Washington A. Roebling II and the R.M.S. Titanic

Washington A. Roebling II, 1910
Special Collections and University
Archives, Rutgers University
Though 102 years have passed, the R.M.S. Titanic and the stories surrounding her foundering in the icy waters of the North Atlantic continues to captivate our imaginations.

Washington A. Roebling II, son of Charles G. Roebling, president of John A. Roebling Sons Company, and Stephen W. Blackwell, son of Jonathan H. Blackwell,  a wholesale dealer of groceries and for a time state senator for Mercer County, traveled to Europe in the early months of 1912, accompanied by Roebling’s chauffeur, Frank Stanley.

After touring the countryside, Stanley returned home, but Blackwell and Roebling decided to delay their departure and book passage on the maiden voyage of Titanic.

They boarded at Southampton, England, from which she departed on April 10, 1912, destined for New York with ports of call at Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland. The voyage was uneventful until April 14 at 11:40 P.M. when she struck an iceberg off the Grand Banks, near Newfoundland, Canada, buckling plates along the starboard side of the ship. The large gash rendered her watertight compartments useless, and she took on water for several hours before foundering at 2:20 A.M. on April 15.

Charles Carr and the “Swamp Angel”

Swamp Angel, ca.1907
Postcard from author’s collection
Charles Carr (1822-1877), proprietor of the Phoenix Iron Company, and a number of his employees who were Civil War veterans noticed that one of the scrap cannon slated for melting was the “Swamp Angel,” the long-range gun with which Major General Quincy Adams Gillmore and the soldiers under his command briefly shelled the city of Charleston, South Carolina.

As The Defense of Charleston, including Fort Sumter and the Adjacent Islands, 1863-1865 (Johnson 1890) tells the story, “The Swamp Angel, so called by the Union soldiers, was purchased, with a number of other condemned cannon at the close of the war by the late Charles Carr, founder, of Trenton, N.J. It lay at his foundry several years, and, being loth to melt such a historic relic, he united with a number of public-spirited citizens and took means for the preservation of the piece.”

Gillmore was tasked with taking Charleston in 1863. He determined that a long range gunnery was needed, but the nearest safe distance was five miles distant on Morris Island. Since the island was little more than a marsh, a battery was constructed in two parts. The parapet was built on piles driven into the marsh, a grillage bolted onto the pilings, and a layer of 800 tons of sand. Once the foundation was completed, the platform was built of a layer of marsh grass, canvas, and sand onto which was placed a plank deck.

Jacob Ruopp, Trentonʼs First Fallen Police Officer

Gravemarker for
Jacob Ruopp (1819–1875)
Jacob Ruopp, born December 31, 1819, was the first of Trenton's police officers to be killed in the line of duty. At a quarter past midnight on June 6, 1875, he and fellow officer Louis Hartmann came upon two rowdy men at the corner of Broad Street and Hamilton Avenue.

The officers told them the hour was early and it was time to go home, but one of the men, James Keenan, refused and struggled with the officers when they sought to arrest him for drunk and disorderly conduct. He subsequently pulled a handgun from his pocket and fired two shots, one of which struck Ruopp in the abdomen.

Hartmann and Ruopp took the suspect to the police station where he was booked and sent to the county jail, and Ruopp was sent home to be attended by a doctor. After twice probing the wound with medical instruments, several doctors were unable to locate the bullet, leading them to express their opinion that he was not likely to recover.

Ruopp succumbed to his injuries on June 14 and was interred in Section H, Lot 54-55, on June 16. The city's common council passed a resolution recognizing the fallen officer for the "faithful discharge of his duties" and voted in favor of paying the undertaker's bill for his funeral.

Keenan was indicted for murder, but convicted of manslaughter. After serving a ten-year sentence in state prison, he moved to Philadelphia and made a living selling produce, and where he also became a temperance advocate.

David W. Lenox and the Tugboat Adriatic

David W. Lenox
1822–1911
After spending much of his early life as a seafarer, David W. Lenox (1822–1911) and his brother William M. Lenox engaged in the steam-powered transport of cargo and timber rafts on the Delaware River between Trenton and Philadelphia. This proved a lucrative enterprise but the timber lands to the north were eventually depleted while the railroads took much of the cargo traffic.

The story may have ended there but for two newspaper articles: one in the Daily State Gazette on December 21, 1909, and the other days after his death in the Daily True American on February 23, 1911.

At the start of the Civil War, Lenox chartered his steam-powered tugboat Adriatic to the U.S. Government. The tug was sent to Fort Monroe, Virginia, where it remained for the duration of the war, and it was from this vantage point that he was thrice an eyewitness to history.

Samuel W. Gordon, Barber, Messenger and Antiques Dealer

Celtic Cross monument on the
Gordon lot
Samuel W. Gordon, an African-American, was born in Philadelphia on October 25, 1845. He learned barbering as a teenager, a trade in which he engaged throughout his life, and soon moved to Washington, D.C., where in addition to being a barber he was a messenger for the U.S. Supreme Court. While there he frequently shaved Abraham Lincoln and, as he must have been pleased to recollect, had the honor of accompanying the president on the occasion of his delivering his address at Gettysburg.

Coming to Trenton, for 46 years he served as the private messenger for 15 governors—Joseph D. Bedle, George B. McClellan, George C. Ludlow, Leon Abbett, Robert S. Green, George T. Werts, John W. Griggs, Foster M. Voorhees, Franklin Murphy, Edward C. Stokes, John F. Fort, Woodrow Wilson, James F. Fielder, Walter E. Edge, and Edward I. Edwards—from 1875 to 1920.

When Woodrow Wilson was elected president and left the governor's office for the White House, however, he invited him to return to Washington, but Gordon thought better of it and declined the invitation. That turned out to be a good decision for during his service to the governors he took an interest in antiques, first as a collector and later a dealer, and became a recognized authority in the field.