Interest in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 continues as evidenced by the popularity of the movie, Titanic.
"Yes, there was a connection between the luxury liner and the UP," said Russ Magnaghi, director of the Center for UP Studies at NMU, "in the form of Joe Bayliss of Sault Ste. Marie." Back in 1887 as William Alden Smith began his climb up the Republican political ladder he was appointed Michigan's first paid game warden. In the process the two men became good friends. Joe stayed in the Soo and by 1912 Smith was one of Michigan's senators.
When Senator Smith read of the disaster he, as millions of others asked, why did the accident occur? Calls around Washington indicated no investigations of the tragedy were planned. A proactive Senator Smith would take the lead.
"According to the Smith Resolution, the Committee on Commerce was empowered to summon witnesses, administer oath, and serve subpoenas on all witnesses necessary for information," noted Magnaghi. Immediate action would have to be taken as the Carpathia with the survivors was nearing New York City.
As Senator Smith sat in his office fretting over whether or not Sergeant-of-Arms Ransdell had the guts to issue subpoenas, unexpectedly Sheriff Bayliss walked into his office. The senator needed a man of action like Bayliss called "the greatest little sheriff in Michigan."
Bayliss, in his slouch hat and battered boots, quickly joined Smith and his party for the trip to New York. In the days that followed Bayliss issued subpoenas without the slightest compunction to foreigners or citizens alike. In his free time he was assigned the duty of eavesdropping on crew members so that Senator Smith would know who would be the best to question.
The sheriff's work took some "fancy steppin'" because by now the British consul in New York was angry that this action was being taken. The result was that Sheriff Bayliss returned home and Senator Smith was able to conduct an extremely useful set of investigations concerning the sinking of the great liner.