In 1910, John Sage, a baker from Peterborough left Britain with his eldest son George then aged 18, and travelled to Canada where they took a room in a house and earned their money working as waiters on board the Pacific Railway. During their time off, they travelled around taking in the sights, eventually travelling to Florida, where John fell in love with Jacksonville.
He paid a deposit on a farm with the idea of being a pecan farmer and sent a postcard to his wife Annie, who had remained in England to run their bakery and take care of the other children. John and Annie had married in 1890, and over the years had eleven children although two had died in infancy. He returned a few months later in 1911 and told her of his plans to emigrate, and about the farm he had purchased. Annie was reluctant, as were the children. But John was adamant. He began to round up his affairs in England, selling the bakery and the shop and sent the remainder of the balance for the farm, along with the family piano and some furniture. George who had remained in Florida, with his fiancé, came back to England also to settle business.
The family were to leave for America on board the Philadelphia, out of Liverpool however a coal strike prevented the ship from sailing and forced the Sage family to change their plans. They spent £69 11s on a family ticket, number 2343, and travelled to Southampton where they boarded the Titanic, sailing to New York on her maiden voyage, in third class accommodation.
On the night of April 15th, Titanic struck an iceberg in one of the most famous maritime disasters of all time. She sank in less than two hours with the loss of 1500 souls. Other passengers recall several members of the Sage family gathered on the deck and the eldest daughter, Stella aged 21 (or possibly Dorothy aged 13) being given a place aboard a lifeboat. As was custom third class passengers were separated into two areas, for berth. Men took one end, and women and children the other. Families were able to join each other during the day in communal areas, and for dining. As a result, the family was quite possibly on deck as the ship sank, waiting to meet up before joining the lifeboats. Whichever of the two girls had gained a place, gave it up and stepped back on board to wait.
As the ship went down, it took both John and Annie along with Stella, Dorothy, George, Douglas aged 18, Frederick aged 16, Anthony aged 11, Elizabeth aged 9, Constance aged 7 and Thomas aged 4. None of the family survived. Only Anthony’s body was recovered, a week later by the Mackay-Bennett, a cable steamer registered in London and working out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Plymouth, England. As a result of the overwhelming numbers of bodies recovered by the Mackay-Bennett, 306 out of the 328 found, a system was devised by which first class passenger remains were embalmed and placed in coffins, second class were embalmed and placed in canvas covers, and due to a lack of embalming fluids third class passengers were buried at sea. Canada had a policy that no remains were to be brought ashore without embalming. Anthony Sage was therefore committed back to the sea, after identification, along with 115 others, only 55 others of which were identified.
The Mackay-Bennett found the bodies of John Jacob Astor IV of the Hotel chain, Edward Austin Kent – an architect, and Isidor Straus, owner of Macy’s. They also found the body of Band Master Wallace Hartley, who was recovered fully clothed with his instrument strapped to his body; his remains were transferred to another ship to be brought home to England for burial. Also recovered were the unidentified remains of a toddler, around two years of age who was presumed to be a third class passenger. The crew and Captain between them raised the money for the child’s headstone, inscribed “our Babe”. Crew member Clifford Crease, whose journals form the bulk of the documentation of the recovery effort, went every year to lay flowers on the child’s grave. When he passed away, his body was buried close to the child. In 2008, the little boy was finally formally identified as Sidney Leslie Goodwin aged 19 months, who perished along with his entire family including five older siblings.
The Sage family were the largest single family to have died in the tragedy.