Lost Butte, Montana, a book by Richard I. Gibson, is in stores and museum gift shops around Butte. Or order from the publisher. It's also in E-book formats at all the usual places. And read an interview with Gibson, here, and on KXLF here. The Facebook page has many historic photos of Butte, and the Butte-Anaconda NHLD project showcases many historic buildings. Location-oriented posts can be found on HistoryPin. On Mondays beginning in January 2016, look for Gibson's "Mining City History" column in the Montana Standard.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bound for Butte—on the Titanic

R.M.S. Titanic leaving Southampton, April 10, 1912.
By Richard I. Gibson

Nineteen-year-old Frederick William Pengelly, a miner from Devonshire and Cornwall, was bound for Butte to begin work in the mines there when he died in the Titanic disaster April 15, 1912. A coal strike had reduced the number of steamers crossing the North Atlantic; Frederick planned on taking a different ship but ended up on the Titanic. At least four Pengellys lived in Centerville in 1912, including likely brothers William, a barber, and John, a miner, who lived at 175 East Center Street, but whether they were related to Frederick, I do not know. He may have been coming to America to connect with his widowed mother’s new husband, Mr. G. Reynolds, a miner.

William Gilbert was on holiday in late winter 1912, back home in Pollardras, near Carleen, Cornwall, from his carpentry job in Butte. He delayed his return trip so that he could take the Titanic, but was among those lost. He was 47.

William Gilbert and his father Thomas came to Butte about 1908; Thomas’s wife stayed in Cornwall and managed a grocery store. William and his father were both carpenters; William specialized as a joiner, a carpenter who tooled wood to fit pieces together without nails or screws. Both lived in a two-story brick boarding house at 1021 East Park, between St. Lawrence and Parrot Streets—both streets long gone into the southern edge of the Berkeley Pit. Their home stood just two blocks below the Pennsylvania Mine where Thomas worked. In 1911 before his ill-fated holiday, William worked at the Mountain View Mine further up the hill. William’s sister Mary came to Butte sometime around 1908-10, and according to family history was the proprietor of the boarding house at 1021 East Park. She was famous for her Cornish pasties.

Frederick Pengelly and William Gilbert both boarded the Titanic at Southampton, and both held second class tickets costing £10 10s—ten pounds, ten shillings, equating to something like $50 in dollars of the day. The Gilberts’ carpentry skills probably earned them about $3.00 to $3.50 per day (carpenters’ pay was close to that of miners), so the one-way fare amounted to more than two weeks’ pay. One might conclude that William Gilbert was frugal with his money, to save a month’s wages for a round-trip excursion to Cornwall and back to Butte.

Photo by F.G.O. Stuart (public domain; copyright expired).

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