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John Titanic Johnson

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Did you know that Dalesburg has a connection to the Titanic?

Survivor John Johnson was on his way to Dalesburg on the Titanic. In later years he became known for this as John “Titanic” Johnson.

The Argus Leader recently did a story on Mr. Johnson in which our own Ron Johnson (no relation) provided them with additional background information. You can read the Argus Leader article here:

http://www.argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012304160013&nclick_check=1

A relevant portion regarding Dalesburg:

Through the years, Ron Johnson of Clay County has collected documents and stories about John “Titanic” Johnson, who survived the disaster at age 14. Ron Johnson shared some of those items at the party. John Johnson was coming from his native Sweden to join his sister and father in South Dakota. “I’m not related to him,” Ron Johnson said. “But I’ll tell his story as long as I can.”

Should the link go away, here is the article in its entirety:

It may have been the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest disasters in modern history, but it was remembered Sunday with style.

About 170 people turned out to mark the sinking of the Titanic for dinner, drinks and re-enactments. Many were dressed in period costumes, or at least the costumes worn by wealthy first-class travelers and crew members.

The event, sponsored by Sioux Falls in the World, also served as a fundraiser for the South Dakota Symphony.

“We’ve been working pretty steady on it the last two and half months pulling it together,” said Larry Ort, Sioux Falls in the World’s chairman. Ort was dressed as Capt. Edward John Smith, who went down with his ship.

The event started with 150 tickets, but demand was so high it was expanded to 170, said Mike Saba, who played J. Bruce Ismay, the president of the White Star Line, who survived the disaster.

Paul Thompson played the part of Charles Lightoller, the highest ranking officer on the ship to survive the disaster. Lightoller was a critical witness during the subsequent inquiries who later served in the British Navy during World War I. In World War II, when the British were attempting to evacuate their Army from France, Lightoller piloted a small craft to help save men stranded at Dunkirk.

“He was generally considered to be a heroic and exemplary person,” Thompson said.

The family members of three survivors came from out of state for the event. Mike Fedorchak came from Bismarck, N.D. His great-grandmother, Thelma Thomas, was aboard the Titanic with a contingent of Lebanese family members who were immigrating to the United States.

After an iceberg sliced open the ship’s hull, Thomas got separated from Fedorchak’s great-uncle, who had Thomas’ infant. Thomas got on a life boat; the great-uncle got the baby on another lifeboat, but he himself perished, along with other members of the family.

“I think we lost nine or 10 family members that night,” Fedorchak said.

Through the years, Ron Johnson of Clay County has collected documents and stories about John “Titanic” Johnson, who survived the disaster at age 14. Ron Johnson shared some of those items at the party. John Johnson was coming from his native Sweden to join his sister and father in South Dakota.

“I’m not related to him,” Ron Johnson said. “But I’ll tell his story as long as I can.”

The Titanic was a big story for a lot of people in the Dakotas, Ron Johnson said, because so many people living here traveled in the northern Atlantic Ocean. And these weren’t the wealthy first-class passengers; they were, like John Johnson, riding in third class.

“We had a very high immigrant population from Scandinavia and Germany, and they traveled on those boats,” he said.

After the accident, John Johnson was put up in a first-class New York hotel, Ron Johnson said. His sister went there to find him but couldn’t at first because she was searching in third-class hotels. He joined the family in Clay County.

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