(From our Full Sheet Extra of Wednesday)
Not feeling justified in depriving our subscribers Saturday of their paper at the usual time, we overcame the influence of the weather as it affected the types, and Charlie not being daunted by the storm, delivered the Valley on time. We now give the fullest and most complete connected narrative of the great storm yet published.
We have waited until the morning before giving an account of the terrible storm that has visited our city with unexampled fury during Friday evening, though out Saturday, and late into Sunday morning, that we might survey the whole field, and state with accuracy the history of the storm and attendant flood, and losses suffered by those who were subject to its tremendous power and fury.
Heretofore Corpus Christi has been exempt from desolation by the elements almost beyond any town off the Texas coast—noticeably so. We have had no general fire even–none beyond an occasional single building. The storms that swept over and swept down portions of the towns and cities from the Rio Grande to the Sabine, have hardly been felt here. We seemed to be out of their circle. We were mercifully spared. But now our time has come, and we have had by far the most severe storm ever felt since this place was known as Kinney’s Rancho and had a single house and barricade.
Fire and wind and water are excellent servants when kept under control by human foresight, careful preparation and an all over-ruling Providence; they are all severe masters when they overleap human agency and are allowed temporary sway by a wise Providence.
Friday morning dawned dull and gloomy, with lowering clouds throughout the day, and a gradually falling barometer that filled many with forebodings of disaster to come. But not until Saturday did the storm burst in its strength, and prove how vain and futile were all the efforts of puny man as compared with the transcendent and omnipotent powers of the Almighty.
The wind blew a gale, accompanied with rain, gradually increasing in intensity and power toward evening, with the sky to the northeast of an inky blackness. About ten o’clock in the morning we made a trip along the beach, as far down as Central Wharf, and up as far as Headon’s. The scene presented beggars description. At the shore end of the wharf, the drifting timbers from the wrecked bath-houses and breakwaters and wharves above were beating with pitiless fury against the strong wood work, the winds and waves contending in mad fury for mastery in the work
of destruction. We walked out to the T-head, the rain driven with such force as to seem like hail, and when there found a scene sublime and grand. To stand against the overpowering fury of the gale was impossible. The bay itself was one wild expanse of raging waters, with waves “mountains high”, to the left was the threatening northeast, with clouds that seemed as though the earth and the waters thereof were hung with trapping and insignia of woe, and that the Almighty himself had arisen in his might to visit upon erring people the thunderbolts of his
avenging wrath. Tied to the wharf with triple cables of strong rope were the St. Joseph and Alfred and Sammie schooners, their captains-Steinhardt and Hughes—hoping to withstand the power of the Storm King. But at ten o’clock that night their fastenings parted like whip cord, and, as Steinhardt graphically describes, “before I knew my cables had parted—I was ashore, beam ends on.” Facing the pitiless
blast we retraced our way, with the waves breaking over us at every step. Going along the beach, Lott’s wharf was noticed, the waters making a clean sweep over the whole structure, and with a giant’s strength every now and then ripping off a section of the floor, lifting the iron rails that held it down as though they were but straw and
sending them far away on some furious billow. It was but a question of time when the whole massive wharf would be torn up and destroyed.
Arrived at Evans warehouse we found Mr. Evans, with a crowd of Mexicans, making almost superhuman efforts to save the fine building just completed, that had been erected at much cost of time and money. Standing in the water up to his waist, with the waves dashing over him, Mr. Evans was endeavoring, with hogsheads and sacks full of sand, to break the force of the waves as they washed over the ________ building. Though saving it for a while his efforts were futile and about nine o’clock Saturday night the whole structure undermined and eaten into by the water, gave way and fell. As it went down a furious gust of wind torn the roof from it fastenings and carried a section forty feet square full a hundred feet away, over fences and intervening houses, landing it against one end of the custom house, and driving a beam clear into that structure.
At about three o’clock Saturday evening the wind lulled and the rain almost ceased, and all hoped that the fury of the gale was spent. Delusive hope! It had only stopped to gather its mighty force for a stronger and more terrible effort, reserving the night close at hand to illustrate its awful and sublime strength.
