Galveston and the Great Storm of 1900 - THE VICTIMS

THE VICTIMS (Illustration) Famous Historical Events Film Geography Social Studies STEM American History Ethics Disasters

This image, entitled “When the Waters Reached the Orphan Asylum," is from The Complete Story of the Galveston Horror, Written by the Survivors, edited by John Coulter and published, in 1900, by E. E. Sprague. It appears, with a series of other illustrations, between the book’s preface and page 33. Online, via Project Gutenberg.  Click on the image for a better view.


As the storm approached, ten nuns at the Orphans Home tried to shepherd 93 children to safety. Some of the children were very young. How would they stay together with the raging fury outside?

The Sisters tied most of the children together with clotheslines. Then they fastened the lines around their own waists.  They, and the children, sang "Queen of the Waves."

Singing, the nuns thought, would help to lessen the children's fear. Their efforts were futile. All but three of the children died. So did the nuns. Three boys who had not been tied together miraculously survived.

Patients and their care givers at St. Mary's Hospital met a similar fate. What had once been a place to heal the sick became a place of death and destruction.

The great Galveston storm of 1900 was an unimaginable tragedy - the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. Bodies were everywhere. It wasn't easy to find them. Many were buried under debris or wedged beneath the pier. Others were lost in the rubble of what had once been their homes. Many were missing clothes. They had been ripped off by the wind.

It was hard to identify remains. The living searched the dead, before they were cremated, for any means of identification. So did the inevitable looters. But their efforts were rewarded with summary execution. According to reports, at least 125 were shot for desecrating bodies of victims. Amateur photographers, according to the September 14, 1900 issue of the Dallas News, met the same fate:

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.

There were so many missing people the city needed scores of searchers.  When bodies were located they were sent to a temporary morgue.

Galveston could not bury all its dead in cemeteries. Railroad barges were turned into funeral barges as they transported lifeless bodies to sea. At least 700 deceased people, weighted so they would remain at sea, were put to rest in the Gulf of Mexico. Many washed ashore the next day. They were cremated, like so many others.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Dec 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Sep 09, 2019

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