Galveston – One of the Stories of The Great Storm of 1900

The story of St Mary’s Orphan's Asylum in the storm

There are many tragic stories associated with this event but one that really spoke to me is that concerning St Mary’s Orphans Asylum which was run by Nuns from the Catholic order of the Sisters of Charity.

Many of the children that this Catholic orphanage looked after were children who had lost their parents during the Yellow Fever epidemic. The Orphanage was about three miles out of town and it was a beachfront property its location was thought to be ideal as it was away from the threat of the Yellow fever.

On the day of the storm the Orphanage had ten Sisters of Charity nuns who were at that time looking after a total of 93 children. During the afternoon the storm winds increased causing the tides to rise and strengthen and the size of the waves to increase in their ferocity. This resulted in floodwaters surging into the residential areas of the town

The Orphanage was a two-story building and facing the Gulf close to the beach but shielded by a row of fairly tall sand dunes and tall salt cedar trees. But as the ferocity of the storm increased these dunes were very quickly eroded away and the floodwaters rose up to the second story where the dormitories were.

The noise and ferocity of the storm scared both the Nuns and the children an in and in an effort to calm both themselves and the children they sang together the Old French Hymn Queen of the waves. The words brought them comfort while they were singing and it also reduced the children’s fears. This hymn was sung many times that day to the encouragement of those who sang and listened.

Below are the words to this song and you can see how this gave comfort to the Nuns and the children. We know that they sung this from the children who survived.

Queen of the Waves


From a French hymn, author unknown

Queen of the Waves, look forth across the ocean
From north to south, from east to stormy west,
See how the waters with tumultuous motion
Rise up and foam without a pause or rest.

But fear we not, tho' storm clouds round us gather,
Thou art our Mother and thy little Child
Is the All Merciful, our loving Brother
God of the sea and of the tempest wild.

Help, then sweet Queen, in our exceeding danger,
By thy seven griefs, in pity Lady save;
Think of the Babe that slept within the manger
And help us now, dear Lady of the Wave.

Up to the shrine we look and see the glimmer
Thy votive lamp sheds down on us afar;
Light of our eyes, oh let it ne'er grow dimmer,
Till in the sky we hail the morning star.

Then joyful hearts shall kneel around thine altar
And grateful psalms reecho down the nave;
Never our faith in thy sweet power can falter,
Mother of God, our Lady of the Wave.
...

If you click on this link it will take you to a page where you can hear a recording of this song which the nuns and the children sang in order to calm and strengthen themselves during the storm.

http://www.1900storm.com/queenofwaves/index.lasso


The recording of this song of this song was made as part of the commemoration of the 100th Anniversay of the Great storm in memory of those who lost their lives during the Great Storm.

The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word

The following Video will give you a small insight into how this Order came into being and the work that it does. The video includes some photographs of the Great Storm and of the Orphanage and the Nuns and Orphans of this time. Amazingly this Order survives even to this day.

A brief History

The Bravery of the Nuns

However no amount of singing could stop the rising floodwaters and the crashing waves. As the storm grew in its intensity the children became increasingly frightened and according to one of the surviving boys, the Nuns were extremely brave.

By about seven o’clock many of the residents of Galveston had climbed up to the highest parts of their houses trying to escape the rising floodwaters some even managing to climb out onto their roofs. The howling wind blew lethal debris flying along which caused much damage to anyone and any thing it hit.

When the main tidal surge hit it lifted the houses along the seashore off their foundations and sent these floating houses like demolition balls into the still standing houses it was like a domino effect one house after another fell under this relentless onslaught.

It was at this point in the storm that the dormitory building that had been serving as a refuge for the nuns and the children was lifted off its foundations. As the building was lifted off its foundations the bottom fell out and the roof crashed down trapping all that were inside.

Of the ten nuns and ninety-three children present that day in the orphanage only three boys survived they had ended up in the water and all three clung to a tree. It was a miracle that these three boys survived, they remained clinging to that tree and floating in the water for nearly a day. Eventually they were able to make their way back into town and tell the town’s folk what had happened up at the orphanage.

Later they buried the sisters where ever they found them along with the children who in most cases were still attached to the sisters by those pieces of clothesline. The devastation and carnage wrought by this storm was unimaginable and they were still finding bodies months later. They never did make a complete list of the people that the storm had killed that awful day.

The video below is a video which tells this story with photographs and includes the children of some of the surviving boys telling their father's story of that night. It is a very moving strory.

The town put a Texas Historical Marker on 69th Street and Seawall Boulevard on the 8th of September 1994, which marks the site where this Orphanage once stood and this video was made to mark this Historical Marker being placed.

Galveston Storm of 1900

Over 6000 Dead

It was estimated that the lives of over six thousand people were lost and three thousand six hundred homes destroyed.

