Titanic sinking felt in Durango

Local man owes existence to twist of fate 100 years ago

Elks Lodge manager Faye Harmer shows original copies of The Boston Daily Globe from April 16, 1912, reporting the sinking of the Titanic. The copies reside in the Elks museum along with hundreds of other artifacts highlighting Elks and Durango history. The museum is open to the public by appointment. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Elks Lodge manager Faye Harmer shows original copies of The Boston Daily Globe from April 16, 1912, reporting the sinking of the Titanic. The copies reside in the Elks museum along with hundreds of other artifacts highlighting Elks and Durango history. The museum is open to the public by appointment.

Durango is about as landlocked as cities come, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t share its own little piece of the notorious seafaring disaster being marked today.

In the little-known museum of the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 507 on East Second Avenue, fragile-looking front pages of the morning and evening editions of TheBoston Daily Globe recount the April 15, 1912, Titanic disaster.

The newspapers are among a diverse assortment of memorabilia housed at the museum.

But how the museum came by them is a mystery, said Suzanne Ernst, one of the club members who began organizing the items more than a decade ago.

“The items probably came from club members, but we don’t know,” Ernst said. “There’s not a lot of documentation.”

The Titanic, the epitome of oceangoing luxury at the time, hit an iceberg southeast of Greenland on her maiden voyage just before midnight April 14, 1912, and sank early the next morning.

The historic front pages were unearthed among pieces of memorabilia stored in the attic of the lodge on the corner of East Second Avenue and Ninth Street.

“They were covered with coal dust,” said Ernst, an Elks Club member who has been a club bartender there for 20 years.

The Durango lodge was founded in 1898, three decades after the order was founded in New York City. The Durango lodge opened where the Red Snapper is today and moved to its present location in 1925.

Much of the memorabilia is related to club history, and several items were used in initiation rituals.

The Durango Elks aren’t alone in harboring a circuitous connection to the long-ago disaster. A Durango man attributes his existence to a choice made by his grandfather – and a stroke of luck that kept him from sailing on the ill-fated Titanic.

Edwin Snow Locke, who renounced his vows to become a priest when he fell in love with a woman he met on a steamship while bound for a seminary in Italy, later missed sailing on the Titanic for lack of fare, grandson Victor Locke said.

Locke operates the city of Durango’s cable channel, City Span 10.

“My grandfather married Frances Emma Philbrook, an English woman, in London on April 10, 1912,” Victor Locke said. “They were going to honeymoon on the Titanic, but money from his grandfather for passage didn’t arrive in time.”

The newlyweds sailed to America on the Mauritania, the same ship on which they had met, Locke said.

Edwin Snow Locke’s narrow escape put him in the rank of others – including Guglielmo Marconi, the telegraphy pioneer; financier J. Pierpont Morgan; and Milton Snavely Hershey of confectionery fame – whose business interests led them to miss sailing on the Titanic.

Victor Locke said a later stroke of luck for the family line occurred when his father, Nelson A. Locke, the couple’s only child, was returning to the United States from Saipan after World War II.

The plane, which turned back in the face of a storm, crashed, killing all but four of the 11 military personnel aboard, Locke said.

The vastness of the Titanic disaster has its reverberations being felt across the country.

Museums in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and Missouri’s country music-oriented resort town of Branson conducted symbolic re-enactments of the launching of Titanic’s distress flares and the lighting of a memorial flame at the bow of the ship.

John Joslyn, co-owner of both museums, said the ceremonies “pay tribute to the courage of the rescuers and survivors, respect the sacrifice so many made so that others might live, and honor the memory of all those aboard.”

Joslyn was co-leader of the first private expedition to visit the ship’s resting place on the ocean floor. Other expeditions have been conducted, including one by the director of the “Titanic” movie, James Cameron.

Up to 20 descendants of those who were aboard the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage are scheduled to attend ceremonies at the museums, Laney said. The Titanic Historical Society is helping coordinate the activities.

The museums, half-scale replicas of the giant ship, are home to hundreds of artifacts from survivors of the disaster and from the ocean liner. The attractions, with eerie symbolism, strive to show visitors how it felt to be part of the tragedy: They can learn how to send an SOS signal; dip their hands into 28-degree water simulating the water the night the ship sank; and feel the chill of an iceberg. Each guest gets a boarding pass of an actual Titanic passenger or crew member. At the end of the tour, they learn the fate of the passenger.

daler@durangoherald.com The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Elks Lodge manager Faye Harmer shows original copies of The Boston Daily Globe from April 16, 1912, reporting the sinking of the Titanic. The copies can be found in the Elks museum along with hundreds of other artifacts highlighting Elks and Durango history. The museum is open to the public by appointment. Enlarge photo

DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald

Elks Lodge manager Faye Harmer shows original copies of The Boston Daily Globe from April 16, 1912, reporting the sinking of the Titanic. The copies can be found in the Elks museum along with hundreds of other artifacts highlighting Elks and Durango history. The museum is open to the public by appointment.

Victor Locke, of Durango, holds a laptop that displays his family’s website about his grandparents, who were scheduled to sail on the Titanic. Money wired to them did not make it in time and left them standing on the dock when the ship sailed. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Victor Locke, of Durango, holds a laptop that displays his family’s website about his grandparents, who were scheduled to sail on the Titanic. Money wired to them did not make it in time and left them standing on the dock when the ship sailed.

A commemorative card in memory of the Titanic victims was handed to Edwin Snow Locke and Francis Emma Philbrook when they boarded the ship Mauritania as it sailed to the U.S. from London. The couple narrowly missed sailing on the Titanic. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

A commemorative card in memory of the Titanic victims was handed to Edwin Snow Locke and Francis Emma Philbrook when they boarded the ship Mauritania as it sailed to the U.S. from London. The couple narrowly missed sailing on the Titanic.

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