This month marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The tragedy and its victims dominated the front pages of the nation's newspapers for weeks. The headlines noted the loss of "a number of prominent people, including John Jacob Astor and wife, and other millionaires." On April 18, 1912, there was this small item on the front of The News & Observer:
It is highly probable that Roxboro furnished one of the victims to the Titanic disaster. A message from Cochran of the Mail Department at Washington, confirmed the fear of his mother that Mr. O. S. Woody, who was in the post sea service, was on board the Titanic.
He had written his mother when he last sailed from New York that he would return on the Titanic.
The mother is almost crazed with grief and suspense since hearing that the ship went down and of course she has little hope that he was saved. Mr. Woody was an excellent young man and his mother and sister there have the deep sympathy of the town.
In 2003, Sharon O'Donnell, a distant relative of Woody, recalled what she had learned about her ancestor's fate.
He was body number 167, recovered from the dark, icy waters of the North Atlantic after the Titanic disaster. His name was Oscar Scott Woody, a sea postal clerk on the ship's ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912.
American sea post clerks like Oscar Woody earned about $1,000 a year, according to the Postal Museum's Web site. That salary was considered a small fortune by many at that time. These clerks were very skilled in handling large amounts of mail. They traveled aboard luxurious ships, took their meals in a separate dining room and were allotted an allowance for their board while in a foreign country.
Woody received his travel orders to Europe and arrived there from New York on April 2 aboard the S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. Upon arriving in Plymouth, England, he was instructed to go to Southampton and return to New York on the Titanic, setting sail April 10.
... Woody was one of five mail clerks on the journey, in charge of sorting responsibilities and the safe delivery of letters, postcards and packages heading across the Atlantic. The Titanic.com Web site reports that the ship was transporting 6 to 9 million letters.
On the night of the tragedy, the postal workers and other crew members were celebrating Woody's birthday. He was to turn 44 at midnight --about 20 minutes after the ship's collision with the iceberg. The celebration ended early because it became apparent that something dreadful had happened.
The mail holding area was one of the first to fill up with water. When water started coming in, the dedicated clerks lugged many of the heavy mailbags to the next level of the ship. Of course, it was all in vain.
His few personal belongings, such as his pocket watch, are now in various museums, including the U.S. Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. There is a small exhibit with a few of his artifacts at the Person County Museum of History in Roxboro. In Southhampton, England, the origin of the Titanic's voyage, there is a plaque memorializing the five postal workers, who all perished on the voyage. Woody was buried at sea. --The News & Observer 9/18/2003