At about half past nine o’clock the writer, exhausted and worn out by the day’s duties, had to retire, when the dread alarm of the fire-bell was heard above the wild sound of the winds and waves, filling the heart with terror and apprehension that to the horrors of an unexampled storm was to be added the presence of a fellow fiend—Fire. But to the relief of all hearts the alarm was found to be only the call for help for those who were distressed and in danger. And right promptly was this call responded to by strong arms and brave hearts. What a sight was witnessed as foot was put outside out gate! Water—phosphorescent and sparkling, unmistakably water of the Gulf—was above our knees and as we plunged through it on our course down town ever and anon ran against large piles of driftwood, torn from some of the buildings along the bay. Then, and not till the, did we realize the full force of the elements
that seemed hungering for our lives. Down along Chaparral street, enveloped in pitchy blackness, with no lights save that which the phosphorescent waters themselves cast upon surrounding objects, and an occasional light in some building where the inmates were hastily packing up what could be saved and removing it to some place of security, we groped our way, wondering what hew disaster would meet our eyes.
At Capt. Berry’s corner we found the water five inches deep on his parlor floor, and the Captain himself, sitting in a rocking chair, composedly smoking, and declaring that when the water rose four feet higher he would leave, and not till then. The Captain’s opinion was that he had lived here since ’43 and never saw half such a rise as this. He was a veritable “patience on a monument smiling at grief.” At Meuly’s we found the inmates removing to the hill and safety. At DaCamara & Atlees we found the two Atlees taking it composedly, four inches of water in their bedroom, and one of them writing a letter—he said it was to a gentleman—but we have our doubts. The current from the Arroyo just beyond was flowing by the doors at the rate of seven miles an hour. Going up Chaparral street, we found high water until Gussett’s corner was reached, where from that up to French’s we found dry land, owing to high ground.
The beach was the next place visited, and there we found the angry waves beating against the doors of Mrs. Wyatt’s, Maltby’s, Anderson’s, and other houses, but the inmates had removed before dark to a place of safety. Fences and all traces of gardens and streets were gone, and the bay was sweeping with relentless energy under and around the houses, destroying improvements that had taken years to complete.
Fully satisfied that no good could be accomplished, we wended our way homeward, determined to wait and see what the morning brought forth.
Beginning at the old Red House below Central Wharf, we commenced our investigations. There were found Capt. Steinsmedt’s schooner, St. Joseph, tied to the steps and fully a half-mile inland. Close by lay Charley Hughes, Alfred and Sammie, stranded. A view about the old house disclosed fences and walks, out-sheds blown down, and the water over everything.
But the wreck and destruction in and about Huffman’s and the shore-end of Central Wharf was indescribable. Here was gathered the debris of the wharf itself, commingled with fences, lumber from Moelling’s yard, planking of numerous little houses and out buildings that clustered about that locality, several skiff-boats—all completely blocking up the street and making a picture of utter desolation.
Not a vestige, save a few scattered pots—where the T-head used to be, was to be seen of Lott’s wharf. All had been swept away.
Between the Central and Lott’s wharf, in the neighborhood of Dunn and McManigle, all was gone save the “main” buildings themselves.
Passing Lott’s wharf, Moelling’s lumber pile had endeavored to see how much space it could occupy with __________ taken the piles by piece-meal and scattered them for blocks around.
At Mrs. Wyatt’s was found a sloop tied to a cedar tree in the yard, and a skiff against the gate, the waves breaking over all.
Further up and beyond Maltby’s, was Evans’ new warehouse, with one brick hardly upon another, doors one place, roof another, and wonder of wonders, the window glass over the doors not even cracked! Resting against the east wall of the warehouse was a section of the flooring of Anderson’s wharf.
At Anderson’s was general destruction. His wharf, costing a thousand dollars, was gone; a large number of cords of wood, several small boats, and many other articles of value had been swept away.
Up above Woessner’s corner we fund a large schooner jammed in against a house, partly under the gallery, the foundation of the building gone, and a yawl boat half way under the house.
At John Hall’s were found a sloop tied to his gallery post, fences gone—as everywhere else along the beach. But John had a roaring fire in the house, at which chilled limbs and bodies were warmed before proceeding.
At the Dix House, Foster’s Murphy’s and beyond, was the same scene of dreary destruction; everything pretty and inviting obliterated from existence, from torn up shrubbery laid level with the ground, no traces of the bath-houses that on Thursday were so inviting—everything gone—disappeared.
