A Roosevelt Woman on the Lusitania (Recipe: Rocks)

Perth Amboy Evening News, May 7-16, 1915

The early news of the Lusitania sinking suggested hope remained. First reports said the ship had indeed gone down, but that “all the passengers were saved.”[i] But as communications better established the number of survivors plucked from the ocean off Ireland, hope faded. The headline of the Perth Amboy Evening News on May 8th blared the horrifying truth: the ship had sunk, and over half of its 2,000 passengers were dead, many of them Americans. The cause: torpedoed by a German submarine.[ii]

Perth Amboy Evening News, May 8, 1915

Already upset over German attacks on the Gullflight and the Falaba – the last of which had also caused the death of an American citizen, Leo Thrasher – the American government immediately realized the seriousness of this attack. Wilson convened with his advisors to work on the country’s response.[iii] He and others urged calm, saying protests about violations of neutral rights and attacks on non-military ships could be made without dragging the U.S. into the war. He began work on notes to the German government.

Some bemoaned the sinking, but pointed out that the German government had warned Americans against sailing on British ships. The Perth Amboy Evening News editorial board’s first response, in fact, was to declare the moment a “Time to Keep Cool.” Europe was at war, after all; ships ran risks; and while the loss of life was horrifying, it was not surprising or worth starting hostilities. “[I]t must be admitted,” the Evening News wrote, “that those Americans on board as well as all others took a great chance with full knowledge of the danger they were running.”[iv]

Others felt that the massive loss of life caused by the sinking of a passenger ship without a chance to evacuate required strong action. The British called the attack “wilful murder.”[v] Teddy Roosevelt, continuing his clashes with Wilson, demanded a full break in trade relations with Germany, ridiculing Wilson’s calls for calm as “impotent.”[vi] (Roosevelt’s blustering greatly annoyed the Evening News, which commented “It might be appropriate at this particular time to remind a certain gentleman who delights to keep himself in always in the limelight, that Woodrow Wilson and not Theodore Roosevelt is President of the United States[.]”)[vii]

As Wilson launched a series of diplomatic exchanges with Germany, the public pored over lists of survivors, the dead, and the missing. Several very famous Americans had been on board, and their stories dominated the news. Famed writer/publisher Elbert Hubbard had gone back inside with his wife after the torpedo hit; they were not seen again. A London lawyer showed up where bodies were being collected and survivors counted in Ireland, offering “unlimited money for the recovery of Alfred G. Vanderbilt,” who passengers said had given away his life belt to a young woman who didn’t have one.[viii] Vanderbilt’s body was never found. Famed Broadway producer Charles Frohman, engineer and Belgium relief coordinator Lindon Bates, Jr., and writer Justus Miles Forman were also among the dead.

In Central Jersey, news told the loss of much less prominent members of their community: Scottish immigrant Elizabeth McCorkindale, her young son Duncan, and her infant daughter, Mary. Mrs. McCorkindale’s husband had worked for years as a watchman at a plant in Roosevelt, N.J., but the family had recently decided to try their luck as farmers in Saskatchewan. The plan was for Elizabeth and the children to visit family back in Scotland while Edward got the homestead in Canada ready. Mother and children would join up with their father at the new home on their return.[ix] They said their goodbyes in New York. He headed north and west. She and the children joined the throng of second-class passengers on the Lusitania.[x]

U.S. National Archives: “S.S. Lusitania Leaves New York on Last Voyage”

It’s not clear where Elizabeth and the children were when the torpedo hit. The ship went down quickly, listing to one side in a way that kept all of the lifeboats from being launched. Lifejackets were largely back in cabins, unaccessible. Most importantly, despite the German warnings, most did not believe the ship would really be torpedoed. Survivor D.A. Thomas described the chaos in the moments after impact, as passengers transitioned from “dazed” and disbelieving to panicked.  “Many of the passengers ran here and there about the decks although the captains and officers tried their best to pacify them,” he said. “Many of the women were very hysterical, and some of them with infants in their arms caught at the fastenings of the [lifeboat] and hampered the launching altogether.”[xi]

