Miss Virginia Bruce Loney

Virginia Loney Saloon Passenger Saved
Michael Poirier Collection/National Archives
Born Virginia Bruce Loney 19 May 1899 Skaneateles, New York, United States
Died 4 April 1975 (age 75) Southampton, New York, United States
Age on Lusitania 15
Ticket number 46061
Cabin number B 87 and bath
Traveling with - Allen Loney (father) - Catharine Loney (mother) - Elise Bouteiller (maid)
Lifeboat 14
Rescued by fishing trawler
Citizenship United States
Residence - New York City, New York, United States - New Rochelle, New York, United States - Skaneateles, New York, United States - Guilsborough, Northampton, England, United Kingdom
Other name(s) - Virginia Gamble (first marriage) - Virginia Abbott (second marriage)
Spouse(s) - Robert Howard Gamble (1918 - 1923), divorced - Paul Abbott (1926 - 1971), his death
Virginia Loney (1899 - 1975), 15, was traveling with her parents Allen and Catharine Loney and maid Elise Bouteiller. The Loney family was going to England where Allen Loney was part of the British Ambulance Corps and Catharine would spend the summer caring for wounded soldiers. They would be staying in their English country house in Northampton. Elise, Allen, and Catharine were lost when the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk off the Irish coast on 7 May 1915. Virginia survived.
  1. Privileged youth
  2. Lusitania
  3. Return to the United States
  4. "Poor little rich girl"
  5. First marriage and scandal
  6. Second marriage
  7. Related pages
  8. Links of interest

Privileged youth

Virginia Loney was born on 19 May 1899 in Skaneateles, Onondaga County, New York, United States, the only child of Allen Donnellan Loney and Catharine Wolfe Brown. The Loney and Brown families were established families of wealth. Virginia was a cousin of the motor sportsman David Bruce-Brown and a grandniece of the lawyer Henry Donellan Loney. Virginia was named after Catharine's mother, Virginia Greenway McKesson of McKesson Pharmaceuticals, who had married her father, George Bruce-Brown. Allen and Catharine had a house in New Rochelle, New York, where Virginia spent much of her youth. Their house had eight servants, one of whom was Elise Bouteiller, a widow with two children of her own who had immigrated from France in 1887. Elise had been with the Loneys for many years, and with Virginia's birth in 1899 became her nurse and constant companion. The family spent summers in the small town of Skaneateles, New York, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The Loneys lived on the estate of Roseleigh that Virginia's Aunt Mary Loney Roosevelt and Uncle Frederick Roosevelt had commissioned and was designed by McKim, Mead, and White. The house was built in pieces in New York City, shipped to Skaneateles, and assembled there in 1880 and 1881. Roseleigh had 10 bedrooms, 4 baths, a billiard parlor, den, dining room, and living room. Every room had a fireplace. Roseleigh also had a stable, a boat house, and was on the lake and had its own shoreline. Roseleigh today is the Stella Maris Retreat & Renewal Center on 130 East Genesee Street in Skaneateles. In their summers there, Virginia Loney learned how to swim in Skaneateles Lake. During this time period, most women were not taught this skill. Virginia was also an educated girl and spoke French. When the family resided in New York City, they stayed at the Gotham Hotel on the corner of 5th Avenue and 55th Street. But for most of the year, Virginia lived with her parents in their mansion, Guilsborough House, in Northampton, in the English East Midlands. There in Guilsborough, the Loneys organized dinners, horse shows, and fox hunts. Guilsborough House had a stable with 25 horses, all hunters, 3 of which were Virginia's. Allen Loney was described as an "excellent whip" and was considered one of the best riders in the area. Catharine and Virginia were proficient riders in their own right. The Loneys, with Elise as Virginia’s constant companion, crossed the Atlantic every year on liners such as Cedric, Amerika, George Washington, Campania, Mauretania, and Olympic. They eventually settled into a pattern: When in New York City, they lived in the Gotham Hotel; summers they spent in Skaneateles; most of the year they lived in Guilsborough House. The Loneys arrived in New York from the Olympic on 10 April 1912, the same day that Olympic's sister Titanic departed on her maiden and only voyage. In 1914, Virginia and her parents summered in England and returned to New York aboard the White Star Liner Celtic that September. They lived at the Gotham Hotel in New York City and shortly thereafter Allen Loney returned to England. Allen joined the British Ambulance Corps. He supplied his own automobile, which was equipped as an ambulance. Allen and his chauffeur helped out in France and Belgium that winter. Catharine Loney decided to sail back to England in 1915 care for wounded soldiers in a convalescent home. She also donated two of her cars for use as ambulances. Allen did not want Catharine and Virginia to travel alone, so he sailed back to the United States on the White Star Liner Adriatic to escort them.


