John S. March was born in Middletown, Orange, New York, in October of 1861. He was the son of an Englishman, Thomas Alfred March (b. 1835), who was employed as a saw maker. His mother was an American named Jane (Jennie) Harriet Mills (b. 1837). His father, who had been born in London, came to America as an infant. John's parents married around 1860. They had one other known child, John's younger sister Sarah Isabell (b. 1864). Sarah was known as Belle.
From 1865-1880, John appears on the US census as living in his native Middletown. In 1880, he was described the same as his father: as a saw maker. He was also noted as a volunteer for the Middletown Fire Company.
In 1883, John married Nellie Eliza Harding (b. 1858). Nellie was from Mount Hope, Orange, New York, and was the daughter of a carpenter. The two settled in Orange County and became the parents of two daughters: Antoinette (Nettie) H. (b. 1884) and Florence Belle (b. 1885). On the 1900 census, the family is recorded as living in Jervis Village in Orange County. At this time, John was working as a mail clerk, with the railroads. The family moved to Newark, New Jersey, around 1904 and were recorded as residing in that city on the 1910 census.
In June of 1911, John became a widower when Nellie died during surgery. He and his eldest daughter, Nettie, continued to live at 57 Emmet Street in Newark.
John had continued to work with the postal service but, since about 1902, he had moved from the railroad postal service to ships. Some of the ships he served on were the Olympic and the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. Out of the ships he had served the postal service on, several had been involved in emergencies, leading his daughters to urge him to seek work elsewhere within the postal service, afraid of danger at sea. After the death of their mother in 1911, they redoubled their attempts to get him to choose work elsewhere, fearing that they might lose him as well. However, March enjoyed his voyages, and refused to give up his position in the postal service at sea, assuring his daughters that he would be alright.
As a postal worker, John was employed separately from the rest of the ship's crew, by the postal service. He was the eldest of three American postal clerks aboard Titanic. Upon signing on, he gave his local address as 13 West Park Terrace in Southampton. This is most likely where he lived when he was on the English side of his transatlantic voyages.
During the sinking, John and the other clerks, assisted by steward Alfred Theissinger and several other Titanic crewmen, attempted to bring almost 200 sacks of mail, weighing around 100 lbs each, up to a higher deck. They soon realized that these efforts were in vain however, and were forced to abandon them.
March perished in the disaster. His body (#225) was later recovered by the MacKay-Bennett.
NO. 225. - MALE. - ESTIMATED AGE, 45. - HAIR, MEDIUM; MOUSTACHE.
CLOTHING - Dark coat; vest; blue pants; striped shirt.
EFFECTS - Gold watch and chain; fountain pen; diamond tie pin; gold ring; letter "M".
NAME - JOHN S. MARCH, 57 Emmet St., N. Y. (New Jersey) ROH
After the Sinking
After March's body was recovered, it was forwarded to Newark, New Jersey, on 3 May 1912, under the care of the undertaking firm Smith & Smith. He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, New Jersey, alongside his wife, Nellie.
It is unclear what became of his two daughters. Nettie, his eldest, is believed to have later moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey, where her married sister, Florence, lived. She seemingly remained unmarried. Upon her death, she was buried with her parents in Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside.
Florence, the youngest, had been married to John Archibald Corwin (b. 1879). John Corwin was a Philadelphian tobacco clerk. The couple lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and had two children: John Archibald (b. 1906) and Ruth (b. 1908). Their youngest, Robert March, was born after the death of his grandfather, in October 1912. Florence and her husband were still living in Elizabeth at the time of the 1940 census, but what became of them after that is unknown.
John Starr March's descendants still own several of the effects that were recovered from his body; in particular, they still possess the gold ring with the letter "M.", which was one of the effects that helped in his identification.