Friday, March 19, 2010

Part 2 of Dancing With the Storms

Part 2 [For Part 1, click here.]
Lighthouse on Bolivar Peninsula, Texas.  2010

By 4 June 1900, Daniel, Annie and their five children [one of which is my 1st great-grandmother Boo] are living in Eagle Pass, Texas, which is no where near the coast. In fact, it's on the other side of the state on the Texas-Mexico border.  So why did they move?  I'm not real sure, but I do know one thing.  On 8 Sep 1900, they missed the single most devastating hurricane that has ever hit the United States coast.  That's right, the Storm of 1900.  [Obviously, we still hadn't started naming them yet.]   Everyone hears about the devastation that occurred on Galveston Island and the estimation of 8000 that perished from the storm because it was so much more populated, but since Bolivar Peninsula is so close to Galveston, it was devastated too.  Over 120 people used the lighthouse for shelter, but dozens didn't make it to the lighthouse and died.  In fact, the only ones that lived were the ones who had sought out shelter in the lighthouse on the Peninsula.  If Daniel and Annie had stayed, would they and their family have made it to the lighthouse?

Which kind of brings me back to why they moved.  

So far away from the coast.

View Bolivar Peninsula-Eagle Pass in a larger map

Also, how'd they get there?  Well, they didn't walk, and I don't think they went by wagon [but they very well could have].  But they may have gone another way.  You see, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway had completed the railway to Spoffard, Texas then on to Eagle Pass in 1882.  After that it was extended into Piedras Negras, Mexico, the town on the opposite side of the border from Eagle Pass.  The completion of this railway facilitated exportation and importation of goods.
Photo courtesy of Texas Transportation Museum

Basically connecting the Port of Galveston with Mexico. 
And Eagle Pass' population soared [pardon the pun]. 

But why did Daniel and Annie leave Bolivar Peninsula?  Well, in the last census where the family is listed in 1880, Daniel is listed as a carpenter, and he's listed as being unemployed for the last 12 months. 

With his wife Annie. 

With their 2 year old son. 

And they were living in a boarding house.
View of Bolivar Peninsula Lighthouse from ferry. 2010

Not being able to access the 1890 population schedule, I don't know what their lifestyle was like on the Peninsula in 1890.  Had it been any better?  Additionally, how much did his old fracture from the Civil War affect what Daniel could do physically?  I mean, at the time his leg was fractured in the Civil War did it get set immediately?  I dunno, but if things weren't looking too good financially and he got wind of the opportunities available in Eagle Pass, maybe he decided to risk it all and move his family.
Eagle Pass, Tx.,  1887 Bird's Eye View of Eagle Pass Maverick Co, Texas. 1887, 1887. Lithograph (hand-colored), 16 x 22 in., Lithographer unknown. Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth. Gift of Mr. Charles Downing.  Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Of course, Eagle Pass [and the border in general] was not a very safe place to be.  You've heard of the wild west, haven't you?  Well, before the railway, Eagle Pass had a rough reputation.  Not exactly the best place in which to settle and raise your family.

So, it couldn't have been an easy decision for Daniel and Annie to make.  To leave what they knew and go to something they didn't know.  However, it was the right decision and not just because they had avoided the Storm of 1900.  In the 1900 census in Eagle Pass, Daniel was listed as a dry goods merchant.  Obviously taking advantage of the population growth due to the expansion of the railway in the border town.  They were renting their home, but they were in a home ~ not a boarding house. 

I wonder how Daniel and Annie reacted when they heard of the destruction made by the Storm of 1900 to the place they had called home for over 13 years?  Had they worried about those they had left behind?  Their friends?  I suspect they were counting their blessings when they finally heard the terrible news.


The logical part of me says that of course they moved for the opportunity at a better life.

But a part of me wonders, though, if perhaps Daniel and Annie just had a 6th sense when it came to the Gulf Coast and hurricanes.

And what of his leg?  If it had bothered him when he lived on the Gulf Coast, did moving to a drier climate make it feel any better?

In any case, having the ability to look back on their lives, it seems to me that Daniel and Annie were very good dancers.

For they had danced with Mother Nature.

And were never voted off the show.

[Snort.]  Yes, I've seen the show Dancing With the Stars.  Unfortunately. 

Ironically, the first time was right after Hurricane Ike hit Galveston Island.  Our electricity and cable were still off, and with our generator, t.v., and rabbit ears, we were only able to tune-in clearly 2 English-speaking channels.  One evening after dinner [from a can], we settled down to watch some T.V.  What was on?  One channel had the news.  The other had Dancing With the Stars.  Since we were tired of watching and listening to news and since no one in my house speaks Spanish except for me, Dancing With the Stars won that night.

[rolling eyes heavenward]  Below is a small slide show of some of the photos I took yesterday on Bolivar Peninsula.  Most of the damage from Hurricane Ike is evident in not what is there, but what is not there.  The peninsula [which is a misnomer because it's actually not connected to the mainland by land but by a bridge on the other end] is clean, but bare.  They have a long way to go in rebuilding.  However as history reveals, they are not alone, for those who came before, had to rebuild too.


  1. Thanks for posting the photos of Bolivar. Funny, even though I just visited and never lived there, a part of me died when Ike hit. Of course we had previously taken the tour and heard about the awful "Storm of 1900". Nothing makes it more real that the photos.

  2. Very interesting! I'd love to live in a lighthouse on a peninsula.

    Today, I was able to trace my mom's side of the family to a small village in England in the early 1500s. I went online and found that the village still exists. Thanks to Google maps, I even took a virtual tour.

  3. I live in New England so I know what life is like along the coast. I had fishermen ancestors from the 1600's to now (my brother-in-law is a lobsterman!) As I was reading part 2 the TV news was showing the oil spill along the Gulf Coast and it made me very sad to think that not all the tragedies were weather related.


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