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Woodford woman was among the Titanic's survivors

Lutie Davis Parrish, formerly of Lexington, was a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic.
Lutie Davis Parrish, formerly of Lexington, was a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic.

The sinking of the luxury liner Titanic on its maiden voyage dominated the news 100 years ago this week, and among the survivors was a Woodford County woman.

Lutie Davis Parrish, 59, a Lexington native who lived in Woodford County, and her daughter, Imanita Shelley, 25, of Deer Lodge, Montana, were among the 700 survivors of the disaster. They boarded the Titanic in Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, as second-class passengers. Parrish is sometimes referred to as the oldest person rescued at the time of the sinking, according to the Encyclopedia Titanica, a Web site devoted to all things related to the disaster.

Before the April 14, 1912, collision with a North Atlantic iceberg that sliced the ship's hull, "the temperature had fallen considerably, so that all on board realized we were in the ice belt," Shelley later said in a sworn statement given to the U.S. Senate inquiry into the sinking. Parrish did not testify or give a statement, but what she experienced can be determined from Shelley's statement archived on line with Titanic Inquiry Project, a Website that contains electronic copies of testimonies given to the American and British inquiries into the disaster.

"There were rumors of wireless messages from other ships warning of icebergs close at hand," Shelley's affidavit said. "It was also reported that certain first-class passengers had asked if the ship was to slow down whilst going through the ice belts and had been told by the captain that, on the contrary, the ship would be speeded through."

At the time of the collision, Shelley said she and Parrish "were awakened out of sleep by the shock, and especially by the stopping of the engines." The two women heard "excited voices" outside their cabin saying that the ship had hit an iceberg, but a steward "insisted that all was well and for all passengers to go back to bed."

About 45 minutes later, a steward came running down the passage, "bursting open the cabin doors and calling 'All on deck with lifebelts on!'" This steward brought Parrish and Shelley each a lifebelt and showed them how to tie them on. They were told to go up to the top deck, but because Shelley was weak from illness, it took several minutes to reach the upper deck.

Shelley told the Senate that Isidor Straus, the co-owner of Macy's department store in New York City, and his wife, Ida, who were both aware of Shelley's illness, met the women on the way and helped them to the upper deck, where they found a chair for Shelley and made her sit down. (The Strauses both perished in the sinking.)

Shelley said in her sworn statement that "there was practically no excitement on the part of anyone during this time, the majority seeming to think that the big boat could not sink altogether, and that it was better to stay on the steamer than trust the lifeboats."

But after sitting in the chair for about five minutes, a sailor came up to Shelley and implored her to get in the lifeboat that was then being launched.

"He informed Mrs. Shelley that it was the last boat on the ship, and that unless she got into that one she would have to take her chances on the steamer, and that as she had been so sick she ought to take to the boat and make sure," according to the sworn statement.

Ida Straus also encouraged Shelley to take to the lifeboat. With that, Shelley pushed Parrish toward a sailor and they made for the spot where the boat hung.

Because there was a space of 4 to 5 feet between the edge of the deck and the suspended lifeboat, the sailor picked up Parrish and "threw her bodily into the boat," the sworn statement says. Shelley jumped and landed safely into the boat.

Upon reaching a distance of about 100 yards from the Titanic, "a loud explosion or noise was heard, followed closely by another, and the sinking of the big vessel began."

The "unsinkable" steamer slipped beneath the icy water in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, less than three hours after striking the iceberg. About 1,500 of the 2,200-plus passengers and crew died.

The lifeboat carrying Parrish and Shelley also picked up several other people who were struggling in the water, including 30 sailors. After taking those men into the lifeboat, it was so full that some feared it would sink, "and it was suggested that some of the other boats should take some of these rescued ones on board, but they refused, for fear of sinking."

The lifeboat carrying Parrish and Shelley was picked up by the steamer Carpathia. Upon her rescue, Shelley tried to send a telegram to her husband in Montana but it was not transmitted.

The women disembarked from the Carpathia in New York City on April 18, 1912.

Parrish later relocated to Hawaii. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1930 and was buried in Oahu Cemetery, according to a recent story in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Shelley divorced her husband, remarried and moved back to the mainland, according to the Honolulu paper. She died in 1954, and her ashes are interred in Oakland, Calif.

At least two other Titanic passengers had Kentucky ties.

Georgetown native Charles Hallace Romaine, 45, was a first-class passenger but did not live in Scott County at the time he was on the ship. He survived by getting on a lifeboat. He died in 1922 in New York City after he was hit by a taxi.

Dr. Ernest Moraweck, a longtime Louisville physician who listed his address as Frankfort, died in the sinking. His body was not recovered. In his will, he left his worldly goods to his sister and brother, according to Encyclopedia Titanica.

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