europe on a family vacation. For whatever reason, Robert and Alma Fortune and Robert’s sister Clara didn’t take up the invitation. Returning to Canada, Mark Fortune booked first class cabins C-23-25-27. Each ticket cost £263.
One hundred years later, we can only imagine the terror of the passengers when the Titanic hit the iceberg. The women of the family were ushered into lifeboat 10. According to the website, one of the Fortune daughters gave her purse to her brother, Charles, for safe keeping and asked him to “look after father.”
The Salmon Arm Observer carried the news of the tragedy on the front page.
Titanic Disaster Felt Here, read the headline April 25, 1912.
“Their many friends in the district will sympathise with Mr. and Mrs. RH Fortune in their bereavement. Mr. Fortune losing his father and brother in the Titanic disaster. At first it was supposed that one sister had also perished, but personal messages sent to friends in Winnipeg are to the effect that the mother and three sisters were taken off the doomed ship in the [tenth] boat.”
Luckily for them, the Fortune women survived. The bodies of Mark and Charles Fortune were never recovered.
For more information, visit the website: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic_passenger_list/.