Mrs. Theodore Naish (Belle Saunders)

Belle Naish Second Cabin Passenger Saved
[No Picture Provided]
Born Belle Saunders 22 October 1865 Charlette, Michigan, United States
Died 25 August 1950 (age 95) Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Age on Lusitania 49
Traveling with Theodore Naish (husband)
Roommates Theodore Naish
Lifeboat 22 A
Rescued by Julia
Citizenship United States
Residence Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Other name(s) none
Spouse(s) Theodore Naish (1911 - 1915, his death)
Belle Naish (1865 - 1950), 49, was the wife of Theodore Naish and they lived in Kansas City, Missouri, United States.  Belle and Theodore were traveling aboard Lusitania on a belated honeymoon. Belle survived the Lusitania sinking, but her husband did not.  She was pulled aboard lifeboat 22, which was rescued by Julia.

Life and marriage

Belle Saunders was born in Charlette, Michigan, United States on 22 October 1865. Belle worked in Detroit, Michigan, as a schoolteacher. She had one sister, Alice Saunders who lived in Detroit, and a nephew, Claude Saunders, also of Detroit. On 19 June 1911 Belle married Theodore Naish, a British immigrant.  They had met while Naish, then living in Kansas City, was visiting Detroit. At the time of their marriage, she was 45 and he was 55 years of age. Belle had never married before. To be with Theodore, Belle also relocated to Kansas City. Naish was a civil engineer who worked in the department of public works at Kansas City, Missouri.  They lived modestly but comfortably in Kansas City.  Naish had acquired some improved real estate in Edwardsville, Kansas, which yielded him a small revenue. Both Theodore and Belle Naish were physically strong, lived modestly, and "led an unusually wholesome life" (Mixed Claims Commission).  They were accustomed to take long walks in the country together, particularly around the area of Edwardsville, and after walking 10 miles or so neither showed fatigue.


On the day of the Lusitania's departure, Theodore read and ignored the German warning.  He believed that if the warning were official, then "each American passenger would have had warning sent and delivered before boarding the vessel." On board, the couple's cabin was on D Deck.  They also deposited $390 in gold with Purser James McCubbin.  Belle was delighted that the Atlantic was smooth "like the Detroit River on the finest afternoon" and the "the sky was clouded only enough to make the light easier for the yes than the brilliant sun would have been."  Even so, Theodore was seasick for most of the voyage and spent most of his time in the cabin. Belle and Theodore awoke to the sounds of the crew loosening the ship's boats and swinging them outboard the morning of 6 May.  Belle jumped up and asked, "Oh what can it be?" The still-seasick Theodore answered, "Keep cool, don't worry, just take a look." On deck, Belle was far from reassured at the sight of the lifeboats being swung out.  She went back to the cabin and told Theodore that "our only hope lay in our life preservers, as the boats seemed very small and the passengers were by hundreds." Theodore was well enough for Belle to take him to the ship's concert that Thursday night.  There, the Naishes and others in the audience were reassured by Captain Turner that upon entering the war zone they would be in the care of the Royal Navy. Still seasick on Friday, 7 May, Belle Naish went down to the second cabin dining saloon and brought lunch back for Theodore.  While Belle was doting on him, Theodore asked, "Why don't you go on deck and take a look at the Irish islands?  They're very pretty." Belle only encouraged him to eat and replied, "Your word is good enough for me, Theodore.  We'll see them on our return trip." Theodore persisted, and to please him Belle promised to do so once he had finished his lunch.  Reaching the Boat Deck, Belle was surprised to see Ireland so close.  Belle felt that she could almost reach out to touch the trees, the fields, and even the lighthouse.  She then looked down at the water and thought, "I could run faster than we are moving." Going back to the cabin, Belle had turned from the rail and was halfway to the second class entrance when she heard "a crash."  Seawater rained down on her and a wave of passengers, shrieking and cursing, were in her way as she worked against the tide to join her husband on D Deck.  Only when the crowd thinned did she find passengers willing to help each other. In the cabin, Belle found Theodore freeing the tapes of their lifebelts.  She helped him with her lifejacket and he with hers.  To save time they tied the tapes at the neck, chest, and waist.  They struggled up the companionway to the Boat Deck where an officer told them, "She's all right.  She'll float for an hour." Belle saw that the angle between the horizon and the deck was widening all the while and turned to Theodore.  She said, "We're sinking fast.  It can't be long now." The Naishes continued to help others as well.  They saw a woman who put her lifejacket outside of her fur coat and they had to persuade her to take off the coat.  Another woman needed her lifejacket tapes tied securely, but she refused to be parted with her blue-veiled hat.  A third woman had on a woolen coat with a large collar, strapped her two-year-old inside, and over everything was her lifejacket. "Madam," Theodore told the woman, "if you wish to save your child take him out and hold him up; you will both go down that way, and you must take off that coat."  He then advised the woman to tied the child to a chair, "which would float easily." Having finished helping the woman with the lifejacket, "there seemed to be a great roar and a splintering sound, then the lifeboats or something swung over our heads."  Belle threw up her left had in preparation "to ward off a blow, then the water was up to my waist; it was dreadfully cold on my back below my shoulders; something seemed to push my feet upwards, and I felt as though I were shot upwards and forward, but saw and heard nothing."  She found herself resting on the pillow of her lifejacket, tinking , "How beautiful the sunlight and water are from under the surface." Belle, being close to death, had also lost her sense of fear and thought of the comfort of being back on her grandmother's feather bed. She felt a bump against her head and reaching out, found the lifeline of overturned lifeboat #22A.  A man reached down to her saying, "Give me your hand.  My back is hurt.  But I'll do what I can." "I can hold on," Belle told him, "take somebody else." "Come on," the man insisted, "there's no one else I can reach." Belle was pulled in, shivering "with chattering teeth."  She feared that she would upset the boat, but she was hauled aboard safely.  She remembered that deep intakes of air expelled quickly kept the body warm, so she recommended all those the boat to try.  Belle continued to say that it was Divine Providence that they had been shipwrecked on a clear day, a calm sea, a soft breeze, and the sun on their backs. According to Hickey and Smith, Belle heard Cyril Wallace playing a harmonica to cheer up those in the boat, but then someone said, "Don't you think you should stop playing?  Otherwise we won't hear any cries for help."  With that, Wallace promptly put the harmonica away.  This testimony, however, is not substantiated by either accounts by Belle or Wallace. Looking around, she was overwhelmed to see rescue finally arrive:  "Smoke, then, in several places ahead on the horizon, finally the smokestacks, and then the bows of the vessels seemed suddenly to come to view . . . the wonder we all felt when we realized that the sea was so smooth we could see the spray on the bows and the swells behind each boat coming to our rescue." The trawler Julia picked up the lifeboat and the sailors treated Belle Naish with tea and a hot brick.  The sailors then went looking for woolen socks and slippers for her and other survivors.  At that time, Belle was comforting 7-year-old Robert Kay.  His mother had been lost and he was also suffering from measles.  Belle then saw Theodate Pope, unconscious, being hauled on board with boathooks and laid out among the dead "like a sack of cement." Belle could not believe that Theodate was dead and encouraged the crew to try artifical respiration.  After two hours Theodate's breathing became steady.  Although still semiconscious, the crew wrapped Theodate in a blanket and placed her on the floor beside the charcoal fire in the captain's cabin. In Queenstown, for the first few days she roomed with Robert Kay.  She who wrote several letters in which she mentioned Robert, describing him as being a source of strength to her and a brave boy who cried for his mother but once.  Belle also wrote to the mother of Richard Preston Prichard, who had sent several letters to Lusitania survivors inquiring of her son's fate. Belle herself spent several months in Ireland looking for her missing husband. However, no word of Theodore Naish was ever heard of again. When asked if she felt the Kaiser should be put to death for the Lusitania sinking, her response, in writing, was: “The worst punishment I could wish for the Kaiser is that he might know for just one hour the dread of being alone when he is eighty. I wouldn’t have him killed, but I would have him put where he never again could have the power to accomplish evil.” In her lawsuit against Germany after the war, the Mixed Claims Commission awarded Belle $12,500.00 with interest thereon at the rate of five per cent per annum from November 1, 1923, and $780.00 with interest thereon at the rate of five per cent per annum from May 7, 1915 for the loss of her husband and belongings and "sustained severe shock from which she will never recover, notwithstanding her naturally strong physique."


