South Dakota

They Survived the Titanic

One man who lived to tell the tale and ended up living in Onida, South Dakota
Titanic Newsclip
Titanic Newsclip
Oskar Hedman, Survivor
Oscar Hedman arrived from Sweden 1905 and settled in Beach, North Dakota. In addition to some routine types of employment, he became affiliated with various land promoters and real estate speculators. At the age of 27 he was employed as a “settler recruiter.” A common enterprise at that time was for various investment firms to send agents back to their European homeland to encourage immigration to America.

With seventeen migrants in tow, all eager for a new life on the prairies of America, Hedman boarded the Titanic at Southampton, England on April 10, 1912. On the night of Sunday April 14, the infamous collision with an iceberg occurred. The Titanic carried twenty lifeboats, not enough for all passengers and crew members. The scramble for safety has been portrayed in numerous books and movies.

Hedman and perhaps three of his migrants manage to survive. A “relief” committee gave him $10.00 after he disembarked from a recue vessel in New York, and he then made his way back to North Dakota. By 1918 he was married to Julia Anderson and around that time he trained to be a chiropractor.

In January of 1925 “Dr.” and Mrs. Hedman arrived In Onida, South Dakota where he set up a practice as a “Swedish Masseur.” In the 1920s Onida still had a Western or cowboy flavor. Dirt roads and one railroad, entering the area in 1910, provided access to the community. Regardless, he seems to have prospered and he lived in the community for the next forty years. (Does one dare joke about all those cowboys having back trouble?) He was a respectable member of the local Masonic Lodge and his home was prestigious enough to eventually be on a list of “ National Historic Places.”

Oskar died July, 1961 and is buried in Onida Cemetery.

The prairie is often called a “sea of grass.” When looking out across the limitless horizon of eastern South Dakota, did he often relive those panic filled moments from that night in 1912? Did his heart begin to race? Did his breathing quicken? What was his memory of those migrants in his care that didn’t make it?

Although it was well known in the community that he was a “survivor,” not many of his reminiscences appear to be on record. Perhaps he didn’t share much. Sadly, many of those who made it to safety were not well treated in the national press; often they were portrayed as somehow being unworthy, or having unfairly saved themselves.

Perhaps Oskar was relieved and grateful to be able to spend his adult years in that small community out by the Missouri River.
Author: EVM STAFF on 03/31 2011
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