The Loneys booked passage aboard Lusitania on 21 April 1915. The family paid $1020.00 for ticket 46061 and cabins B-85, B-87, which had a private bath. Elise Bouteiller would also be traveling with them on the same ticket but in her own cabin, B-81. Shortly before sailing, Catharine revised her will, bequeathing an estate worth over $1,000,000 to her daughter and only child. Virginia spent most of her time on the ship with Elise Bouteiller. The Loneys were acquainted with Joseph Charles and his daughter Doris. The Loney and Charles families frequently sat in the lounge together. On the day of the disaster, 7 May 1915, Virginia was resting in her cabin after lunch with Elise. The following is from her account:
It all happened so quickly. When the Lusitania was torpedoed, I was in my stateroom. I had no idea what had happened, but joined in the rush for the deck. There, everything was in confusion. My father went down to get some lifebelts and returned with a number, which he distributed around, but did not keep one himself.
Virginia and Elise had found Allen and Catharine on deck, and Virginia, Elise, and Catharine waited as Allen went back belowdecks to get lifebelts. They stood at the perimeter of the crowd on the port side boat deck when her father noticed a space in lifeboat 14 that was about to lower. Virginia edged forward and Allen "ordered me to get in. I protested, but finally obeyed. It was the last lifeboat launched from the ship.” Virginia felt the boat begin to lower as soon as she got in and was surprised the crew did not wait for others like her parents to get aboard. Virginia looked up from her seat in the lifeboat and saw her parents standing at the rail. Years later, she told Adolph and Mary Hoehling, authors of the 1956 book The Last Voyage of the Lusitania, that Alfred Vanderbilt was near them. The lifeboat had a difficult time being lowered, as Lusitania was listing severely to starboard. Robert Timmis, who was attempting to assist with lowering the boat, recalled that the ropes holding the lifeboat "started to pay out like lightning" and the lifeboat plummeted into the ocean. Some passengers fell out, but most stayed in the boat. The lifeboat cast off, but the plug was not in. Water entered the lifeboat immediately and made the small craft unstable. As the Lusitania sank, lifeboat 14, only a number of yards away from the ship, capsized. Virginia looked up at the big ship one last time and saw her parents still on the deck, waving.
The lifeboat was overcrowded and was only a few yards from the Lusitania when the big liner went down. Suction from the sinking vessel caused the lifeboat I was in to capsize. With other passengers in the boat, I was drawn ever so far down in the water. When I reached the surface again, there was nothing to be seen of the Lusitania. People were struggling in the water all around me. I swam to another lifeboat, which was not far away, and was pulled aboard.
Virginia was rescued by a fishing trawler that took her to Queenstown. Her parents and maid were lost, so Joseph and Doris Charles took care of her. Virginia recounts, “Mr. Charles and daughter, of Canada, who were rescued from the Lusitania were very kind to me, taking me to London with them. I stayed in London overnight, then a maid arrived from my cousins, with whom I was to visit.” In February 1924, the Mixed Claims Commission would award Virginia $26,700 for the loss of her parents. Her uncle George was given $15,450 as executor of his sister’s estate. Her guardian Mary Chamberlaine received $1,235 as the executrix of Allen Loney’s estate.

Return to the United States

The maid took Virginia to Guilsborough House, where she had a joyless 16th birthday. She then decided to return to the United States aboard the American Line's St. Paul. Her chaperone aboard this trip was Mrs. Harry Sedgwick. Virginia was mistakenly listed on the ship's manifest as Virginia Sedgwick. Other Lusitania survivors aboard this voyage of the St. Paul included Joseph and Doris Charles, Ernest Cowper, Maude Thompson, James Leary, Charles Sturdy, Ogden Hammond, Daniel Moore, Herbert Colebrook and Percy Rogers. Rogers had also been in lifeboat 14 with Virginia. A submarine began following the destroyer assigned to protect the American ship. People rushed to the deck upon hearing the news that a submarine was near. Lifebelts were handed out, and lifeboats were readied for lowering. Mrs. Sedgwick said, “There’s a submarine!” Virginia held on to Mrs. Sedgwick's arm and cried, “No, no, I can’t stand it again.” St. Paul arrived in New York without further incident on 13 June 1915.

"Poor little rich girl"

