In his book The Discovery of the Titanic (Warner Books, 1987), Dr. Robert D. Ballard included the image of a farewell note from one of the ship’s ill-fated passengers. The man had scribbled his note on a page torn from a diary, sealed it in an empty bottle, and handed it to a woman entering a lifeboat.
“if saved inform my sister Mrs. F. J. Adams of Findlay Ohio Lost J. H.
The woman who received the note from Rogers added her own note, and someone turned both in to the New York World.
“You will find note that was handed to me as I was leaving the Titanic. Am stranger to this man, but think he was a card player. He helped me aboard a lifeboat and I saw him help others. Before we were lowered I saw him jump into the sea. If picked up I did not recognize him on the Carpathia. I don’t think he was registered on the ship under his right name.”
Indeed, “J. H. Rogers” was known to be the 10-year alias of Jay Yates, 44-year-old black sheep of a respectable family in Findlay, Ohio. His surprisingly heroic death was reported in newspapers, along with his sister’s statement that he was a fugutive from federal authorities because of a 1910 theft of $2,700 in postal money orders. (He had also posed as a postal inspector when he cashed them.) The widow of Jay Yates was the sole beneficiary of his life insurance policy.
On 13 June 1912 the Weekly Jeffersonian announced “YATES ALIVE, IS HELD BY FEDERAL OFFICERS.” He had been caught in Baltimore, and his mother reportedly wept with grief when she learned that he was still alive. His family believed he had survived the sinking (some said he had put on a dress), but there is apparently no evidence that he was ever on the Titanic.
This information is extracted from “The Findlay Fugutive” in a recent issue of the quarterly Titanic Commutator, provided by Legacy reader Father David Baumann.