Bertha Albertina Benson
1905 - 1951

newspaper aritcle about stowaways
Evening World
Friday, December 19, 1919
Vol. LX No. 21,304
page 7
New York, NY

John Benson And Sister Bertha
Stowaways on Ship From Sweden

They Reach New York From Sweden, Where Their Mother Is Now Insane.

  Getting to Worcester, Mass., via Ellis Island is a rounabout route, but two young stowaways on the Island are so insistent on reaching that city that the authorities have made every effort to facilitate their purpose.

  They are John Benson, 13 years old, and his sister Bertha, 11. Their father, Peter Benson, a painter, died in Worcester four years ago. The struggle proved too much for their mother, Mrs. Selma Benson, and she sailed several months ago for Sweden with them to make their home with relatives.

  They failed to find these relatives. The mother went to work, but earned little. Worry drove her insane.

  Having no funds with which to return to America, the children clambered, the night of Oct. 23, aboard the freighter Shortsville of the France and Canada Line, which had put in at Gothenburg.

  They hid in the engine room and spent the night there. But they lost no time coming to the deck when the breakfast gong rang.

  In duty bound, the ship's officiers reported the stowaways Dec. 1, when the vessel tied up at Hull, England. To the delight of the youngsters, the authorities there decided that because they did not have passports they could not land.

newspaper aritcle about stowaways
The Boston Post
Sunday, January 4, 1920
page 16
Boston, Mass.

Stowaways from Sweden Must Prove U.S. Birth

NEW YORK, Jan. 3—If the officials of Worcester, Mass., can find records of the birth there of Bertha Benson, aged 15, and of her brother, John, two years younger, the two children stowaways from Sweden will be permitted to leave Ellis Island. Otherwise their protestations that they are Americans by birth will be disregarded and they will be sent back to Gothenburg.



  Bertha, the youngest of anumber of the girls who have crossed to America as stowaways since the ending of the war, hid with her brother in the engineroom of the cargo carrier Shotevill of the France Canadian line the night before the ship left the harbor of Gothenburg. John had been working in the shipyards there and learned from fellow workers the time the ship was to sail. They were found when the Shotevill was nine hours at sea.
   The girl was taken before Captain Otis W. Clark, and she told him that her father, a painter, was killed by a fall at Worcester in 1915, and that her mother had taken them to her native place in Sweden the year after. Two years ago, she said, the mother became insane, leaving the two children to shift for themselves. After a brief period of wandering they reached Gothenburg where the boy went to work, while his sister kept house.
  "I was very much frightened, and ashamed of my grimy face and clothes." said Bertha, describing her meeting with the captain. "But he laughed and told me not to mind, and when we touched an English port he bought me these clothes."
  Bertha indicated a bright blue smock, a plaid skirt, and spats, quite evidently the choice of a man out shopping unassisted.
  "The captain put John to work in the galley," she continued, "but I ate with the ship's officers and had the captian's own cabin."

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