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Texan on the Titanic!

Did you know that a well-known rancher from the Panhandle of Texas died on the Titanic? It’s true. Sir Alfred Rowe boarded the R.M.S. Titanic on April 10, 1912, at the port of Southampton, England. He had a first-class ticket on the maiden voyage of the supposed “unsinkable” British passenger liner.

Unfortunately, on the night of April 14, at 11:40 p.m., the luxury steamship struck an iceberg 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, and quickly sank. It is estimated that over 1,500 passengers perished under the icy waves of the north Atlantic Ocean. The body of Sir Alfred was the 109th of 340 bodies that were retrieved by the ship Mackay-Bennett. His remains were shipped back to Liverpool, and were interred in the family cemetery.

But who was Sir Alfred Rowe, and why was he on the Titanic? Rowe, a British citizen, was born in Peru in 1853. After several successful business ventures, Sir Alfred purchased land in West Texas and developed the R.O. Ranch. In 1901, he married Constance Ethel Kingsley, a cousin of the British author Charles Kingsley, and they had four children.

During his ranching days, Rowe made frequent trips to Kensington, England, and in 1910, he moved there permanently. But he returned to the R.O. Ranch at least twice each year to handle business. Rowe had a warm and personal relationship with his ranch workers, many of whom were from England.

Because he shared a love for God with his workers, Rowe built a small Gothic church in nearby Clarendon, that resembled one in England. It was constructed with extensive carpentry skills, and featured beautiful hand polished wood and ornate stained-glass windows.

To obtain the most suitable organ, Sir Alfred had to return to England. It is surmised that he contacted the Hedgeland organ company, because Frederic W. Hedgeland later constructed instruments for the Kimball Organ company in Chicago.

After designing the exact organ he wanted for his church in Texas, Rowe set sail on the Titanic to return to the R.O. Ranch. Fortunately, the organ was shipped separately, and remains in use today at Saint John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Clarendon.

Sir Alfred Rowe somewhat resembles King David in the Old Testament, in that it was in his heart to build a place to worship God (1 Chronicles 22:7). David made the plans and gathered all the needed materials. Though he died before the Temple was constructed, God honored King David for his dream (2 Samuel 7:8-16).

Proverbs 3:9 (ESV) challenges us to “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first-fruits of all your produce.” Putting God first and encouraging worship to Him is a notable and rewarding endeavor. Like Sir Alfred, let us build the church and honor Christ.


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