True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young. Page: 54
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54 TRUE STORIES OF OLD
for his extreme modesty he would be one of the most talked
of men of today. He persists in keeping in the background,
however, and there is no way of lugging him to the front.
Now, in spite of our intimacy I never knew, until the other
day, that Sjolander was a hero, a genuine one, too. It came
out accidentally. We were talking about the sea, as we always
do when we get together, and I mentioned a wreck that occurred
just off Galveston in the early eighties. It was before the
jetties were built and Galveston Island terminated at Fort
Point. The inner bar was located just beyond where quarantine
station is now located, and all beyond that point was the
Gulf of Mexico. The outer bar was further out and was one of
the worst on the gulf coast. During ordinary rough weather
the bar was so rough that it was considered unsafe for a vessel
to attempt to cross it.
It was either in '83 or '84 that a terrible storm occurred off
Galveston. The wind came from the southeast, and piled up
the breakers "mountain high." During the night there was a
fearful blow, and at daylight next morning it was discovered
that a large ship had gone down and that her crew were clinging
to the masts. She was located a mile or two off shore and
was right in the midst of the breakers that would soon wash
the men from their perilous position if it did not destroy the
masts altogether. There was no life saving station, equipped
with proper boats or anything of that kind. The men must be
rescued though. The Morgan steamer, Josephine, was in port
and got up steam to go out. She reached a point not far from
the outer bar and met such huge breakers that she was forced
to abandon the attempt and turned back to her place at the
When it was found that the Josephine would not, or could
not go to the rescue, one of the bar pilots leaped in a small
sailboat and called for volunteers, saying that he would save
those men or share their fate. Nine men sprang in the boat at
once, among them my poet, SJolander. That crew of ten braved
the fearful bar, passed it, went to the stranded vessel and after
hours of heartbreaking work succeeded in rescuing every one
of the men clinging in the masts. The return trip, in the little
overloaded vessel, was far more dangerous than the outward
trip. The captain was a fine sailor, knew just what to do and
had the men to do it, so they made the trip safely and got back
to the wharf without the loss of a single man.
Now, I knew about that wreck and of the heroic rescue, but
I did not know that Sjolander was one of the heroes. The
other day he referred to it casually, mentioning it only in telling
me of his introduction to Texas, he having arrived on an in-
Here’s what’s next.
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Young, Samuel Oliver. True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young., book, 1913; Galveston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth24646/m1/54/?rotate=90: accessed January 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .