Saturday, August 15, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History   Aug. 16

Hurricane Hits Texas Coast, Texas Methodist Are both Victims and Rescuers, August 16, 1915.

The Galveston Storm of 1900 was so destructive that it has rightfully dominated historical accounts of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.  To tell a complete story, though, one should add numerous other hurricanes to the historical account.  

We remember Katrina, just ten years ago, which sent brothers and sisters from Louisiana to many shelters in Texas Methodist churches and other relief locations.  The destruction from Hurricanes Rita and Ike along the upper coast included churches, parsonages, educational buildings, and private residences.  Those of us in the Texas Conference still remember the outpouring of prayers and financial support that helped churches and individuals rebuild after the two hurricanes.  A facility is now being built in Conroe that will serve to marshal resources for the next storm.

All but lost from the historical memory is the storm that hit Galveston exactly one hundred years ago, August 16, 1915.  The highest wind velocity was recorded at 3:00 p.m. ---92 miles per hour with a barometric reading of 28.66 inches.  

The death toll was nothing like the 1900 storm, but industrial and agricultural damage was great.  In the 15 years between 1900 and 1915 the Galveston Seawall had been completed so the city of Galveston was protected from most of the flooding.  In those same 15 years petroleum discoveries had prompted the construction of refineries along Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel had opened only the year before.    The greatest single loss of life in storm was the loss of a Corps of Engineers suction dredge with about sixty crewmen.  All but three died and the barge was completely lost.  

The agricultural damage was partially due to the timing.  The 1900 storm hit Sept. 6.  The 1915 storm his on Aug. 16.  That three week difference was critical.  In both 1900 and 1915 the main crop was cotton.  The path of the storm took it into the cotton growing lands of East and Central Texas where the cotton bolls were just opening and the harvest was just starting.  The Aug. 16 date meant that thousands of bales of cotton would be beaten into the earth and ruined.  Even three more weeks of harvest would have made a huge difference. 

Inland cities all over eastern Texas reported damage.  A roof was blown off at Southwestern University in Georgetown.  Two roofs were blown off at Texas A&M.  The AME Church at Bellville was split in two, and the MEC Church there lost its bell tower.   Damage reports streamed in from Bryan, Grapeland, Tomball, Huntsville, Hearne, Rockdale, Somerville, Caldwell, Victoria, Port Lavaca, and many other cities.  Alto Methodists had to cancel the planned revival because the weather was so bad.  One assumes that the revival preacher, S. S. McKinney was eager to get back to his flock in Jacksonville anyway. 

In a move that presages events of compassion after Rita and Ike, the Rev. J. W. Miller, the pastor of the Methodist church at Gause, organized a work party from his congregation to rebuild the church at Milano.   It was an inspiring, but not unexpected example of Methodists helping brothers and sisters in time of need.


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