Somewhere in the pandemonium, Elizabeth McCorkindale would have been trying to get herself and her children to safety. They did not make it. Neighbors, knowing her love for her children, believed she had died protecting her babies. They imagined her “standing on the sinking deck of the big liner, after escaping from the second cabin, and bravely meeting her doom with her boy Duncan holding one hand, and with the other tightly clasped around her infant daughter.”[xii]

Alone in Canada, Edward McCorkindale learned of the Lusitania’s fate. He frantically scanned the reports for news of his family. “Crazed” with grief, he set off for New York, where he joined dozens of other passengers’ loved ones in haunting the Cunard offices. Survivors’ names were quickly known; it was harder for the liner to identify the dead, often pulled from the water with no identification and separated from those who had known them, who might themselves have died. Bodies ended up in mass graves, no way at the time to tell who they were. Some bodies never reached shore at all. Edward returned repeatedly to the Cunard representatives, begging to know if Elizabeth, Duncan, or Mary had been identified. It took multiple days before he lost hope, finally believing “his wife and babies were in a watery grave.”

The Edward McCorkindale who arrived in Roosevelt in late May, after his trip to New York, was a broken, beaten man. Former neighbors were shocked at his appearance. “He seemed bowed down with a remorseless grief,” the Evening News reported, “and his eyes bore the redness which comes from successive sleepless nights.” As the President continued discussions over the sinking with Germany, Edward gathered up the last of his family’s items from New Jersey and said goodbye to friends. The United States was still bogged down in diplomatic debates over how to respond, but Edward’s mind was clear. He was headed to New York, neighbors reported, to catch a boat to Liverpool. His aim? To enlist in the British army, now a single man without a family, in order to “avenge their tragic fate.”[xiii]

It would take the United States almost two years to follow him.

“Enlist” – American recruitment poster by Fred Spear, referencing the Lusitania.
Library of Congress

Recipe: Rocks

(Perth Amboy Evening News, May 8, 1915, p 7)

Rocks Recipe

Two-thirds of a cupful of butter or shortening; one cupful of sugar, two eggs, 1 1/2 cupfuls of flour, a teasponful each of cinnamon and cloves and a cupful of chopped walnuts and dates mixed. Bake as drop cakes. These improve with age, if you are successful in hiding them! – Good Housekeeping Magazine.

Good Housekeeping! For when you were really bored at the doctor’s office and some other kid had the Highlights. Or, in 1915, when you didn’t find a recipe you liked in Nellie Maxwell’s “Kitchen Cupboard” column so you had to look farther down the page.

These are rock cakes, which as best I can tell is what would happen if a muffin and a cookie had a baby. They’re also Hagrid’s snack weapon of choice. I chose them for two very important reasons:

1) They appeared in the newspaper for this week.  

2) I had most of the ingredients and I didn’t feel like shopping.

I’m only out dates, and I’m going to sub in raisins for them. We’ll follow the temperature and filling instructions from the Farmer’s Almanac recipe for “Raisin Drop Cakes.”


Prep: 10 minutes

Bake: 15-20 minutes

  • 2/3 cup butter (softened) or shortening (I went with butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 12/ cup dates or raisins (or craisins, if you’re feeling crazy)
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Grease a muffin tin and set aside.
  2. Sift together 1 1/2 cups of flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of cloves. Mix in 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup raisins. Set aside.
  3. In your mixer, cream together your 2/3 cup of butter or shortening and your one (1) cup of sugar.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time. Mix to combine, scraping sides as needed.
  5. With the mixer on low, add in the flour-nut-raisin mixture slowly. Mix until fully incorporated, but avoid overmixing.  Batter will be thick.
  6. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling halfway.
  7. Bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. When done, a knife inserted in the center should come out clean.
  8. Let cool in the pan for five minutes, then run a knife around the edges and tip out on to a cooling rack.

