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[Photos courtesy of the Robert Futrelle Family] Jacques Futrelle sits at a writing desk at his home. He was born and grew up in Pike County and wrote for many notable newspapers in his lifetime. He penned and directed many theatrical plays. His most famous character, Prof. Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen, a scientist and intellectual known as ‘The Thinking Machine,’ appeared in a series of 42 stories from 1905 to 1912.

Titanic tragedy 110 years ago claimed life of famed local author

The infamous luxury steamship Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland in the early hours of April 15, 1912, taking a renowned Pike County resident’s life after the ‘unsinkable’ ship hit an iceberg during its maiden voyage. 

Well-known author Jacques Futrelle was aboard the ship with his wife Lily May Peel. After the impact as people were scrambling for safety, she urged her husband to get into the lifeboat with her but he refused. She said the last time she saw him, he was on the Titanic’s deck, smoking a cigarette with John Jacob Astor.

Futrelle achieved great fame in his 37 years of life. He wrote for many notable newspapers including the Atlanta Journal where he started their sports section and the New York Herald. 

Futrelle also wrote and directed many theatrical plays, all while writing popular mystery stories featuring Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen for fun in his spare time. He was known as ‘The Thinking Man’ for his use of logic in his writing. 

Futrelle left Pike County at age 18. He was born April 8, 1875 in Pike to Wiley Harmon Heath Futrelle (a descendant of the French Huguenots) and Linnie Bevill Futrelle. He attended Pike County public schools but was also schooled by his father who was a teacher in an Atlanta College who taught him basic academics in addition to the French language. 

The Titanic was the largest ocean liner at the time when she sank just four days into the ship’s maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Of the 2,240 passengers aboard, more than 1,500 lost their lives, including one of Pike County’s most famous authors. 

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