Water street is a thing of the past—“gone glimmering among the misty dream of things that were.” Seventy-five to a hundred feet have been eaten up by the hungry waves, and not even a foothold is left between some of the houses and the water. And in this consists an almost irreparable damage, for it gives us opportunity, unless remedied, for the next storm to take half the buildings that remain.
The Rincon, which we visited Monday morning, presents much the same appearance as the lower portion of town.
The T-had of Gussett’s wharf is swept away, and much of the flooring. Headen’s wharf is badly damaged, the T-head also being gone, with a large quantity of bones that were on both wharves. A lumber schooner, moored at Gussett's wharf, is planted fairly in the middle of the road, half a mile from her proper place.
The warehouses of both the wharves were not damaged.
Deavalon’s new house had the south end started (?) out, and a large cistern at Gussett’s thrown over, Zeigler’s place, shared in the general destruction as far as fences were concerned.
The Bayou between Corpus Christi and Brooklyn is not wadeable, there being twelve feet of water in it, and the current running like a mill-tail.
Scattered over the whole face of the earth about the Rincon is Sidbury’s lumber yard. The best part of it is there, but its dispersed condition is marvelous.
A room adjoining the Convent had it tin roof torn completely of and thrown in the street.
The tine roof of the east side of the public school building is also torn off, and hangs by a portion of that remaining.
A new building in the rear of Col. Lovenskiold’s was blown down and utterly wrecked.
A Mexican in one wrecked jacal on the hill was injured quite seriously by the roof falling upon him.
Mr. L. A. Duck, back of town, had his stable and carriage house blown down. Mr. Ward suffered considerable damage to his property. The star, vane and indicator on the tower of the Congregational church broke off and sailed a long distance. Pricila captured some of them.
The Market gardeners, Mr. Bailey and Mr. Dunn, estimate the damage to their crops, ground and fences at $500 each.
Mr. Frost Allen, who came in late Saturday night, reports a world of water between this place and his rancho. Everything is flooded. The arroyo near the Britton ranch is overflowed, and the house is yielding to the pressure.
Col. Moore’s place, at Tula lake, is reported as five feet under water.
To conceive of the condition of things in the country, remember the locality of the ranches, imagine them as surrounded by two feet or more of water, fences down, gardens washed away, trees uprooted—and the idea will not be wide of the truth.
By Capt. Cleaveland, who arrived yesterday from Indianola and Rockport, we learn that no damage has been done either of those places, the storm passing to the south almost entirely. This is good fortune that was not anticipated.
Mr. Albert Allen, arriving last night from M. Kenedy’s reports great damage to stock, fences, etc. over the routes he came. He also reports a Mexican drowned off Flour Bluff.
There is a loss of one trip of all land mails certain—perhaps more, as Laredo and Brownsville are not yet heard from. The mails from San Antonio and Rio Grand City came in forty –eight hours behind time, and were greatly damaged. Brownsville mail, leaving Saturday morning was still at the Petronilla, yesterday morning. The mail boat leaving last Thursday morning was at Shell Bank yesterday, and none have arrived since Thursday. A through mail was sent yesterday by private boat, Capt. Steinhardt in charge.
If the storm struck Indianola and Galveston and other places as severely as here, the damage will be immense. We hoped they have escaped as we have heretofore, when our neighbors suffered.
On Padre Island, near the Peaeseal, a large warehouse belonging to Captain Kenedy was blown down level wit the ground, five or six miles below that another warehouse was badly damaged, with considerable loss of salt.
At Padre Settlement, twenty five miles from here, 25,000 bushels of salt on the beach were washed away. The wind was terrible in its strength, and the water rose over ten feet. Trees ten inches in diameter were snapped like reeds.
Every vessel in port parted all cables and went ashore during the storm.
By Mr. Wm. Anderson, of the schooner Flour bluff, just in from the Infernio Rancho, on Laguna Madre, about seventy miles from Corpus, we learn of great damage. Two vessels were lost, and several hundred ton of bones; also several thousand bushels of salt. At Flour Bluff Capt. Kenedy lost about 10,000 bushels of salt. Below the Bluff two schooners, are sunk, one, the Sea Highland, loaded with 600 bushels of
salt. His fences and cattle pens are all down.
