Skip to comments.Galveston, September 1900 (Amazing quotes re: hurricane recovery
Posted on 09/03/2005 9:05:30 AM PDT by atomic conspiracy
An LGF reader forwarded these quotes about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900:
Looters found despoiling the dead were stood against the nearest wall or pile of debris and shot without hindrance of a trial. The grisly work of collecting the dead continued by torchlight. The workers were issued generous rations of bourbon and strong cigars. They breathed through handkerchiefs soaked in bourbon and smoked cigars to mask the smell.
In the sweltering heat that followed the storm, decomposition was rapid. The bodies soon lost the rigidity of rigor mortis and had to be shoveled into carts. At times the fixed bayonets of the militia were all that kept many of the men at their work. Superintendents of the work gangs were finally given permission to torch the wreckage wherever found rather than try to extricate pieces of flesh from the ruins and cart them away.
It was like living in a battlefield. The fuel-oil smoke hung over the city, day and night, and the heavy air was never free of the smell of carbolic acid, of lime, of putrefaction.
Death from the Sea: The Galveston Hurricane of 1900, Herbert Molloy Mason, Jr.
Looters found despoiling the dead were summarily executed by the militia - stood against the nearest wall or pile of debris and shot without the hindrance of a trial. The same brutal justice was delivered to amateur photographers. Word received from Galveston today indicates that Kodak fiends are being shot down like thieves. Two, it is stated, were killed yesterday while taking pictures of nude female bodies.
Dallas News, September 14, 1900.
This storm is famous for the speed and thoroughness of the recovery.
My how times have changed. And not necessarily for the better.
Bump for GWB to read!
That's what we need NOW.
A no nonsense approach to crime. Caught in the act, line up at the wall and that's IT for you.
Due to the huge number of dead bodies in Galveston, they tried burrying them at sea. Unfortunately, they started washing up on the beaches of Galveston a few days later.
Let's not bump it for Nagin, Blanco or any of the NOPD though.
Deadliest hurricane began century
By Deborah Sharp, USA TODAY
GALVESTON, Texas - Late at night, Georgeanna Holmes used to gather her great-grandchildren around to tell stories about surviving "The Storm," which is what islanders here still say 99 years after Galveston was struck by the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history.
Up to 10,000 people died, so many that for months bodies were burned by Galveston's "dead gangs," their members plied with whiskey and threatened at gunpoint to keep them at their horrifying task.
Islanders call it The Storm, as if there could be no other. But despite the comforts of sophisticated computer models and round-the-clock weather channels, a monster storm just like Galveston's could form at any time during this busier-than-average hurricane season.
Hurricane Dennis threatens to batter the southeastern U.S. coast this week, and Hurricane Bret roared ashore last week in Texas with 140-mph winds.
In a cautionary tale about complacency, author Erik Larson details the great hurricane of Sept. 8, 1900, in the new book, Isaac's Storm. The story probes the defiance of those who wouldn't believe such a killer could strike from the sea and marvels at how few today outside this city have heard about the hurricane, which killed more people than several better-known American disasters combined.
"Maybe something this bad wasn't acceptable. It had to be bleached from the national psyche if America was to go on," Larson says.
Few are alive who remember the storm that struck on Sept. 8, 1900, in a time before hurricanes were named. But vivid reminders of the toll it took live on in cemetery headstones, old photographs, family memories and the letters of survivors who poured out terror in 25-page missives.
" They were trying to communicate to people in other places how terrible it was," says Alice Wygant, director of the Galveston County Historical Museum. "So many people died, they ended up burning the bodies. The stench could be smelled 50 miles out at sea."
Bodies were everywhere after the storm. A hundred victims hung from a grove of cedar trees, deposited in branches by the 20-foot storm surge that swept shattered buildings and houses into a pile of debris three stories high. No one knows how many bodies never emerged from the sea, but many residents refused to eat scavenging crabs and shrimp for years afterward.
An orphans home near the beach was demolished by the storm. Ten nuns and 90 children died. Days later, searchers found a child dead on the beach. When they lifted the toddler, the body of another child and then another emerged from the sand. Eight children and a nun had tied themselves together with a clothesline in an attempt to defy the storm.
Bodies continued to be found until February the next year.
City leaders turned to fire after they tried sea burials, loading 700 corpses onto a barge taken 18 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. They tried weighing down the bodies, but scores of bloated corpses washed back onto the beach, carried on "waves like hearses," said a writer of the time.
Johnny Holmes, 46, used to listen to his great-grandmother Georgeanna, who told of seeking refuge in the attic as the sea swept across the island. One survivor described the water rising four feet in four seconds.
Bodies floated everywhere, including so many children who had been frolicking in excitement only hours earlier, before Galveston realized the rain and unusual pounding waves prefaced a murderous storm.
