North Wales Historic Commission
North Wales, Pennsylvania
The North Wales Connection to the Sinking of the Titanic
The Van Billiard family lived at 116 W. Montgomery Ave, North Wales. Mr James Van Billiard owned a Marble & Granite Business on the corner of Main St. & W. Montgomery Ave. and was the Burgess of North Wales. His son Austin was not interested in joining his father's business and instead went to Paris, France at age 22 where he worked wiring exhibitor pavilions for the Universal Exposition, due to open in April 1900. While there, he met Maud Helen Murray. Maud was born in England and educated in Paris. Austin & Maud married in November 1900. In 1906 Austin, along with his wife & 3 children, decided to venture to South Africa to prospect for diamonds. ( His great-grandson Bob Bell shared a letter his grandmother Dorothy wrote telling of their life in South Africa and success in mining diamonds, which I shared with the Lansdale Historical Society.) While in South Africa the Van Billiard's had three more children.
The Van Billiard's returned to England in 1912 and Austin possibly arranged an appointment with diamond brokers in America. Maud Van Billiard was not well and decided to stay in England until her health improved, so Austin booked passage to America with his two oldest sons on the luxurious new unsinkable TIANIC maiden voyage. Some of the diamonds were placed in the ships safe, however, Austin kept few in his pocket.
The bodies of Austin Van Billiard and the second son Walter John Van Billiard were identified and shipped to North Wales via train, arriving at the North Wales train station. The body of the oldest son, James William was never found, nor were the diamonds.
For the full Van Billiard story, contact Joanne Matthews at the North Wales History Commission.
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