Pigeon Forge. To most people it brings to mind images of Dollywood, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park along with small “mom and pop ” shops as well as the Tangier Outlet Mall. However today history was made in Pigeon Forge .Yes, I know you’re probably thingking “Huh? Are we talking about the same place?’ Yes we are but I’ll get to that detail in a little bit.
Pigeon Forge hasn’t always been the tourist attraction that people are used to.In the early 20th century, Pigeon Forge was an isolated mountain hamlet with no major roads. The nearest railroad station was in Sevierville. Bridges were also rare, the only major water crossings being a string of fords along the Little Pigeon. And to all my sarcastic readers a ford is not a car!!
The U.S National Park Service wanted a park in the eastern United States, but did not have much money to establish one. Though Congress had authorized the park in 1926, there was no nucleus of federally owned land around which to build a park.John D. Rockefeller, Jr., contributed $5 million, the U.S. government added $2 million, and private citizens from Tennessee and North Carolina pitched in to assemble the land for the park, piece by piece. Slowly, mountain homesteaders, miners, and loggers were evicted from the land.(Yes they were compensated for the loss of their lands how much I really have no idea) Farms and timbering operations were abolished to establish the protected areas of the park. Travel writer,Horace Kephart, for whom Mount Kephart was named, and photographer George Masa were instrumental in fostering the development of the park. Ben W. Hooper of Tennessee was the principal land purchasing agent for the park which was officially established on June 15, 1934. During the Great Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps,the Works Progress Administration and other federal organizations made trails, fire watchtowers, and other infrastructure improvements to the park and Smoky Mountains.
So you can imagine the people’s reaction when Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to their little town to help dedicate the new Great Smoky National Park in 1934. Just the thought of having a national park in their own backyard was probably mind-blowing but to learn the president himself was coming was just beyond anything they had ever imagined…
This morning I got to feel the same way they did but in a different way.In Pigeon Forge,one of the two sister museums dedicated to the Royal Majesty’s Ship Titanic is located with the other one being located in Branson, Missouri. This state of the art museum is dedicated to keeping the memory of not only the great ship herself alive but the men, women and children’s whose lives were affected by the tragic sinking in one way or another. These were not the only people affected but the men who designed, built and in one way or another connected to the great ship.
The museum itself is over 15,000 square feet covering two floors. It takes about two hours to walk thru the whole museum which you can do at your own pace. When you buy your tickets you are given the name and a brief story on the back of your ticket about a real person who sailed on the Titanic. So while you are going thru the museum you can learn about what section of the ship you were on. Also they give you an personal listening device. As you walk thru there are numbers in blue for the adults to listen to and numbers in red where Miss Jaynee, a maid in first class, tells children all about being on the Titanic.
Over 2200 people sailed on the RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage. A voyage that was to take her from to Southhampton, England to New York, New York one she never completed. On April 15th, 1912 she struck an iceberg about 375 miles south of Newfoundland. At about 11:40 pm the iceberg had breeched her hull and by 2:20 am she had broken apart, foundered and sank to the bottom of the ocean. And in this single night over 1,500 people perished,slipping silently beneath the waves, and becoming part of our memories
But this is not the end of the story, Oh no, for this story does not just end with a slowly fleeting memory of a grand ship. No on this night while the ship was sinking and people were being loaded into the lifeboats which sadly were few and far between, the bandmaster, Wallace Hartley along with the eight band members continued to play music for the comfort of the passengers. I can only imagine what Mr. Hartley must have felt knowing that this could be his final performance.
Wallace Hartley had a music background. His father, Albion Hartley, was the Sunday school superintendent at Bethel Independent Methodist Chapel, where the family attended worship services. Hartley himself introduced the hymn Nearer, My God, to Thee to the congregation. Wallace studied at Colne’s Methodist day school, sang in Bethel’s choir and learned violin from a fellow congregation member.
