Friday, September 12, 2008

Galveston Horror - A Dallasite's View

On a recent trip to Canton I purchased an ancient, brittle copy of "The Complete Story of the Galveston Horror" as told by the Survivors, a recounting of the September 8, 1900 category 4 hurricane that took an (estimated) 8,000 lives. Apparently it was a best-seller of it's day, having contacted the Galveston Historical Society to see if it was a donatable book they assured me that they have several copies in much better condition than mine. With Ike bearing down on the same path 108 years (almost to the day) later, I began reading some of the letters sent to families recounting experiences of the catastrophe.

One was written by a Miss Maude Hall, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Emory Hall, who was visiting Galveston on school vacation from Dallas.

" about 11 o'clock it began raining, and the wind rose a little. Sidney Spann and two young lady boarders could not get home to dinner. After the dinner the men left and we sat around in dressing sacks watching the storm. All at once Birdie Duff (Mrs. Spann's married daughter) said: 'Look at the water on the street; it must be the gulf.'

"There was water from curb to curb. It rose rapidly as we watched it, and Mrs. Spann sent us all to dress. It rose to the sidewalk, and the men began to come home. The wind and rain rose to a furious whirlwind and all the time the water crept higher and higher. We all crowded into the hall of the house-a big, two story one-and it rocked like a cradle. About 6 o'clock the roof was gone, all the blinds torn off, and all the windows blown in. Glass was flying in all directions and the water had risen to a level with the gallery.

"Then the men told us we would have to leave and go to a house across the street at the end of the block, a big one. Mrs. Spann was wild about her daughter Sidney, who had not been home, and the telephone wires were down. The men told us we must not wear heavy skirts, and could only take a few things in a little bundle. ........ It took two men to each woman to get her across the street and down to the end of the block. Trees thicker than any in our yard were whirled down the street; pine logs, boxes and driftwood of all sorts swept past, and the water looked like a whirlpool. Birdie and I went across on the second trip. The wind and rain cut like a knife and the water was icy cold. It was like going down into the grave, and I was never so near death, unless it was once before, since I have been here. I came near drowning with another girl. It was dark by this time, and the men put their arms around us a down into the water we went. Birdie was crying about her baby that she had to leave behind until the next trip, and I was begging Mr. Mitchell and the other man not to turn me loose."

No comments: