What did you keep? What did you leave behind? What stories have been passed down through your family? Natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Ike, and the 1900 Storm impact individuals, families, and generations of community. As we acknowledge the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Ike, and the 118th anniversary of the 1900 Storm, #galvestonhistory went looking through its archives, as well as to the Gulf Coast community, to share their stories.

#GALVESTONHISTORY MEMORIES


COMMUNITY SUBMISSIONS

Selected user submissions are shown below and we welcome your comments and memories in the comments below. Have photos or histories you’d like to preserve? Make an appointment with our Galvescan program to bring them in! We will scan / record them and send you digital copies for your personal collections.

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1. This story relates to the house in which my family endured the 1900 storm. I also have a photograph of the surviving, restored house at 1714 Avenue M 1/2. The individuals in the photograph, from left to right: Edgar Lewis Serface, my grandfather; Simon Lester Serface, my great uncle; Elizabeth Harriet Israel Serface, my great aunt; Emma Florence Israel Serface, my grandmother. Whenever I look at the old 1900 photograph, I am overcome with nostalgia. Naturally, I am grateful that my ancestors had the good fortune to survive the storm, thereby avoiding the end of the line of two families. There was one other Israel sister and one other Serface son remaining in the respective families. They too, eventually married, but not to each other, finding other spouses. Neither couple had any children.

2. The image uploaded is a scanned newspaper clipping from the Denver Rocky Mountain News, Sunday, Sept. 23, 1900, Denver, CO, Page: 29. The article discusses the contents of a letter (a portion of the handwritten document prefaces the article) written on September 13th, in the aftermath of the Galveston Storm of 1900. The writer of the letter is my paternal grandfather, Henry Charles Pressler (1878-1941), and the recipient is his brother William Monroe Pressler (1873-1946), who was in Denver, CO, at the time. The letter mentions a sister, Mrs. Mary Corbett (1872-1900), who survived but whose husband and four children were drowned. This sister most often went by the name “Mollie” rather than “Mary,” and, in fact, is identified as “Mollie” in the handwritten facsimile that precedes the article. However, it should be noted that the name recorded on the common headstone in Lakeview Cemetery (which she shares with her mother and another sister) is “Mollie Lucas”. Apparently, she had been married to Corbett only a short period prior to the storm, so the family chose to recognize her previous married name. Mrs. Corbett/Lucas passed away some time before the year 1900 ended, and her specific cause of death remains a mystery to this day.

3. This is a view from the 2nd floor back porch of my house looking out over the backyard. It was taken on Friday afternoon, September 12th, 2008. This represents 4 feet of water in my yard. The water crested around 1:30 am on Saturday morning, September 13th, 2008, at a level of 8 feet in my home. My neighbor, who lived in the white house in the background of the picture, stayed with me on the 2nd floor of my home. We watched the water come up the steps inside my home, watched it stop about 2 feet from the 2nd floor, and watched it go back down. My neighbor’s house had about 4 feet of water in it. There was water around my home for 2 days and finally went down on Sunday, September 14th.

4. Our great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Ireland and arrived in Galveston around the late 1880’s or early 1890’s. At the time of the 1900 Storm on September 8, 1900, William Francis Lowth along with his expectant wife Bridget Clara Garland Lowth and their three children at the time, Thomas, Rose, and James, had been living in Galveston approximately ten years. Bridget was 6-7 months pregnant with our Grandfather Christopher Joseph Lowth when the 1900 Storm devastated Galveston. There were varying accounts of the day’s events but the common story was, they were rescued by an individual (possibly a relative) who had come by in a skiff. One account claims they were rescued clinging to the roof of the house while another version of the story says they were rescued from inside their home where Bridget and the three children were sitting atop the dining room table. They were loaded onto the skiff and made their way to the nearby old Rosenberg School where they remained for the duration of the storm. To prevent the hurricane force winds from causing further damage, it was said that William and another man tore doors off of nearby rooms in the school and used them to board up the windows of the second floor to keep the storm winds at bay. The photo of the elderly couple is Christopher and his wife Carrie, our grandparents.

5. This is just the beginning of the trash pile at First Baptist Church Dickinson. I didn’t get to take a picture of the final trash pile, but it covered approximately half the back parking lot. This was taken early September 2017.

6. My great-grandfather, William Mercer Harris, was called to the pulpit of the First Baptist Church in Galveston in 1895 and was serving as pastor there in 1900. The 1883 church was then located on the northwest corner of 22nd Street (now Kempner Street) and Avenue I (now Sealy Avenue), with the 1870 parsonage immediately west of the church at 2210 Avenue I, and another residence west of that on the northeast corner of 23rd Street and Avenue I, the 1869 John Sealy house, then occupied by Jennie Sealy and her husband R. Waverly Smith. Dr. Harris lived in the parsonage with his wife Jessie Wooten Harris and their children Annie, Jessie, William, Brantly, Fletcher, and Hallie. Members of the church at the time included Maco and Minor Stewart and Isaac Cline. After the storm, Dr. Harris traveled extensively to raise money to replace the church, and a new church was dedicated in January 1905. In 2008 Hurricane Ike was a storm very similar to the 1900 Storm. Galveston, however, was not similar to the Galveston of 1900, thanks to grade-raising and seawall projects. One of Dr. Harris’ descendants would be a survivor of Ike, but barely. Fletcher Harris, the 85-year-old grandson of Dr. Harris, declined to evacuate from his condominium on Weiss Drive, west of 69th Street. (Anyone who knew Fletcher would not be surprised by this.) Unfortunately, the area west of 69th Street had not benefited from the grade-raising projects and was very vulnerable to the significant storm surge of Ike.
As the waters rose in his condo, Fletcher emulated his ancestors by leaving his ground-floor condo and seeking higher ground. He was unable to get into a second-floor unit, which might be related to the fact that he was 85 years old and only had one hand. He ended up out in the street. At one point he attempted to support himself by hugging a stop sign, but it broke off. Somehow he survived the night and was picked up by a rescue crew in the morning.

7. I wrote my dissertation for a Ph.D. in Adult, Professional, and Community Education on a topic related to loss during Hurricane Ike. It discusses how things become part of our extended self. Then, when these things are taken away by such things as a natural disaster, we are forced to redevelop our identities. Its a powerful story of how my family home of over 50 years, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ike, became a part of mine and my mother’s extended selves.


DISASTER RECOVERY

Natural disasters uproot lives, families, and more. What you do immediately after those events can go a long way to preserving your personal heirlooms. Galveston Historical Foundation’s Manager of Historic Collections, Renee Tallent, guides you through the proper procedure for post-disaster recovery. Please contact Renee with any questions you might have as you work towards preserving your family treasures.

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