Inside Tulocay Cemetery, some 200 yards from the main entrance is a grassy 30-by-30-foot square bereft of headstones, markers or any sign of those buried there.
But a historian has pinpointed this onetime potter’s field as the resting place of a man who, a century ago Sunday, endured the sinking of RMS Titanic — a disaster as unforgettable as he is forgotten.
Cemetery and state records list Tulocay as the burial site of Eino Lindquist, who began his life in a Finnish village in 1892 but whose fate after the shipwreck has remained mysterious.
It would take a longtime amateur historian, from a Texas town several thousands of miles from where the Titanic went down in the Atlantic Ocean, to uncover the story of an immigrant who sought a better life in America, only to endure the unendurable in the early morning of April 15, 1912.
What became this historian’s passion began, he remembers, with a toy.
“When I was 4, my grandma had a lady friend over to visit one morning, and I was sitting on the floor playing with a plastic boat,” said Phillip Gowan, now 59 and a retired telecommunications engineer living in suburban Nashville.
“This lady told me, ‘My husband’s mother and daddy got drowned on a boat one time and they were bringing diamonds with them,’” he recalled Tuesday. “‘When you grow up, you have to find those diamonds.’”
The woman was Rosa Risien, whose lost in-laws, Samuel and Emma Risien, had traveled from their South Africa home to board the Titanic in Southampton, England. Her story slowly took hold of Gowan, who first watched the movie “A Night to Remember,” based on Walter Lord’s book-length account of the disaster, in his teens and been prying Rosa for all she knew of the ocean liner.
By 1985, Gowan was working as a BellSouth systems designer in Nashville when an undersea search team led by Robert Ballard discovered the wreck of the ocean liner, 73 years after its doomed maiden voyage. The discovery drew new attention to the ship, and especially theories about what caused its rapid death after striking an iceberg some 400 miles south of Newfoundland.
But Gowan, as he began spending more time researching the ship and its passengers, had more questions about those aboard — the humble immigrants along with the ornaments of industry and high society.
“My biggest interest was always the people; I never had a huge interest in the number of rivets or the number of lifeboats,” he said. “It was the people and what their experiences on the ship were.”
Pursuing small groups of several passenger names at a time, Gowan combed through decades-old immigration papers, library microfilm rolls, newspaper clippings and obituaries for clues to where the Titanic’s survivors were headed, where they worked, how and when they died.
He began working in 1994 on the case of Eino Lindquist, a native of Dalsbruk, Finland. He, his sister and her daughter already were known to have lived through Titanic’s sinking, but filling in the details was a painstaking process filled with roadblocks.
A newspaper story named Lindquist as one of five Finns to arrive in the Pennsylvania steel town of Monessen days after their rescue from Titanic. But why was he absent from the town in the 1920 U.S. Census? The hunt led Gowan to his naturalization papers, which showed the Finn had taken U.S. citizenship in 1924 while living in Syracuse, N.Y.
Then ... silence. The rest of the paper trail seemed as elusive as a lost ship; the sister and niece who had accompanied Lindquist were long dead.
Once again, a death notice would provide another lead toward the missing man’s life.
Gowan discovered a death certificate for Lindquist’s younger brother, Martin, who had died in 1966. A newspaper obituary for the man included the name of his daughter, Mallis Nowicki — aged but then still living in Windsor, Ontario.
“She couldn’t remember meeting him but she did know the stories” circulating among the family, Gowan said of the phone calls and emails the two shared throughout 2000.
From his various homes in the U.S., Nowicki told him, Lindquist struck back out for Finland several times during the 1930s — sometimes for as a long as year, and often to find work as well as time with his parents. A photograph he sent to American relatives during that decade shows him holding his only child, also named Eino, whom the never-married immigrant fathered in his native country.
Despite his trips home, Lindquist found time to traverse much of the U.S. — holding steelworking jobs in Pennsylvania and western New York, occasionally visiting his sister’s adopted home of Cato, N.Y., spending time in Minneapolis in the early 1940s.
But after World War II, relatives lost track of the already elusive Lindquist. Was he trapped in Finland? Back in the States and unable to return home? Was he even alive? No one could know.
On the morning of April 22, 1912, an express train arrived at the Monessen train station 40 miles west of Pittsburgh. Among those stepping onto the platform were five Finns — among them the 20-year-old Eino Lindquist, his sister Helga Hirvonen and her 2-year-old daughter, Hilda — who 10 days earlier had watched 1,502 of their fellow ocean crossers die in the icy North Atlantic.
Helga’s husband had immigrated in 1911 and found work in a Monessen steel factory, and now Eino was accompanying his relatives on the same path to America, boarding the Titanic at Southampton on its maiden voyage for the White Star Line.
Their arrival aboard the 882-foot-long, 46,328-ton behemoth headed for New York attracted none of the attention the newspapers lavished on their wealthier and more prominent peers in the first-class staterooms above: Astors, Guggenheims, Strauses and Thayers.
Instead, Eino and his party were but a few faces among 709 mostly immigrant passengers in the spartan third-class bunks on the lower decks — the first to take on water after the liner struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, fatally flooding the front six watertight compartments of a ship that even the normally reserved journal “The Shipbuilder” had declared “practically unsinkable.”