Virginia arrived at the estate of her mother’s brother, George McKesson Brown, a self-described "gentleman farmer." His estate, West Neck Farms, was in Huntington, on the north shore of Long Island. George assumed responsibility for the girl, but he was soon supplanted by Mary Bose Chamberlaine, a daughter of Maria Loney Chamberlaine, sister of the extended family patriarch and Virginia's grandfather, William Amos Loney. Mary Chamberlaine dismissed George's suitability for preparing Virginia to be a woman of highs society. Mary Chamberlaine said of Virginia’s four uncles and two aunts, “with none of whom she could live satisfactorily.” From her mother Catharine's will, Virginia received, outright, property worth $45,000; her mother’s jewelry not lost with the ship; $12,000 trust from a great-aunt, and an automobile among other things. At 21, she would inherit her mother’s entire fortune, about $1,500,000, outright, making her, at the time, America's youngest millionaire. Mary Chamberlaine set up an apartment at 840 Park Avenue, New York City, for Virginia and herself, and went to court to see that Virginia’s needs were met. Mary itemized a list of what was required for Virginia's upbringing. In her court petition, Mary Chamberlaine repeatedly referred to Virginia, a 16-year-old girl, as “the infant.” Mary asked for $25,500 yearly from the principal of Virginia's fortune to cover rent ($5,000), food and supplies ($4,000), clothing ($3500), three servants and a personal maid ($1,800), school, music and languages ($2,500), summer vacation and travel ($2,500), automobile and chauffeur ($2,000), amusements, including horseback riding ($1,500), doctors and dentists ($500), insurance ($1,000), and incidentals ($1,000). Mary also petitioned for her own income from Virginia's estate, stating that she had been forced to leave her own home in Skaneateles, where she lived with her sister Rebecca Laine Chamberlaine Fabens, and needed to present herself in the manner befitting the guardian of a young woman of high society. Mary and Virginia were soon joined by Mary’s sister Rebecca, the widow of a Boston shipping magnate. Virginia, once free to ride the English countryside with her horses and hounds was now the ward of two spinsters in a Park Avenue apartment.

First marriage and scandal

While in Europe, Virginia met Robert Howard Gamble of Jacksonville, Florida. He was a naval aviator in the Naval Reserve in Jacksonville and Yale graduate, class of 1910. He was also 10 years her senior. They were engaged in December 1917 and married on 27 April 1918 at Virginia's Park Avenue apartment. She was 17; he was 26. They soon left for Washington, D.C., and made a home in the suburb of Chevy Chase. When Virginia turned 21, she inherited $1,452,000 from her late mother Catharine’s estate. Virginia and Robert had two children, Robert Gamble, Jr. and Catharine Gamble. The marriage did not last and Robert and Virginia soon separated. They divorced in the Paris courts in the spring on 1923. Virginia took the children and returned to the United States aboard the Cunarder Aquitania. Robert Gamble came to Huntington, New York, a few months later and took the children to Jacksonville. Virginia reported them kidnapped. Robert Gamble refused to surrender the children to Virginia and announced his intention to fight in Florida over the custody of the children. In November of that year, Virginia sued Robert for $232,000 in damages and also called for a casse before the Commercial Frauds Court, chaired by George W. Simpson. Virginia accused Robert of theft and fraud, of stealing shares and securities valued at $50,000 after the divorce. The scandal was headline news in 1923 in the United States. Virginia and Robert finally reached a custody agreement in November 1924, where Virginia won her case.

Second marriage

Virginia married again, this time to Paul Abbott on 29 January 1926. Paul had been previously divorced himself, married to Elise Everett from 1920 to 1926. Paul was a graduate of Roland Military School in Fontainebleau and the son of prominent attorney Henry H. Abbott, vice president of the Maidstone Club in East Hampton, New York. Virginia's ex-husband Robert permitted their children to attend the wedding. Virginia and Paul honeymooned in Aiken, South Carolina, before returning home to Long Island. Paul and Virginia maintained a residence at 1115 Fifth Avenue. Virginia gave birth to a second son, Paul Abbott. She settled into the life of a gracious Long Island matron. Authors Adolph and Mary Hoehling corresponded with Virginia for their book, The Last Voyage of the Lusitania, published in 1956. In 1940, Virginia's daughter Catharine married William Ray Gamble Kitchel. The marriage ended in divorce. Catharine remarried in 1947 to Lieutenant Commander John R. Chapin, Jr., and William remarried in 1948 ito the Countess de Ganay in Connecticut. Robert Gamble, Jr. married in 1942 in New Mexico. Paul Abbott, Jr. married Lucretia L. Bogert in 1954. Virginia's daughter Catharine predeceased her. Paul Abbott, Sr. died in 1971 and Virginia passed away on April 4, 1975 in Southampton, New York.

Related pages

Virginia Loney at the Mixed Claims Commission

Links of interest

The Loney Family at St. James Memorials and Gifts Encyclopedia Titanica - Lest We Forget: Part 1
Contributors Jim Kalafus, USA Michael Poirier, USA Judith Tavares Kihm Winship, USA References Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005) Lest We Forget : Part 1 ET Research. <http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/lusitania-lest-we-forget.html> Poirier, Michael. "The Tale of Boat Fourteen." "Virginia Loney." Wikipedia: Die freie Enzyklopädie. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 28 April 2011. < http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Loney > Winship, Kihm. "The Loney Family." St. James’ Memorials and Gifts: Art, Architecture & Memory in Skaneateles, New York. Web. 14 July 2011. <http://kihm3.wordpress.com/2008/03/27/the-loney-family/>.

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