The Farmer’s Almanac recommends dusting these with powdered sugar or frosting them. I suspected they’d also be very good with a vanilla glaze, so I did that, using the recipe at The Spruce Eats with milk. I halved the recipe because I only had one cup of powdered sugar, but I did use 2 tbsp of milk. If you’re doing this, wait about 10 minutes until the rocks are cooler, and then drizzle the glaze over them.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is rockcakes.png

Verdict: These were solid  – solid as a rock! Actually they weren’t physically solid at all, but – as expected- somewhere in between a cookie and a muffin in consistency. They were lightly spiced and nice and chewy, especially with the raisins and nuts. Everyone enjoyed them, and not just because I put icing on them. Not a recipe to knock your socks off, but a solid go-to if you’re looking for an easy-to-make treat.

[i] “Liner Lusitania Torpedoed by German Submarine Off the Irish Coast, New York Hears. Big Cunarder Goes Down, But Reports Say Passengers Are Saved – A Large Number Were on Board,” Perth Amboy Evening News, Friday May 7, 1915

[ii] “1,346 Lost When Liner Lusitania Went Down with 2,049 on Board; 188 Americans Paris. Hit by 2 Torpedos without Warning Monster Ship Goes Down While Brave Officers Help Passengers to Boat,” Perth Amboy Evening News May 8, 1915 p 1. The final count was 1,198 dead. One hundred twenty-eight of those were Americans. See https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/lusitania_sinking_of

[iii] “Washington Awaits Full Particulars. President and Cabinet to Consider Lusitania Affair at Meeting Today. Senator Stone Says the People Were Warned,” Perth Amboy Evening News, May 8, 1915 p 1.

[iv] Editorial: “Time to Keep Cool” May 8, 1915, p 6.

[v] “Says Officers and Crew of Submarine that Sank Lusitania are Guilty of Wilful Murder. British Coroner Claims that Responsibility Lays Not With the German Government But With the Whole German People – Captain Turner Had Knowledge That An Attempt Would Be MPerth Amboy Evening News, May 10, 1915, p 1

[vi] “Roosevelt Calls on Wilson to Act. Would Stop Trade with Germans at Once, Colonel Says in Syracue, New York” Perth Amboy Evening News, May 12, 1915 p 2

[vii] Editorial, “Stand by the President,” Perth Amboy Evening News, May 13, 1915 p 6

[viii] “Says Officers and Crew of Submarine that Sank Lusitania are Guilty of Wilful Murder. British Coroner Claims that Responsibility Lays Not With the German Government But With the Whole German People – Captain Turner Had Knowledge That An Attempt Would Be MPerth Amboy Evening News, May 10, 1915, p 2

[ix] “Roosevelt Woman and Her 2 Children on the Lusitania” Perth Amboy Evening News, May 8, 1915 p1. The McCorkindale family appears on several lists of Lusitania passengers as being from “Chrome, CO;” they had actually resided in the Chrome neighborhood of Roosevelt, NJ.

[x] “Roosevelt Woman and Her 2 Children on the Lusitania” Perth Amboy Evening News, May 8, 1915 p1; “Roosevelt Mother and Children Lost. Mrs. Edward McCorkindale and Two Children Drown – Left Chrome Recently,” Perth Amboy Evening News, May 10, 1915, p1.

[xi] “1,346 Lost When Lusitania Goes Down; 2,049 On Board,” Perth Amboy Evening News, May 8, 1915, p2.

[xii] “Roosevelt Mother and Children Lost. Mrs. Edward McCorkindale and Two Children Drown – Left Chrome Recently,” Perth Amboy Evening News, May 10, 1915, p1.

[xiii] “Dedicates Life to Fighting Germans. Roosevelt Man, His Family Lusitania Victims, Join Allies to Get Revenge” May 26, 1915 p 7

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s