Theodate Pope gave Belle a pension for life in gratitude for saving her. With this income, Belle returned to Edwardsville. In 1919, the Kansas City Area Council of the Boy Scouts held the first Boy Scout summer camp on land that would become part of Camp Naish, near the present site of the South Camp flag mall. In 1925, Belle wished to donate the land to the Kansas City Area Council of Boy Scouts as a memorial to her husband, but the Kansas City Area Council of Boy Scouts returned to Ozarks and established Camp Dan Sayres. Therefore, Belle gave 90 acres of her land to the Kaw Council of Boy Scouts instead, and in June 1926 the first summer camp at "Camp Naish" was held. Hiking, archery, and softball were the major programs. The camp's water suply came from a well. That summer, a camp director and bugler conducted four sessions for a total of 150 scouts. Belle donated another 90 acres of land in 1927 or 1928. Scout attendance at Camp Naish rapidly increased, and South Camp as seen today began to take shape. From 20 to 25 June 1928 was the Charter season of Boy Scout camping at Camp Naish. At the time, most scouts camp as individuals instead of as members of a unit. A week at Camp Naish in the early 30's cost $7.00, or $5.00 for a scout who provided his own meals. That price was expensive for the time, but still attendance at Camp Naish continued to increase. Originally, there was no road to the camp, so scouts would ride the train to Edwardsville and then hike on foot the rest of the way to camp, carrying all of their gear with them. The first buildings in Camp Naish, a blacksmith shop and steel storage building, were built using materials carried to the site by scouts and leaders on foot. A road was finally built to the camp in 1930, which has since then been replaced. In 1934, Belle made another donation of land to the camp, a five-acre plot near the camp's present-day entrance. Belle made more donations to he Kaw Council of 90 acres each in 1935 and in 1936. On 21 September 1941, a cenotaph was dedicated to her husband Theodore Naish at the Edwardsville, Kansas, Cemetery. Belle never remarried, and also did Braille translations for charitable groups with her time. After a long life of dedicated to philanthropy, Belle herself passed away on 25 August 1950 at the age of 95. She is buried in the Edwardsville Cemetery in Edwardsville, Wyandotte County, Kansas.

Related pages

Belle Naish at the Mixed Claims Commission

Links of interest

Camp Theodore Naish
Contributors: Jim Kalafus Michael Poirier References: "Naish History: Ted Naish, the man". Camp Theodore Naish Staff Archive. Web. Accessed 8 July 2011. <> Hickey, Des and Gus Smith.  Seven Days to Disaster.  G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1981. "Belle Saunders Naish". Find A Grave. Web. Accessed 8 July 2011. <> Mixed Claims Commission, Docket No. 257, page 388. Preston, Diana.  Lusitania:  An Epic Tragedy.  Berkley Books, 2002. "Camp Naish - A History". Theodore Naish Scout Reservation. Web. Accessed 8 July 2011. <>

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