Adella Wotherspoon at 18 months old at the dedication of the memorial to the victims of the General Slocum fire.
|Born||Adele Martha Liebenow
November 28, 1903
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Died||January 26, 2004
Roseland, New Jersey, U.S.
Birth and siblings
Born Adele Martha Liebenow in Manhattan, she was the daughter of Anna Liebenow (1872–1957) and Paul Liebenow (1871–1910). She was nicknamed Tiby Liebenow. Her siblings Anna C. Liebenow Jr. (1901–1904) and Helen Liebenow (1898–1904) died in the fire. Helen's body was never identified and is presumed buried in a mass grave. Two cousins and two aunts also perished in the fire. One of the relatives who died was Martha Liebenow (1875–1904) of 404 5th Street in Manhattan. Adella's family was listed as living at 133 East 125th Street in the official register of General Slocum deaths.
Shortly after the sinking, her parents legally changed her first name to "Adella".
After the fire, Adella was treated at Lebanon Hospital. At the dedication ceremony, she pulled the rope to release the American flag and unveil the memorial to the fire victims. After her father's death in 1910, Anna moved the family to Watchung, New Jersey. Adella attended Plainfield High School, then studied education at Trenton Normal School, now known as The College of New Jersey. She taught for one year at Cleveland High School in Cranford, New Jersey then taught business administration at Plainfield High School from 1925 until 1961 when she retired. She married James Wotherspoon (1903–1982), but the couple had no children.
The young Wotherspoon played a highly visible role in unveiling a commemorative statue in the cemetery where more than sixty unidentified dead were buried on the first anniversary of the disaster. She returned annually for the memorial ceremonies.
Death and burial
Wotherspoon was a resident of Roseland, New Jersey for the last several years of her life. She died in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, aged 100, in 2004 and was cremated. She had requested a secular funeral, but this wish was not fulfilled. Her ashes were buried alongside her husband's at the Wilson Memorial Union Church Cemetery in Watchung, New Jersey.
- Catherine Uhlmyer, second to last survivor
- The New York Historical Society has her father's scrapbook and artifacts archived.
- Anna C. Liebenow (1901-1904) birth certificate number "1700"; death certificate number "3323". Helen Liebenow (1898-1904) birth certificate number "32329"; death certificate may not have been issued. Martha Liebenow (1875-1904) death certificate number "3746"
- Martin, Douglas (January 27, 2004). "Adella Wotherspoon, Last Survivor of General Slocum Disaster, Is Dead at 100". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
Adella Wotherspoon, the last survivor of the deadliest disaster in New York City history until Sept. 11, 2001 -- the burning and sinking of the steamboat General Slocum in June 1904, died on Jan. 26. She was 100, the youngest Slocum survivor having at last become the oldest. She died at a convalescent home in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, said a close friend, Julia A. Clevett.
- Stuart Lutz (2010). The Last Leaf: Voices of History's Last-Known Survivors. Prometheus Books. pp. 236–245. ISBN 9781616143107.
- Crane, John Kenny. The Secrets of North Brother Island: An Illustrated Novel of the Greatest American Disaster Before September 11, 2001, p. 72. Xlibris Corporation, 2010. ISBN 9781462844708. Accessed October 10, 2013. "The next morning, Sunday no less, Sandy Blick called my room and told me she had arranged a meeting for me with Adella Wotherspoon, supposedly the only living survivor of the Slocum disaster (I would later discover there was one other still living), at her home in Roseland, New Jersey."