Capt. Dick Jordan ran jut before the storm from Sabine, with his vessel loaded with shingles, hold and deck. He encountered the beast in its fury on entering Aransas Pass. He lost both his anchors—the cables parting with a snap, his sails burst, and his craft ran upon Hog Island, near shell Bank, where the waves broke over and felled her, but where the storm was passed other wise in safety. Yesterday he took off his deck load, pumped out his boat and came home. He expected to find things worse than they are and is sure the gale was more severe outside. He says it all seems to him like a dream.
The goods in the bonded warehouses were all saved uninjured excepting five sacks of rice, worth about $40. To the energy, industry, strength and faithfulness of Maj. Jas. Downing is owing the safety of the large quantity of good in bond there. Having to break in the doors late Saturday afternoon, when the danger became imminent, because one of the keys could not be obtained, he gathered a force and worked all night to put the goods above the water, packing a large portion of them up stairs
for that purpose, and standing firmly to his post when there was danger that the house itself would be undermined by the flood, one door having been broken in. To him it is owing that the large proportion of the goods brought in bond from Germany and in transit to Mexico, were saved; and to him Mr. Buckley, in whose care they were, wishes special thanks rendered for the favor. Such faithfulness merits special mention.
Col. Gusset sent about sixty Mexicans to his wharf Monday morning, to repair damages, with directions to stay there, camped, until it was repaired. A calamity is half overcome when it is so met. A woman was seen rafting through the overflowed streets Monday.
The Central Wharf Company, with commendable energy, have commenced rebuilding.
Both steamships stayed inside the bay, keeping up a full head of steam for emergencies, and so rode out the gale.
A colored man named Sidney Page dropped upon a pretty deep hole at Hoffman’s corner on the __________, and not being able to swim came near drowning.
Several of the iron rails of Lott’s wharf were found under the T-head of Central Wharf.
It is not all bad, for the gale that shattered the Central Wharf T-head deepened the water so that steamers can come along side easily. Sixteen feet are reported.
Per contra, the soil washed from the bluff fills the streets on the __________ leaving the Wharf. Saturday as resembling a flight of birds. A whirlwind struck one pile and melted it away in a few seconds.
Messrs. Westervelt and Blanc, telegraph operators, are busy repairing lines.
The experience of Saturday night and Sunday shows the need of having a government building here suitable for the custom house, with its bonded warehouse, and the other public offices, all placed above the reach of any flood and made storm proof. It is the opinion of Maj. Downing that, had the storm lasted a little longer the bonded warehouse would have been undermined. It would not be safe to give it another such a trial.
It is an immediate necessity that the sluices be opened to let off the sea of water, now that the bay has receded. This is the interest of health. If this flood is left to subside on its own will, much sickness will be added to the calamity.
We need to have Prof. Meyer extend his weather observations to Corpus Christi. Danger signals would have been in place all day Saturday. We need a sea-wall along the whole front of the city, hemmed in in a pocket, as we are, where a storm drives the sea right upon us. More of this anon.
It is suggested that a portion of the bluff be leveled to fill up Chaparral street. We will have to come to that at last.
A breakwater will cost but a few thousand dollars, and all our people will willingly bear the expense.
There was a fire last night at Meuly’s , on the hill, destroying a large building on the premises. It occurred about three o’clock in the morning, and no help was to be obtained. The building was the store of Mr. John Meuly, with all its contents, and was the work of an incendiary, it is supposed. Our object in keeping this extra open until to-day was the hope of hearing from abroad—inland and onward. It (was) in vain. Nobody who came from the country except it was under compulsion. The wires are
down everywhere and we can hear nothing. Mr. Westervelt thinks it will take a week to re-establish telegraph communication, in some places as the __________ a numb of poles are down.
But for the active and untiring exertions of Mr. Southaral (?), in charge of the large and costly stock of D. Schwartz & Co., much loss would have been suffered by that firm.
Mr. John Fogg receives heartfelt praise for his active exertions to avert disaster Saturday night. He was untiring in his labors and did not spare horseflesh whenever called upon. John always comes right side up.
The wharf men will reclaim the wharf timbers wherever found.
The railroad question is drowned out for the present. Will take it up again soon.
No church bell rang Sunday to call the people to thanksgiving for life preserved and for the abating storm, suitable as that would have been. He must be an atheist, or worse, who was not thankful at home, and who failed to express that thankfulness.