"Her husband had a long pole, and he was passing it to the ones floating in the water who were still alive," says Holmes, recalling Georgeanna's stories. " Going through that storm was like getting shot. You just don't forget."
In 1900, Galveston was a sophisticated seaport of 38,000, prosperous from the cotton trade and richer in millionaires than even Newport, R.I. It was the first city in Texas with phones and electricity, and its residents enjoyed a grand lifestyle: an opera house, 50 miles of streetcar track and foreign consulates for 19 countries.
But then came the hurricane and after that, a cotton crisis from the boll weevil insect that some believe arrived on the winds of the storm. Galveston never regained its earlier glory. Oil supplanted cotton as king, and Houston, about 50 miles northwest, became the new center of commerce.
Today, Galveston has about 60,000 residents. The city is mainly a playground for vacationing Texans. As in other hurricane-prone coastal resorts, newcomers have built mansions on stilts just steps from the sea on this barrier island.
"Enjoy them while you can," warns Greg Schumann, a hurricane hazards researcher at Texas A&M University. "To me, that's disposable housing ."
Galveston has a strange ambivalence about the 1900 storm. The tragedy was the city's defining moment. But a hurricane is the kind of repeatable event that civic boosters would just as soon forget.
Even so, as the 99th anniversary of the hurricane approaches, The Great Storm documentary plays on the hour at Pier 21, a tourist attraction in the historic downtown.
The theater's assistant manager, Patti Phillips, says descendants of survivors come from all over with storm memories and related emotions surprisingly intact.
"It's part of our heritage. For people who survived, that storm was a bond," she says.
One resident tells of wedding guest lists defined by which family gave another refuge in The Storm. Another recalls two elderly Rotary Club members talking about The Storm at a 1960s meeting, when one suddenly realized that the other's father had saved him as a boy.
"There were six grown men crying," Bill Cherry says.
Yet the city's only memorial is a pink granite stone, its moss-touched inscription nearly hidden at Lakeview Cemetery: "To The Unknown Who Perished In The Storm Of Sept. 8, 1900."
Best these situations be left for a fair trial at a later time.
Proclamation from the Mayor of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.
I never liked the looks of those Crawfish anyway.
We need to make sure this DOES NOT happen again - even if it hurts people feelings. Truth needs to be out there and proper punishment assigned for this CRIME.
Galveston 1900 storm ping
I sent this in to my local paper yesterday, sort of has some relevance:
Another Step to Socialism
As I watch and read reports of the ongoing Katrina disaster, I keep hearing one word that disturbs me. Politicians, pundits and officials keep speaking about what we need to do: We need to rebuild, we need to provide, we need to contribute .
On September 8, 1900 the city of Galveston, TX was destroyed by a hurricane. One in seven people died, and over half the buildings were demolished. The citizens of Galveston rebuilt their city themselves. We didnt do it for them. They sold bonds and raised the money. They built a seawall. They raised the entire city upwards of twelve feet. The citizens pitched in and helped each other out rather than wait for we to come do it for them. Of course, this was before the Federal Income Tax.
Recently the Federal Government approved a $286 billion transportation bill. Since Louisiana doesnt have representation on the proper committees, the few tens of millions that, arguably, may have saved New Orleans were not available. Instead states like Alaska, which does have the proper representation, gets hundreds of millions for seemingly useless projects. I suspect that Louisianas tax contribution to this one bill, or any other similar appropriations bills in recent decades, if left within the State would have contributed to upgrading hurricane preparations. Likewise Alabama and Mississippi could have done the same.
The saddest part of this system is that the main purpose of these pork projects is not the project itself, but instead they are meant to help insure the re-election of the politicians from the affected State or District. So now Washington takes our money, and the state or local government must go hat in hand and beg for some of it back. Unfortunately, true benefit does not rank as high as political benefit, thus the $231 million dollar bridge to Nowhere, Alaska.
This is not the Republic that Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and the rest envisioned.
It is time to return Washington to its Constitutionally limited functions, and end the slide into Federal Socialism no matter how benevolent it may appear on the surface. The Constitution strictly limits the role of the Federal Government, reserving most powers for the States and the people themselves. It is long past time that we insist that we get those powers back where they belong.
Include Jesse Jackson and you've got my vote.
I share your distress, but I don't think a return is possible. Too many people, at all levels, just want government to take care of them, or else.
Not to be cynical, but I think the only hope is for those of us who still would like to live in an non-socialistic type of society, to leave, and try to start one somewhere else.
Despoiling the dead... what for? Looking for jewelry? Haven't heard any looting stories like that about NO, but it would be logical that looters are ransacking, or have ransacked, bodies.
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