Wednesday, June 4, 2014

See the only bible saved on the Titanic! On display at Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge.

KNOXVILLE, TN – Rev. Bateman – lived in Knoxville late 1890’s.
His personal bible was on the Titanic with him. He did NOT survive.
Rev. Bateman gave his Bible to his sister-in-law, as she was put in the lifeboat.

By Allison Ensor,
guest writer

This is the story of how a Bible once aboard the Titanic came to be in Putnam County for some thirty-five years before being acquired by a Nashville museum and currently on display at

Although Robert J. Bateman was an Englishman, born in Bristol, England in 1860, he lived in the United States for a number of years, working particularly in Knoxville, Tennessee and in Jacksonville, Florida.  Arriving in Knoxville in the late 1890s, he founded the People’s Tabernacle, a church located in a rough part of town, a mission that ministered to the poor, providing them with shelter, food, and clothing.  He did not remain in Knoxville, however, and by the early twentieth century had moved on to Jacksonville, where he was involved in the Central City Mission, a ministry to those often neglected by the wealthier, more prominent churches.
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Early in 1912 Bateman was back in England for a couple of months and then booked passage in second class on the Titanic, thinking to return to Jacksonville to continue his work there.  Accompanying him on the trip was his wife’s sister, Ada Ball.  Did Bateman feel some premonition that he might not reach New York?  A postcard he mailed when the ship docked at Queenstown, Ireland, told his nephew:  “Tom, if this ship goes to the bottom, I shall not be there, I shall be up yonder.  Think of it!”  Such thoughts hardly seemed to be in anyone else’s mind, since it was widely believed that the Titanic was unsinkable.

The claim has been made that Bateman conducted the only worship service held aboard
the Titanic, but this is directly contradicted by other accounts.  Some claim that Bateman asked the band to play “Nearer, My God, to Thee” at the service he held.  Other accounts
mention the singing of “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” with its plea “for those in peril on the sea.”

When the ship hit the iceberg and it became apparent that the Titanic was actually going to sink, Bateman was concerned about his sister-in-law, but it is difficult to say exactly what took place. In one account Bateman had already taken a seat in a lifeboat when he discovered that his sister-in-law was still on the ship.  He hastened to change places with her, fully aware that it would probably mean his own death.  In another version, the one given in Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember, Bateman was never in one of the lifeboats but helped his sister-in-law into one, promising her, “If I don’t meet you again in this world, I will in the next.”   In several accounts he gave her some article of clothing—an overcoat, a scarf, a necktie.   

 Ada Ball may have kept the book for some time but then seems to have passed it on to Bateman’s widow.  It is at this point that a figure familiar to many Putnam Countians enters the story: Harry L. Upperman.  At that time the future president of the Methodist high school called Baxter Seminary was only twenty years old.

During her final illness in Baltimore, Mrs. Bateman gave Upperman the Testament that her husband had carried, presumably on August 15, 1915, since this is the date Upperman recorded, along with this statement of the book’s history:  “To Harry L. Upperman, a gift from Mrs. Bateman as a remembrance of her husband, who got up out of a rowboat as the Titanic was sinking, and gave that seat to his sister [sister-in-law], who he thought was in another boat, but who had really been left on the Titanic.  Mr. Bateman got back on the Titanic and lost his life as the boat sank.” Along the lefthand margin is written the name of the sister-in-law: “Mrs. Ball (Ada).”  Further down the flyleaf is written: “Harry L. Upperman, President, Baxter Seminary, Baxter, Tennessee.”  Dr. Upperman did not come to Baxter until 1923, so obviously this was written later. 

The story of the New Testament, titled The Emphatic Diaglott Containing the Original Greek Text of What Is Commonly Styled The New Testament…with an Interlinerary Word for Word English Translation was told in an article written for the Putnam County Herald by a Cookeville man, Albert Brogdon, and published April 11, 1940.  Apparently Brogdon interviewed Upperman, since he included this statement from him: “The drama, as I see it, was in that man, who in the darkness of the night, knew that if he got back on that boat, he would die.”  Brogdon added that Upperman was to preach in Baltimore on the anniversary of the ship’s sinking and would read his text from the Bible that had been saved from the ship. 
The only bible saved from Titanic - on Display NOW at Titanic Pigeon Forge.

Harry L. Upperman retired as president of Baxter Seminary in 1957. Soon after that the school was turned over to the county and given the name Upperman High School.  Upperman died in 1984 and is buried in Baxter. The Testament, which had been at Baxter Seminary all those years, was passed on to the Upper Room Museum in Nashville and now the bible is displayed at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tn.

To purchase tickets to the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tn. Click Here.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is my Great-Grandfather's Bible, is it still on display there in 2017?