Friday, September 07, 2012

This Week in Texas Methodist History  September 9

Camp Meeting Participants Survive Hurricane on Oyster Creek  September 15, 1875

The hurricane that struck Texas in September 1875 followed an atypical path that devastated huge swaths of coastal Texas. It made landfall near Indianola and killed at least 150 people (possibly twice that number).  The hurricane continued inland and then turned northeast through Matagorda, Brazoria, Harris, and Galveston Counties.  A previous post (September 8, 2007) tells the story of how it destroyed the Alexander Ranch on Perkins Island in Galveston Bay.  

A document has come to light in the Texas Conference Archives that tells the story of how camp meeting participants on Oyster Creek in Brazoria County huddled for protection in the home of the Rev. P. E. Nicholson.  Some of the campers, including Presiding Elder I. G. John, had come from Galveston by boat. 

After a description of the camp meeting, the unsigned memoir continues as follows

At the close of the meeting, Monday or Tuesday, Bro. John  told us Bro. Nichalson  (sic) thought it unwise to venture on the water as there were indications of change of weather, which he would prefer meeting at his home, also that it would require several days to put his boat in order. . .that we must all, our company, go to his house.  We did so and remained through the severest storm in our lives.  The first realization I had of what the storm might become was on seeing Bro. John standing at an open door in the dining room, with a branch from an overhanging tree, beating off the snakes that were seeking shelter, the back water of Oyster Creek was up to the doorstep.  This open door was needed for air, the wind not permitting other openings to be used.  I said to Bro. John, “the storm is upon us.”  “Yes,” he said “we cannot tell what the morning will bring for us.  My poor wife and children are all alone down on the island.”  The water was steadily creeping into the house, every moveable article, trunks, etc., were piled  upon chairs and the women and children on the beds as the water came up into the main part of the house, a foot higher than the dining room.  A huge back log as much as four men could handle was lifted or rolled in and placed on the andirons and a fire was built on the log.  Bars were nailed across the doors facing the wind.  The solid window shutters were all securely fashioned.  The wind and water both to contend with.  In all these preparations, Bro. John and Dr. E. P. Angell were the leaders.  “He holdeth the wind in His fists.” Came from the lips of Bro. John in one of the lulls of the wind. . .all heard it for the silence was profound except as God spoke through or by the elements.  From time to time he would give us a passage of scripture or verse of a hymn that would lift us far above our surroundings.  As the water deepened in the house, the men of the company kept up a constant walk, circling without stopping the room, an open door connected this room with the one the women and children occupied.  Dr. Angell would come in with words of cheer for his wife and we would all share in them.  Bro. John was the one we all leaned upon.  Some time about midnight some of the men of our party went out in a boat to the rescue of a family that they had learned through some means were in great danger.  They returned with the grandmother, mother, and two weeks old infant.  Bro. John placed the babe in my arms, saying “See what you can do for it, but I fear there is no life there.”  Soon its wet clothes were off.  It was well-wrapped in a blanket and every means used to restore it.  Soon we had the satisfaction of seeing it asleep in the arms of tis mother who had been supplied with dry clothing.   About day light, the wind suddenly changed to the West and for a few minutes we thought there was no hope for us, but as the wind veered nearer the north, the water could be seen to recede by the mark of the andirons and soon all were rejoicing  in the bright sunshine and stilled winds.  The doors facing the gulf were thrown open and as soon as the waters had left the house, Bro. John with the others were throwing bucket after bucket of water on the floors and with brooms sweeping the slime from them. . oh what notes of praise and thanksgiving went up from that company of 35 men and women as they stood around the family altar that morning as we thanked God for our deliverance.  Our joy was tempered by the thought of what had happened to our loved ones, Bro/ John and Dr. Angell as soon as they were assured of the safety of their loved ones left on a perilous journey in search of Br. Robert Alexander who with his family were reported lost.  God preserved them. 

(P. E. Nicholson is remembered as the founding pastor for Methodist churches in Dickinson and Mont Belvieu.  Dr. Angell was Dr. Edwin Phillip Angell,  1839-1910.  By 1878 he had relocated to higher ground in Moscow, Polk County. He was also one of the founders of the Texas Homeopathic Medical Association.)


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