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People & Events
William J. Mooney

William J. Mooney By January 22, 1909, wealthy banker W. J. Mooney of Langdon, North Dakota, had traveled around the world three times. That evening, he and his second wife, Oakella, set sail on the White Star liner "Republic" for the beginning of what would have been W.J's fourth trip around the globe. But their voyage ended in disaster when the Italian steamer "Florida" collided with the "Republic." Only two of the "Republic's" passengers wouldn't survive the crash. One of the dead was W.J. Mooney.

William J. Mooney was a true North Dakota pioneer. Along with business partner Pat McHugh, he founded the town of Langdon in North Dakota's Cavalier County. Mooney became Cavalier County's first lawyer, first banker, and first judge. He owned stock in the Land and Townsite Company, which managed land in the towns of Langdon, Milton, Osnabrock, and Edinburg. W.J. also served as president and principal stockholder in a number of North Dakota banks, including Cavalier County Bank, the W.J. Mooney State Bank, and the First National Bank. He was even the local postmaster.

W.J.'s wife Elizabeth, the first woman to live in Langdon, arrived in 1885; their house was one of the first to be built in the area. W.J. and Elizabeth had three sons, John, Charles, and Willie. But within a few short years, Mooney lost most of his family. Elizabeth died in 1888. Charles and Willie, still just children, died not long after.

W.J. married a second time, to Oakella G. Griffith, in 1902. Some seven years later, on January 22, 1909, the Mooneys left New York on board the White Star luxury liner "Republic," bound for the Mediterranean on the first leg of a journey around the world. The Mooneys traveled first class, taking a stateroom on the "Republic's" upper deck.

At 5:30 the following morning, in dense fog off Nantucket, the "Republic" was struck by the Italian steamer "Florida." The Mooneys' stateroom was located precisely at the point of impact. W.J. Mooney was mortally wounded in the crash; Oakella Mooney survived. W.J.'s body was placed inside a lead casket on board the "Republic", but before the casket could be transferred to a rescue vessel, the "Republic" went down, carrying W.J's body with it. Oakella, who never remarried, died from influenza twenty years later.

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