The storm left a huge wall of debris behind that encircled the St Mary’s Infirmary, which was almost two stories high in places. This wall of debris contained all that remained from the destroyed homes including the bodies of people and their pets and livestock.

More by this Author


Comments 22 comments

SilverGenes 6 years ago

This brought tears to my eyes for many reasons, not the least of which is the loss of so many little children. The bravery of the nuns is astounding! When I listened to the music clip of Queen of the Waves, it was easy to imagine that day and feel all the more proud of those who faced that danger with such courage. Outstanding hub!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

That is a wonderful tribute to those lives lost and you wrote it so well. Thank you.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Maggs, an awesome tribute that was informative on a subject that is new to me. It brought my mind to the Bible verse that promises no stone will escape being turned, and these things happen even unto the godly people in this world. I associate these terrible events as warnings to us all. Peace, 50


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi SilverGenes, Thank you so much for your very kind comments. The word of the song must have brought comfort to the Nuns and the singing of the song I think will have calmed and comforted the children.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Hello, It is amazing how many unsung heroes whose acts of heroism have gone u-noticed by the outside world. I had never even heard of the Great Storm before I visited Galveston. Thanks for you comments I really appreciate them.


KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas

Thank you for sharing such a moving story of heroism. Being from Texas, this particular hurricane has always fascinated me.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Dusty, nice to see your name in my comments as always, it was new to me also until I visited Galveston on holiday and learned of the Great Storm of 1900.

It is frightening to think of storm surges of over twenty feet. I have not been in a hurricane situation though we did out run one once as we headed for Charleston.

The winds one year when we were in Fort Lauderdale were really bad and the TV had information about evacuation routes but lucky for us the winds died down and we continued our holiday with just the excitement of bending palm trees for memories. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi KCC, This story from the Great Storm is such a captivating one.

The Nuns are remarkable women they had already braved the Yellow fever epidemic and put the welfare of others before their own.

Then came the Storm and these remarkable women stepped up to the plate once again and were not found lacking it is just so sad that they did not survive.


RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

a moving story and so well told as always Maggs...brought tears to my eyes as well.


viking305 profile image

viking305 6 years ago from Ireland

Very interesting and sad piece of history. The Sister of Charity nuns were very brave to try to help the children. At least the children though terrified had the nuns there with them when the orphanage collapsed on them.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Barbara, it is so sad that the outcome to this story was not better. It is always hard when young children are among the dead it seems especially so when the children had already lost their parents.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Viking, I am sure that having the Nuns with them made a great deal of difference to their experience. It doesn't bare thinking about what would have been their experience if instead they had been abandoned by their care givers. It is just so sad that the outcome of the Nun's bravery didn't result in more lives being saved.


SilverGenes 6 years ago

Hi Maggs, thank you for letting me know about the video. This was something I knew nothing about before your hub and I feel as you do, that it's sad such bravery was not rewarded with more lives saved.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Maggs, thanks as well for the additional video, it was well received and added much more to the Memorial. It makes one think to be ready at any hour, as we know not when it may come, Peace, Dusty


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi SilverGenes thanks for coming back to view the new video and for leaving another comment.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Dusty, thanks for coming back and viewing the video, it is always good to be ready. Peace and blessings to you and heartfelt thanks for the wonderful and encouraging comments that you always leave.


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

Wow, maggs - what an amazing story! Those poor boys. How they must have really battled that! Galveston has indeed a most interesting history. I enjoyed the videos too! Great hub! Have to rate this up! :D


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Cheeky Girl, thanks for your comments. I was very touched by the bravery and dedication of the Nuns. When I think of those godly women tying those children to them selves it inspires admiration. Even though they were not able to save any of those children or themselves by doing this you cannot help but admire them anyway.


Louise Joles 5 years ago

There was a program on the Travel channel last night, that stated the Orphanage was where the Galvez hotel stands today. They also said that a sister Katherine left the building with nine children tied to her seeking higher ground. Is this true?


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Louise, thank you for your comment and questions, Here is what I have managed to find out.

There is a Sister Catherine (age 42) mentioned in the ‘List of victims of the Galveston Hurricane of 1900.

The Sisters brought all the orphan children into the girl’s second floor dormitory because it was newer, stronger and on higher ground. All the Sisters tied some children to them hoping to keep them safe.

As far as I can find out the only survivors from the Orphanage we three young orphan boys all the Sisters and the other children died.

Here is a link to another site that you might find interesting it has video and information on the Galveston Hurricane story.

http://dekerivers.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/film-cl...


Candie V profile image

Candie V 5 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

This is a wonderful tribute to some very brave nuns! Thank you Maggs for sharing this with us!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Having a comment on my hub from Candie V is a very pleasant way to start my week. It is so good to see your name I have missed seeing you about, this is my fault no excuses you will be seeing more of me :)

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