Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dancing With the Storms, Pt 1


Fort Brown, Texas from 23 Mar 1861 issue of Harper's Weekly
 When looking at your ancestors' lives, have you ever wondered if maybe they had a 6th sense that led them away from trouble?  Or maybe it's just how everything worked out. And we, having the ability to look and analyze their lives as a whole, can simply see patterns about their lives that they had no clue that they were making.

Either way, the patterns are there.

My 2nd great-grandfather, Daniel Rook Vaughn, served on the Union side in the Civil War for the state of Michigan [where he was born].  He enlisted 10 Oct 1861 and was discharged 10 Jun 1865.  He took a little time off from the military, working -at least part of the time- as a machinist.  However for whatever reason, Daniel reenlisted in the U.S. Army in Rochester, New York on 28 Oct 1867.  He was stationed at Fort Brown, Texas.

Fort Brown?  Really?  Geez. If I'd only known.  While growing up on the Texas-Mexico border I could've easily visited where my 2nd great-grandfather had spent 3 years of his life.  I must have passed by this fort a gazillion times on my way to the beach [South Padre Island].  Now?  I live seven hours away. [sigh]


Anywho, before Daniel actually made it to Fort Brown, the soldiers that were there had already started to rebuild the fort due to the damages sustained in the Civil War.  Then, the seventh hurricane of 1867 that formed Oct 2nd, hit the Port of Brownsville, wrecking all the work they had done on Fort Brown.  So, when Daniel showed up at Fort Brown, which would've been after his enlistment date 28 Oct 1867, he was just in time to help rebuild.

Daniel served his 3 years ~all at Fort Brown~ and was discharged 28 Oct 1870, but not before he was counted in the 1870 census at Fort Brown.  [Thank God.]  I have no records of him for the next 3 1/2 years until he marries my 2nd great-grandmother, Annie O'Brien in New Orleans, Louisiana 19 Mar 1874.  What I wouldn't do to know what he was up to in that time period, and why he ended up in New Orleans.  There's a lot of mischief to be had in New Orleans, or so I've heard.  [Wink.]


Now, right before my Annie O'Brien came to New Orleans, Louisiana from Dublin, Ireland in 1872, there had been a bad hurricane that hit New Orleans leaving a lot of damage in its path the previous year.  Talk about timing, huh?  Or maybe Annie had brought the luck of the Irish with her. [Shrugs.]

Somehow and some way Daniel and Annie met in New Orleans and married.  [Again, what I wouldn't do to know what was going on with either one before their nuptials.]

View TX-LA Gulf Coast in a larger map

For whatever reason, they moved to Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston County, Texas by 7 Apr 1878.  [FYI: Bolivar is pronounced like the name "Oliver," but with a "B" in front of it.  Otherwise, if you pronounce it any other way, you'll sound like an outsider.  And you don't want that.]  I know they were here by this time because that's the birth date of their son, Henry Lewis Vaughn, who was born on the Peninsula.  Now, this is four years after their marriage, but according to a later census, it's reported that Annie had 5 children living out of a total of eight, which may explain some of the time between their marriage and Henry's birth. 

Turns out, though, they moved just in time.  A hurricane that sustained 100 mph winds hit near New Orleans 1 Sep 1879.  [Honest.  I couldn't make this stuff up.]


Sunset from Ferry
Sunset from Ferry to Bolivar Peninsula

So far, between the two of them that's 3 hurricanes that Daniel and Annie had "just missed."  However, they must not have been too scared of these storms because Bolivar Peninsula is just a ferry ride away from Galveston, Island.  I really don't blame them, though, because the sunrises and sunsets on both Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island are incredible.  And it's easy to be lulled by the sound of the hypnotic waves as they break on the shore.  Of course, if you've read a few of my posts, you know I have a "thing" for beaches and islands.  Who knows, maybe Daniel and Annie had a "thing" for them too.

DR Vaughn 1890 Vet Sch
Daniel Rook Vaughn, Enumerator of 1890 Veteran's & Widow's Schedule

They were still living there in 1880 and 1890.  Because Daniel had been in the Civil War on the Union side, he was counted in the 1890 Veteran's and Widow's census.  [Thank God.]  Actually, he counted himself.  How can that be?  He was the enumerator for this schedule.  I know.  I'm lucky.  I have nothing of Daniel's -no pictures, no artifacts, no letters, and no stories.  Nothing.  Zilch.  But I have this 1890 Veteran's and Widow's census that has his handwriting.  And what excellent penmanship!  This census find was really a coup because it confirmed his Civil War service information and he listed his disability from the war -a fracture on his left leg above the knee.  [Wince.] 

I've heard there's nothing like the arthritis that can set-in an old fracture.  And the weather here on the Gulf Coast can turn on a dime.  I wonder if his old war injury ever bothered him?

It seems that their ability to evade storms faltered the next year, a little more than 5 months after their last son was born in 1891 a hurricane hit Bolivar Peninsula.  However, it wasn't that much of a storm ~ just a category 1 with minimal damage.


Note: Because I'm really serious about my research,
I took off today with my kids to visit Galveston Island
and Bolivar Peninsula.

What can I say?  I.  Am.  Dedicated.

And I wanted to take some photos for you to give you
a better idea of what the area looks like.

I'm even going to sample the food and frolic
on the beach for you.  [Snort. Wink.]

No thanks needed.  Really.  It's my pleasure.

While I'm off "researching," here's some questions to ponder, & I'll
be back tomorrow with the rest of Daniel and Annie's story.

Did Daniel & Annie really have a 6th sense about these storms?

Did they continue to live on the Gulf Coast?

Do you have a "thing" for beaches?

[For Part 2, click here.] 



  1. That is kind of eerie that they missed the storms. Can you hear the Twilight Zone music in the background?

  2. Looking forward to hearing Pt 1 of the Daniel and Annie story.

    Also I always like to read about that area. For over a decade my daughter and darling grandchildren in in the areas around Galveston, Beaumont and Port Arthur.

  3. You went to Bolivar recently, or are there now? I would really like to know how it looks. My Mom and Step-dad lived there for years, and ran from several hurricanes. We visited quite a few times, I loved it there. Then, they got older, moved up here, etc. Then Ike. Mom had already died, but Dad and I watched the devastation and counted his blessings. Everything he knew was gone, just wiped away. So, please, if you visit Bolivar, I have to know, what is it like there now?

  4. Granny Pam, I visited there today. I live a little over an hour away and try to get there as often as I'm able. The evidence of Ike's devastation is still apparent, but they are slowly rebuilding on the Peninsula. I took some pics and I'll post then tomorrow with Part 2. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Joan, Thank you so much for reading about Daniel and Annie. I, too, love the area~so much history! I appreciate your comments!

    Alice, not only do I hear the Twilight Zone music, but I have goosebumps and my hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. Incredible, isn't it? Thanks for reading and commenting ~ I appreciate it.


  5. Love that you're so dedicated. It's funny how sometimes things come full circle. My Uncle bought a piece of land on a river about 2 hours from my hometown and spends his weekends in the summer there fishing and relaxing. I started doing some family history research and found out that this property was only a few miles from where our ancesters settled after immigrating from Germany.

  6. Enjoyed reading. Looking forward to part II


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