Unpleasant Crossings – Titanic Honeymoons Part IX

John Pillsbury Snyder was the grandson of Minnesota’s governor, nephew of the founder of the Pillsbury flour company, and son of a well-known Minneapolis lawyer. After college, John opened his own car dealership, right when the automobile was becoming more affordable and not merely a toy for the wealthy.


John Pillsbury Snyder

He married Nelle Stevenson a month later, and they set off on a European honeymoon. The captain of the ship they sailed on gave the “full steam ahead” order while it was still tied to the New York pier, which ripped a good part of the dock away. Then it ran aground on a sandbar near Gibraltar, preventing anyone from going ashore.


Nelle Snyder

For their return voyage from London to New York, the ship they were booked on was cancelled due to the coal strike. But Nelle was thrilled to learn they were being re-booked on the brand new Titanic. That is, until she learned the name of Titanic‘s captain. The ship’s captain on their voyage out of New York was also named Smith. “I don’t think this man is careful enough,” she told her husband. But John insisted everything would be fine, the Titanic was unsinkable, and she need not worry.

John and Nelle made friends with the Bishops, then the Astors and the Harders. The four honeymoon couples talked of their extensive travels across Europe and their plans for when they returned to the United States. They played cards, read, wrote postcards in the first class lounge, or strolled along the decks.

When Titanic hit the iceberg on the night of April 14, the Snyders were already in bed. A steward told John they should dress and come to the boat deck, where they waited with the Bishops until John Jacob Astor returned from meeting with Captain Smith. All passengers were to don their lifebelts and women and children would be loaded onto the lifeboats. Most passengers thought this was only a precautionary measure; it seemed safer to remain on the ship than get in a small boat dangling high over the dark ocean. At Lifeboat 7, both Nelle and John were allowed to board. Unsure if the boat could take more weight and with no one else willing to board yet, crewmembers lowered it to the water. With a capacity of 65, Lifeboat 7 held just 28 people, including two young crewmen who told the passengers they had never been in a lifeboat.

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Letter from John to his father following the sinking. “…I have a mighty fine wife and she is the one you must thank – besides our Lord – for my being able to write this letter.”

After the Titanic sank, Helen Bishop comforted Nelle by telling her of the Cairo fortune teller’s prediction that Helen would survive a shipwreck. The Snyders managed to recover well from their ordeal and returned to Minneapolis, where they built a large lake home, John’s dealership was successful, and they raised three children. John served in World War I. He and Nelle went to Europe again in 1939, but their trip was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. They came home rather than risk being stranded, and never left the USA again.


4 Comments on “Unpleasant Crossings – Titanic Honeymoons Part IX

  1. So the two Captain Smiths were different people, right? I’m so glad to hear of this happy ending and that they believed the Lord had mercy on them.

    • Yes, two different Captain Smiths. I agree, it’s nice to hear about one of the happier endings. I loved finding the letter he wrote to his father, crediting the Lord for their survival. Thanks, Deb!

  2. Interesting how so many wealthy newlyweds were able to traipse around Europe on extended honeymoons. You have to wonder where the Astors were when John and Nelle boarded Lifeboat 7.

    • Yes, its surprising how long some of those honeymoons were! And John Snyder had just opened a business a month earlier. He must have left it in very good hands to be gone for 3 months. As for the Astors, for some unknown reason they went to the port side of the ship where Mrs. Astor boarded Lifeboat 4 but men were not allowed to board. If they’d stayed with their friends on the starboard side, JJ Astor would probably have been allowed to board a boat with his wife. Thanks for your interest, Terri!

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