On this date in 1914, the Grand Forks Evening Times carried an intriguing story under the headline "Girl Would Rather Work as a Servant than Cross the Ocean Again!" It was about 18-year-old Elfrida Trinkler, who was reportedly a survivor of the great Titanic disaster two years before.
The young woman expressed her fear of the ocean by stating, “I’ll die in this country before I cross the ocean again.”
Elfrida certainly had the means to return to her home in Bordeaux, France, thanks to money sent by her father. The news report concluded that her life in France would have been far easier than the servant life she chose in North Dakota.
What is intriguing about Elfrida’s story is the lack of evidence to confirm her presence on the Titanic, including the absence of her name on lists of Titanic survivors. A more convincing case of a survivor in North Dakota is that of Ole Abelseth. His story is much more detailed.
Ableseth was originally from Norway, and his biography at the State Historical Society of North Dakota describes his journey. He and several relatives had boarded the Titanic in Southampton. The night of the sinking, they had clung to the ship until the last second. He lost his relatives in the freezing water, but after 20 minutes he managed to drag himself into a life boat.
Ole endured freezing temperatures as he and other survivors waited for rescue. In the biography, he describes watching people around him succumb to the cold.
Ole would one day testify before the US Senate Inquiry into the disaster, and after moving around, he ended up in North Dakota where he spent the rest of his days with his wife and children.
As for Elfrida Trinkler, the lack of details in her story and the absence of her name in public records hurt her credibility. Was there a reason a 16-year-old might have been overlooked on the survivor list? Or had the young woman sought to capitalize on the tragedy? Whichever the case, the newspaper reported that Elfrida would remain in Mandan, taken in by a local official.
Dakota Datebook by Olivia Burmeister
The Evening Times March 02, 1914, Image 2
SHSND General Information Biography File Olaus Abelseth