Visual Arts

What happened to Titanic passengers with Lexington ties?

When the Titanic sank, the Lexington Leader, a predecessor of the Herald-Leader, reported on April 16, 1912, that two people on the Titanic had local connections: Eloise Hughes and J.B. Thayer Jr. The day's edition noted that Hughes was included on a list of survivors but Thayer's fate was unknown.

Did he live or die? What became of her after the disaster? We researched news archives to find out.

Mary Eloise Hughes was the daughter of James A. Hughes, a U.S. congressman from West Virginia and onetime Kentucky state senator, and Belle Vinson, a member of a family prominent in Kentucky politics of the time. Although Hughes was from Huntington, W.Va., she "frequently visited Lexington," the Leader noted.

She had been married to Lucian Smith in February 1912 and had just learned she was pregnant. Aboard the Titanic, the couple were finishing a honeymoon trip around the world.

The Leader listed her numerous Lexington friends, one of whom had been a bridesmaid in her wedding. The Smiths were anxious to get back; Eloise had written in a letter home that she had so much to tell her Sunday school class.

After the ship's fateful collision with an iceberg, the couple found their way to the ship's deck. She made it onto a lifeboat. He did not.

On Nov. 29 — 71/2 months after the Titanic sank — Smith gave birth to a son, Lucian Philip Smith.

In 1914, she married a fellow Titanic survivor, Robert Williams Daniel. They divorced in 1923. She married two more times; both marriages ended in divorce.

She died in 1940 in a Cincinnati sanitarium. Eloise Smith — she had retaken the name of her first husband — was 46.

John B. "Jack" Thayer Jr., a vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and member of a prominent Philadelphia family, was popular "in society and football circles" in Lexington, the Leader noted. In fact, he was a cricket enthusiast. Football as we know it today was much more loosely defined in 1912.

At age 49, he was among those who died on the Titanic — but his 17-year-old son, Jack Thayer III, survived, as did his wife, Marian.

"To my mind the world of today awoke April 15, 1912," Thayer III wrote later.

Thayer III also famously sketched what he saw from a lifeboat as the Titanic was going down and cracking in half. Thayer III committed suicide in 1945, apparently distraught over the death of his son Edward in World War II.

John "Jack" B. Thayer V recently attended a Titanic exhibition near his home in Albuquerque.

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