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TITANIC CONNECTIONS: Agriculture History Of Iowa Passengers

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Channel 13’s agricultural business reporter Chet Hollingshead visited a Cedar Rapids museum to research the Iowa agricultural connection with the sinking of the famous Titanic.

Everyone knows that the Titanic sank just over 100 years ago, but they may not know the connection with the Iowan’s on board. Only two Iowan’s were first class passengers on the ship, Walter Douglas and his wife Mahala. Walter and his older brother George Bruce were both sons of George Douglas, the co-founder of Quaker Oates.

George and Walter founded Douglas Starchworks in Cedar Rapids.  Douglas and his wife Mahala were on a three month European trip after his retirement, they booked passage on Titanic for their return voyage. They boarded at its second stop in Cherbourg. They would sail with the most famous people of Titanic and possibly the most famous passenger of all, the unsinkable Molly Brown. But all that changed on the night of April 14th. Time elapsed after the collision before Walter and Mahala went to the boat deck.

Eventually, as passengers were being loaded into lifeboats, they decided that Mahala should get into a lifeboat.  Walter assisted his wife into the lifeboat when she asked for him to join her, but Walter insisted that he must be a gentleman, and did not get in with her.

After news of Titanic reached Cedar Rapids, there was hope that Walter and Mahala both survived, but hope for Walters survival declined. On April 16th George and his wife Irene left for New York to meet the Carpathia. On the night of April 18th Carpathia docked.  Mahala was present, but Walter was not. Right then George knew his brother Walter perished with the other 1500 victims.

Walter Douglas was laid to rest on Sunday May 5th at Oak Hill cemetery in Cedar Rapids.