Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Heroes and Villains

Bridgeport Titanic Survivor Drowns in Beardsley Pond?

Photo: Oscar Palmquist

In April of 1912, the news of the tragedy of the sinking of the ship Titanic resonated throughout the world.  In the New York metropolitan area, the many immigrants and their families shuddered to think of the sad drownings.  Many area residents themselves traveled over from Europe and other countries by boat.  It was a difficult trip, one of hardship for many, as they left their homeland to take their chances on a new life overseas in America.

Those who died were listed  in the newspapers in the days following the tragedy.  The horrible news that came back was described too grimly in the newspapers.  The Bridgeport Post reported; “The faces of the dead were set in expressions of horror and extreme fear, and legs and arms were bent and contorted, show how madly they had fought for their life in the icy water.”

There were survivors of the shipwrecked Titanic.  One survivor, Oscar Palmquist, managed to jump into the icy waters as its final six feet sunk into the Atlantic.  Oscar’s brother, Amandus, gave the account of Oscar’s rescue to the Yonkers Herald, April 22, 1912.   “He tied two life belts around his waist, knowing that the suction as the boat went down would make the chance of getting away from her very small.”

Oscar was in the freezing water for more than five hours before being rescued by the Carpathia.  He was assisted by a young woman in one of the lifeboats.  The Swedish girl, who let him hold onto her shawl like a rope from the lifeboat, later died from exposure.

Oscar and his brother Amandus first lived in Yonkers, but later moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Oscar Palmquist, a single man, lived on Bassick Avenue and worked in a local factory.  On March 23, 1925, Palmquist was reported missing, and was found dead in Beardsley Park reservoir by park employees on April 19, 1925.

Even though the Bridgeport police reported the cause of his death as drowning, Larsen’s funeral home said the body had not been submerged in water that long.  The family of Palmquist felt that it had been foul play. A nephew of Oscar Palmquist, Robert Palmquist told me recently that “Oscar never went near the water after the Titanic disaster.  He also was a strong man and would not have drowned in a pond.”

In 1925, as fairly recent immigrants to Bridgeport, the family did not pursue Oscar’s death any further, because it may have caused friction for the family.

Mary Witkowski
Mary K. Witkowski is the former Bridgeport City Historian and the Department Head of the Bridgeport History Center, Emeritus. She is the author of Bridgeport at Work, and the co-author with Bruce Williams of Bridgeport on the Sound. Mary has had a newspaper column in the Bridgeport News, a blog for the Connecticut Post, and a weekly spot on WICC. She continues to be involved in many community based activities and initiatives on local history and historic preservation.