Surely among the unbelievable stories and sad endings of passengers who survived the sinking of Titanic, Oskar Palmquist’s fate is one of the most bizarre and ironic. He would die of drowning in a small reservoir at Beardsley Park, Bridgeport, Ct.
He is buried in an unmarked grave not far from famed circus manager P.T. Barnum. Was it suicide- an accident- or murder? Ruled an accident in the end, there are still many unresolved issues and unanswered questions to this day, and with the trail so cold, the whole truth may never be known. Police continued to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death for a long time after the verdict of accidental drowning was rendered. His pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Salem Church emphatically cried “foul play”was done and that Oskar never would have committed suicide. Palmquist was found drowned in his best clothing, life insurance policy in his pocket. Rev. Okerblom believed him to have gone after work to Walnut Beach, a popular working man’s resort near Milford. The last to see him was his barber on Fairfield Street who mentioned Palmquist said he was going to a party, and boarded the Ash Creek trolley car in fine spirits. Since autopsies cost money, the notion that Palmquist may have been “slipped a mickey” at the party and was poisoned was never confirmed or ruled out as the coroner opted not to perform an autopsy.
Palmquist made no bones about his fear of water, and avoided ponds, lakes and any body of water with an obsession since he had been warned by a fortune teller some years before his drowning. It was inconceivable to many of his friends and neighbors that he would have voluntarily placed himself near the Beardsley Park lake. Coroner Phelan and the chief of police were anxious to wrap up the case and were very quick to put it to bed. No inquest was held.
There was talk of a married woman Palmquist saw secretly, and that her Italian spouse was both jealous and potentially violent. Nothing could be pinned on him. The local paper published this about the estate:
ESTATE BUT $318
Oscar Palmqulst, one of the survivors
of the Titantlc disaster of 1912,
who was found drowned In a pond bordering
Beardsley park last April 18,
left an estate with a value of $318 .08,
according to the inventory which has
been filed in Probate court.
Palmquist is survived by three sisters
and five brothers most of whom reside
In his homeland His estate consists of a
set of machinist’* tools, valued at $46,
$100 from the Order of Vasa, $100 from
the Swedish Hundred Men’s society and
when Palmquist’s body was found in
the park pond he had been missing
since March 21.
Oskar’s rooming house on Lenox Street is still standing, now in a decaying neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks in Bridgeport, just as it was on the day when he left the porch forever and walked into a mystery which endures still.
These facts of his family and birth come from the files of the Evangelical Lutheran Salem Church where Rev. Okerblom befriended and helped many Swedish faces newly arrived in America. All materials for this article are courtesy of this institution.
“Oskar Leander Palmquist
From the records of Salem Lutheran Church, 3160 Park Ave., Bridgeport, Conn:
Born: July 26, 1885, Willstads, Jonkopings, Sweden
Baptized and Confirmed in Sweden
Came to America from Sweden in 1912; settled in New Haven
Came to Bridgeport from New Haven in 1913
Received as a member of Salem on Jan. 4, 1914
Resided at 44 Lenox Ave., Bridgeport, Conn.
Died March 27, 1925 (Age 39 yr., 8 mo., 1 day)
Funeral on April 20, 1925
Since Oskar Palmquist was an adult when he became a member of Salem, his parents or other family members are not listed with him.
However, there was another Palmquist listed in the church records who came from the same town/parish in Sweden as Oskar. His name was Amandus Palmquist, and the information on him is as follows:
Born: Jan. 20, 1877, Willstads, Jonkopings, Sweden
Baptized and Confirmed in Sweden
Came to America from Sweden in 1896; settled in New Haven (member of Bethesda Lutheran in New Haven
Moved from New Haven to Stamford in 1915
Moved from Stamford to Bridgeport in 1919
Received as a member of Salem on May 5, 1929
Wife of Amandus Palmquist was Gertrude Ingeborg (Anderson) Palmquist.
Amandus and Gertrude had two sons:
William, born in 1921 (now deceased)Robert, born in 1928 (was a member of Salem, but released from membership many years ago)
Several years ago, a Pictorial History of Bridgeport was written by a David W. Palmquist. I believe David is the son of Robert Palmquist. David Palmquist was the Head of Historical Collections in the Bridgeport Public Library for many years. He left Bridgeport a few years ago for another position, but I do not have information on where he might be now. The Bridgeport Library Historical Dept. might be of some help in this regard. Mary Witkowski is now in charge of the Historical Collections.
Gertrude (Anderson) Palmquist was one of five children of Charles Johan and Hulda Anderson. One brother, Clarence Eugene Anderson, had five children. Two are deceased, two live in Florida and one is still a member of Salem. Her name is Barbara
(Anderson) Silhavy, and she resides in Easton, Conn. Her husband is a retired officer with the Easton Police Dept. The other two surviving Anderson children are Barbara’s brothers, Harold and Herbert Anderson (twins) who reside in Florida.
There are no other surviving relatives of the Palmquist family at Salem.
As for Pastor Okerblom, all of his children are deceased. A few of his grandchildren still live in the area, though they are not current members of Salem.