The pecuniary damage—actual destruction of property, cannot be less than $50,000. Against such loss there is no insurance.
Fences and trees were the special sport of the storm. They went down like autumn leaves before a gale.
Human charity will doubtless be needed for some of the sufferers of Saturday and Sunday.
We cannot be too grateful that no human life was lost in the storm. The loss of property, heavy as it is, is as nothing in the comparison.
At three to four o’clock Sunday morning the hurricane was simply fearful. It was fortunate that it did not, as often it does, shift its direction and redouble its fury.
It is not pleasant to have to remove families from inundated houses in the darkness of a storm-enveloped night, as on Saturday night, it is pleasant that they can be removed, and that safe places can be found.
Everybody was glad to have day break Sunday morning; danger seems less terrible when it can be seen.
The postoffice was as much demoralized as the other business places on Saturday and Sunday. No mails went nor came, and just one whole letter was dropped in the office between sunset Saturday and the same time Sunday; card by eight o’clock Monday. Nine letters in forty hours—that’s business.
It was comfortable to get out of doors again Monday morning. Concrete brick melt down under such storms as that, unless they are old and covered with cement.
The whole town went prospecting Monday morning, to see what was left. The outlook was not pleasant.
The bay is retiring to its proper limits. Yesterday it was not easy to tell where the water ended and the land began.
If anybody finds a pair of gold rimmed spectacles in or near the sluice about Mr. Caldwell’s on Chaparral street, when the “waters are assuaged” we will pay him well to let us know. They found a watery grave through the untimely and unpremeditated capsizing of a horse on Monday.
It is a melancholy proof of human obliquity when men and boys take advantage of such a time to steal property, even going in the night for that purpose. It almost reconciles one to the rigid Calvinistic definitions of total depravity.
Capt. Jordan is sure Galveston must have suffered greatly. He thought of running in there to save himself, but resolved to try the Pass, and is glad he did so. He says the shipping at Galveston must have had a hard time.
There are rumors that Brownsville was under water and Indianola washed away; but nothing is or can be known till somebody can come from those places.
The Gazette local knows what mud is and all about it. He got stuck in it twice Monday.
We have taken pains to ascertain the damage done by the storm consulting when we could with the business men as to their individual losses, in the main taking their estimates, and the best data we could obtain in other cases. The T-heads of all the wharves are gone or badly battered, and the storehouses of such as had them. The Lott wharf is gone entirely, and the others more or less broken. The injury to the wharves is nearly or quite one-half the loss of private property in the city. Men reported as heavy losers assure us that a few score, or at most a few hundred dollars will make them good. Below we give such facts as we could gather and for the most part they are the owners own estimates. Some others have suffered more or less, no doubt, but these are the heavy losers.
We do not include the damage to the lot fronts and gardens on Water street, nor to the public roads; it is impossible to estimate it. Aside from that, the loss will probably come within $50,000and we believe all repairs will be made for considerable less than that sum. Of course this kind of damage has no insurance.
Doddridge, Lott & Co. Central Wharf $5,000
Staples & Lott Wharf 6,000
Gussett’s or Merchants’ Wharf 10,000
E. D. Sidbury & Co., lumber 3,000
Moelling & Co., lumber 2,000
Geo. F. Evans, warehouse, bones, etc. 2,000
Anderson, wharf, wood, etc. 1,000
Headen’s wharf 2,000
P. Gueydam, damage to goods 300
J. Henry “ “ 300
P. Henry “ “ 200
E. Frank “ “ 100
Wm. DeRyee “ “ 100
T. Carlen “ “ 300
Ed Buckley “ “ and residence 200
Capt. Foster, bath house and residence 250
J. B. Murphy, bath house & breakwater 300
Roberts & __________ 100
H. W. Berry, residence 250
Geo. French, “ 400
J. M. Hunter “ 300
Deavolons “ 200
L. D. Brewster, tobacco, etc. 250
R. W. Archer, tools 300
Total approximate loss $37,050
Fifteen per cent general damages about town 5,500
Grand total $42,550
Source: Nueces Valley, September 12, 1874, p.1, col. 1
Research by: Msgr. Michael A. Howell
Transcription by: Geraldine D. McGloin, Nueces County Historical Commission