After he finished his schooling he started working at the local bank in Colne. When his family moved, Hartley joined the Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1903, he joined the municipal orchestra where he stayed until 1909. He later moved to Dewsbury, West Yorkshire and in 1909, he joined the Cunard Line as a musician, serving on the ocean liners RMS Lucania, and the RMSMauretania.While serving on the Mauretania, the employment of Cunard musicians was transferred to the music agency C.W. & F.N. Black, which supplied musicians for Cunard and the White Star Line. This transfer changed Hartley’s onboard status, as he was no longer counted as a member of the crew, but rather as a passenger, albeit one accommodated in second-class accommodation at the agency’s expense.
In April 1912, Hartley was assigned to be the bandmaster for the White Star Line ship RMS Titanic. He was at first hesitant to again leave his fiancée, Maria Robinson, to whom he had recently proposed, but Hartley decided that working on the maiden voyage of the Titanic would give him possible contacts for future work. We can’t help but wonder if Mr. Hartley had known his fate would he have still signed up to travel on the Titanic?
Sadly none of the band members survived the sinking of the Titanic giving rise to the legend “that the band played on”. Personal accounts from passengers state they saw three of the band members were swept over while the five remaining members held on to the deckhouse of the Grand Staircase only to be drug down.
Mr. Hartley’s body was recovered two weeks later by the ship Mackay-Bennett reportedly “fully dressed with his violin strapped to his body”. On May 18, 1912 he laid to rest in Colne, England where over a thousand people attended his funeral while 40,000 people lined the streets for his funeral.
The violin was returned to Maria Robinson who was grateful that her beloved’s violin was returned to her after his death. What happened to this iconic musical instrument was unknown until 2006 when a gentleman found the instrument in an attic of his mother’s house. How his mom got the violin was she given it by via her violin teacher who herself was given it by the Salvation Army in Bridlington, East Yorks. The Salvation Army was informed of the Titanic connection.
Experts discovered the sister of Hartley’s fiancee Maria Robinson had donated the battered valise and violin to the Salvation Army following her death in 1939.
In 2006 the owner contacted the auctioneer to verify the authenticity of the violin. After seven years of extensive tests including forensic testing by Michael Jones,a 29-year veteran of forensic scince and former employee of the United Kingdom’s Home Office Forensic Science Service (FSS). The FSS was a government-based agency that provided forensic science services to police forces and governments of England and Wales along other with other countries.
According to Mr. Jones, “In my opinion, the findings in relation to the corrosion associated with the metal fixtures of the travel case in which the violin was recovered, and also the silver fish plate attached to the violin would be considered compatible with immersion in seawater.The results compared were compatible with material that had been recovered from other Titanic victims including Titanic postal worker, Oscar Woody and third-class passenger, Carl Asplund.”
This is where being a blogger is so AWESOME! Why you might ask. Okay here is why. At 10 am this morning I along with other mom bloggers and the press got to see a once in a lifetime event. I along with my family were invited to the grand unveiling of the Wallace Hartley violin. To just be invited to such a monumental event was an honor that I cannot even describe to my readers.
However to be in the same room as the violin while it was being unveiled was amazing. I mean to know that I was able to be a part of history will be something that I will tell my grandchildren, great grand children and along with you my dear readers.
My wonderful husband played videographer and photographer for me during this incredible event. His help in doing the video and photos was enormous especially since I’m not the the best at taking photos plus I was holding the baby who actually was pretty well behaved during this whole event.
This one of a kind piece of history will only be at Titanic Pigeon Forge until Saturday July 27th when it travels to it’s sister-location in Branson where it will be displayed between August 1 and August 15th, 2013. After this it will be travelling back to England where the auction firm of Henry Aldridge and Son will auction the violin on Saturday October 19, 2013. The violin is expected to bring a six figure bid at the sale.
I got a chance to talk for a few minutes with Craig Sopin who is a leading Titanic expert as well as one of the world’s largest private collections of Titanic artifacts. He kindly explained to me that the bids would be in British pounds and American bids would have to be converted into American dollars. So say for instance that Joe Smith in the United States decides to bid say $750,000 pounds that would be $1,127,850.00 in US Dollars.
For tickets please visit www.titanicattraction.com
Addendum: I am so happy that I have had so many people like this posting and my blog. I would be sincerely appreciative if you all would follow my blog. Please let me know that you follow my blog and I will happily follow your blog back. Thanks a million everyone.
☺♥☺ Until next time…