The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984 Page: 38
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
progressed. By eight-thirty in the evening the hurricane winds ex-
ceeded 1o miles an hour. Houses collapsed, shattering slate roofs.
The slate fragments, sharp enough to decapitate a person, mixed with
bricks and pieces of wood and acted like shrapnel in the high winds.
The next day it was discovered that scores of people had been killed
or mutilated by the flying objects. In the worst disaster ever to visit
North America, over 6,00o people were killed.
The loss of life was compounded by the destruction of property.
The stately Victorian mansions of the town's commercial elite and the
disease- and rat-ridden huts of the poor were treated alike by the storm
that leveled everything in its path. Over two-thirds of the buildings in
Galveston were destroyed. Pictures of the city taken in the days after
the flood subsided have an eerie warlike quality: they resemble the
photographs of Dresden or Hiroshima snapped after the bombs ex-
ploded. Some objects or landmarks in the pictures are still recogniz-
able, but the general impression is one of a landscape of rubble, where
former life must be inferred from the fragments of wood and stone.
In every manner, the inhabitants of Galveston and the Island suffered
greatly. The winds of that Saturday carried a grisly fame. They made
the name Galveston synonymous with disaster.
In the wake of the tragedy, loss and suffering became relative terms.
Some people lost their lives. Others lost members of their families or
close relatives. Still others lost their homes. The ones who survived
were considered fortunate, and those who lost only their homes were
labeled lucky. The irony of the situation was not usually noted by the
survivors. Joel Chandler Harris, journalist and famed author of the
Uncle Remus stories, had traveled to Galveston to report on the storm:
"The condition of thousands of those who have been spared is far
more pitiable than that of the dead. Their resources have been swept
away by wind and tide, and they are desolate in the midst of deso-
One of the desolate was Henry Johnson. Compared with others, in
physical and financial terms his losses were small. As far as can be
ascertained, he did not lose any of his immediate family and, in a storm
that swept away more than $15,000,000 in property, his financial losses
hardly stand notice. Nevertheless, this old black crippled man lost all
of his possessions. He had worked for years to buy a plot of land and
2John Edward Weems, A Weekend in September (College Station, Tex., 1980), 135-151,
152 (quotation), 153-154, 167; Nathan C. Green, Story of the Galveston Flood (Baltimore,
1900oo), 3-45, and pictures.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984, periodical, 1983/1984; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/m1/58/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.