“I was a passenger in the third cabin and had been in bed about two hours when my roommate and I were awakened by people running to and fro on the deck,” Lindquist told a local newspaper shortly after arriving in Pennsylvania, according to Cassandra Vivian’s local history “Monessen: A Typical Steel Country Town.”
Rushing to put on heavy clothing and an overcoat in the freezing night, the Finn and his bunk mate, Erik Jussila, saw the Titanic’s crewmen already lowering the lifeboats — just 20 of them, far too few for the more than 2,200 people on board. Sailors let Jussila onto a lifeboat as a rower, leaving his friend alone and seemingly trapped as the Titanic slowly, then rapidly foundered bow-first.
Sixteen wooden lifeboats, and two of the four collapsible canvas boats, were sent away from the dying Titanic. Meanwhile, water began swallowing the deck from bow to stern, swamping those on deck and threatening to swallow Lindquist as well.
The last two collapsible boats, lashed high atop the Titanic, proved difficult to free, and Collapsible B — which Gowan says was likely the final boat launched — landed in the water upside-down.
Accounts of the Titanic’s loss differ as to whether Lindquist boarded Lifeboat 15 or Collapsible B. Lindquist, recalling that night, described seeing desperate men being beaten off with clubs by sailors as they surged toward the final craft, shortly before the liner slipped beneath the water at 2:20 a.m.
“Being a fairly good swimmer, I exerted myself to the utmost and was able to reach the last lifeboat, which was about 200 yards from where the ship went down and was taken on board,” he later told the Monessen Reporter.
Thirty men clung tenaciously to the overturned collapsible, but the 28-degree sea water overcame several of them, who died of hypothermia and slipped off into the ocean. The survivors held on to their gradually sinking life raft until RMS Carpathia, a liner owned by the rival Cunard company, arrived at 4 a.m. to rescue the 705 survivors and take them to New York.
Throughout 2000, Hallis Nowicki described her family’s own, decades-long search for the missing Eino Lindquist. Beginning in the late 1940s, his brother Martin visited numerous cities Eino might have visited, or that at least had large Finnish-American populations, buying classified ads asking for any tips on his missing sibling’s whereabouts. None came.
It would be another of Nowicki’s memories that put Gowan on track to uncover the final decade of Lindquist’s life.
Armed with the woman’s recollection that her family had last heard from him around 1950, the historian ordered copies of San Francisco city directories, which revealed Lindquist living in a cramped boardinghouse on Hayes Street in 1953. The shipwreck survivor would have been 61 by then, so Gowan turned his search toward finding a death record in California under that name.
Finally, that August, he received an envelope from the state Department of Health Services. Inside, on green-tinted paper, was a death certificate in the name of “Einor Lindquist.” (The Finn also was listed as “Einar” in other historical sources, including “A Night to Remember.”)
The end had come at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 31, 1958. A stroke felled Lindquist, and high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis had eroded his health, but the certificate also noted a condition that had darkened the man’s final years: “schizophrenic reaction, paranoid type.”
His final home was Napa State Hospital. He was 66 years old.
His six-year search over, Gowan found the outcome sobering, but not altogether surprising.
Psychiatrists would not recognize post-traumatic stress disorder as a malady until decades after the sinking of the Titanic. Yet enough survivors wound up in asylums or dead by their own hand for Gowan to wonder whether those who escaped the shipwreck may have found emotional freedom from the disaster beyond reach. Those afflicted ranged from the San Francisco banker Washington Dodge, who shot himself seven years after the disaster, to Anna de Messemaeker, a Belgian who settled in Montana but died in 1918 as a mental patient in the Mayo Clinic.
For Gowan, the effects of the Titanic’s loss on its survivors differ only in degree, not in kind, even for those who led long and prosperous lives afterward — people like Katie Gilnagh, an Irish teen who settled in New York, lived to age 75, and freely shared her experiences with Walter Lord and numerous journalists.
Yet even the gregarious Gilnagh refused ever to set foot on a ship again, contenting herself with seeing off friends at the dock. During her only flight back to Ireland in 1962, before the 50th anniversary of the disaster, she became frightened when the pilot introduced himself on the intercom system as “Captain Smith” — a name shared with Edward John Smith, who captained the Titanic and went down with the ship.
“I thought to myself, ‘Well, there’s another one,’” Gowan said last week of the price Lindquist might have paid for his survival. “There’s no surprise in seeing it; it’s another one to add to the tally of those affected that way.”
A funeral home agreed to handle Eino Lindquist’s interment for the immigrant’s scant assets, according to Gowan: the $225 in his bank account and $164 check found in his room, perhaps a pension payment.
The service did not go so far as to include a headstone; other Napa Hospital patients who died there in the 1950s also were interred in the de facto potter’s field, according to Nancy Brennan, a Napa historian writing a history of Tulocay.
When a marker might be erected to Lindquist’s memory remains unknown, but Brennan called such a gesture a worthy one.
“It is amazing, but every grave has a story,” she said Thursday. “I’ve been researching (Tulocay) since 1990, but it just goes to show that no matter how much reading you do, there’s another story that comes up.”