The early history of Galveston, by Dr. J. O. Dyer

The Early History of Galveston. 19
were the first to arrive, followed the next month by many more. By April
five hundred had arrived from Matagorda, Copano, the Colorado, Brazos and
Trinity colonies and the Galveston Bay communities. These were housed
in camps situated on Eighteenth and Nineteenth and J, extending to Avenue
K. Some tents arrived on April 15 from New Orleans; but huts were quickly
run up, made of driftwood or wreckage from the gulf front. The colored
people were camped to the east toward the fort
* * *
Many huts were built of wire grass, matted in the mud of the bay
shore. This, when spaded up in square pieces and dried, made excellent
sod huts. However, as it rained for two weeks the sod huts melted away.
Accommodations became worse each day, and scarcer. The women and
children were housed in the few available tents, and the men erected shelters
from the drift wood on the beach. There were no nails, so double
lines of poles were driven into the ground for each wall. The lines were
far enough apart to admit trimmed logs of drift wood to be placed within
them, one log being placed above the other to the required height. The line
of poles on the outside and the inside line kept the logs in position, and
made a strong wall. Many plastered the huts on the outside with mud,
giving them the name of daub (Mexican adobe). For roofs old sails, tarpaulins,
pieces of old sheet metal from wrecks, drift wood and thatches
of marsh grass were used. The huts leaked badly, but the cold, shivering
refugees considered them palaces. President Burnet, his wife and two
children, occupied one of those huts a little later. Mrs. Burnet had to do
her own work, and nursed a sick child, which died soon after.
Let me describe how these poor people lived and suffered. The floor of
the hut was sloppy with deep, wet mud. In one corner was a pallet made
of drift wood covered with old, damp sacks, and a blanket; on this rested
the sick child. Another larger "shake down" was occupied by the president,
his wife and the other child. The furniture consisted of three boxes containing
the family's belongings. The boxes were used as seats, and an
empty barrel with the bottom up was the table A few pots and pans completed
the outfit In the morning imagine the President of the Republic
getting up to make a fire, striking his flint with a steel for several minutes
and incidentally his knuckles. He found the material he had reserved for
the purpose too damp to catch the spark. He had to get something inflammable
and dry from one of the boxes, sprinkle it with gun powder and
finally got a blaze. Care had now to be taken to carry the flame to the
pile of wood outside. This was drift wood placed in the hot ashes of the
yesterday's fire to dry it, and to keep it so, covered up with a piece of
old metal sheathing. The fire place was a hole in the ground, lined with
oyster shells. The camp contained but few candles and little oil, brought
from New Orleans and bringing fancy prices. The president was very poor,
the Mexicans having destroyed his residence. Every bit of fat in the camp
was saved to make soap, candles and drip.
Drip was the oily liquid left behind after the candles were made. Unraveled
pieces of rope were repeatedly dipped into the melted fat, the
stearine adhering to the wick thus made. The remaining fat was more
liquid and placed in a drip cup. A piece of rope was floated in the drip

Dyer, Joseph O. The early history of Galveston, by Dr. J. O. Dyer. Galveston, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth24651/. Accessed April 24, 2014.