1900 Galveston Hurricane, 4/8: Life Continues

By October 21, 2008

In many senses, the event that is a “storm” lasts far longer than the storm itself. Thus, hurricane Ike (2008) found some houses in my home ward with roofs still tarped from Rita (2005). Likewise, psychological and social changes can persist far longer than floodwaters. 1900 was no different.

After recording the initial meteorology and concern, the closest Elder Brooks came to mentioning the storm again was his report on September 29 that he “[d]idn’t rest very well. The mosquitoes were so bad”—right on schedule for heavy flooding the second week of September [1]. He and Elder Folkman were later companions, but that didn’t elicit a comment from Elder Brooks about the storm. Toward the end of October an Elder in the conference, James Mangam, wrote to the Deseret Evening News. Despite having served with Elder Shaw and in Galveston, he did not mention the hurricane [2]. In late November President Jensen and the conference presidency reported to Salt Lake with similarly remarkable understatement/positive-spin [3]:

For the past nine months the Elders…have been laboring…along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico…and as these counties are very low and wet, this being an unusually rainly season, we have had a great deal of wading to do, which has resulted in a considerable amount of sickness in our little band. But we are thankful that the Lord has spared our lives and crowned our efforts with success in finding the honest in heart. We have baptized upwards of fifty person and have made many warm friends and investigators during our summer’s work.

En route to the same meeting, President Duffin made a side-trip to Galveston: “To day I have been looking over the wreck caused by the storm of Sept. 9th. It is terrible to look upon.” Four years later, President Duffin again visited Galveston and “[w]ent out to look at the famous sea wall, built by the county and U.S. government. It is a remarkable piece of work costing over two millions of dollars. Galveston is rapidly recovering…” [4].

Elder Folkman recorded more of the storm’s impacts—probably because he labored more in the storm’s path and because as a survivor he would be both more attuned to and more likely to encounter conversations about it. About seven weeks after landfall he tracted into “an infidel, the worst I ever saw. He said he knew their was no God or he would not have alowed that storm to come and distroy all their crop after they had worked so hard to make them and he would sware just to here himself” [5].

The following March Elder Folkman again worked west of Houston and toward Galveston. With one family the Elders “[d]id not get to talk much gosple as they could talk of nothing but the storm of September as they suffered a good deal throw it.” A few days later they stayed with a Mr. Hardin who reported that “the storm had damaged him very much. He said he did not have much room, but if we were ministers, he would have to take us in.” The next day they “[s]toped with a family where their father had been killed by the storm.” Moving on, they “went to a place where an old gentlemen was batching it. …He is from Denver, Col. He has a farm here. His wife used to run it and he worked in Denver but since the storm, she went north and he had to come and take care of the place.” Finally in Galveston, they “[f]ound things all built up again. You could hardly tell there had been a storm” [6].

The summer of 1901 found Elder Folkman back in Galveston, this time visiting members. The Coquats were baptized in 1897 in central Texas and moved to Galveston in 1900, possibly to participate in the reconstruction. In February 1902 Elder Folkman made a quick visit and “[s]pent most of the day showing Elder Kirkman around the town. Went and seen the house in which I spent the night of the storm.” They stayed with Brother Coquat and then spent the following day “fixing up the matters that we could not get thro with yesterday, that is in regard to the trouble that has existed among the families of saints here.” Thus, Elder Folkman’s last Galveston trip revisited the storm and the family that it (presumably) brought there [7].

The Galveston experience went home with the Elders, at least as a social marker. In the newspaper report on Elder Folkman’s homecoming reception, his hurricane experience is the only information given about his mission; one night in an upstairs room blocked the newspaper’s view of the other two and a half years [8]. In 1903, Elder Shaw presented “A Night in the Galveston Flood” at a celebration of missionary work [9].

As for psychological ripples, faith strengthened or weakened, and lessons learned: such things are difficult to find in documents, and I don’t have many anyway. It is plausible that, as the News noted when first reporting the Elders’ survival, “[t]he memory of their experience will probably never entirely fade away from the minds of those Elders” [10]. How it affected their subsequent experiences and actions or whether, in fact, it was “to them an ever abiding testimony, and a subject of thanksgiving” I do not know.

I have not traced the Elders’ subsequent lives in any detail, but Elder Brooks did catch the edge of another mass tragedy. He died of the flu, at age thirty-seven, in December 1917, just a few months shy of the (commonly accepted start of the) Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 [11].

For links to other posts in this series, please see here.

[1] Mosquito reproduction times vary by species, but two to three weeks is fairly typical for North America. The surviving parts of Elder Brooks’ journal end nine months after the storm but ten months before his mission ended; his later travels might have taken him more directly into the storm’s path and thus prompted an observation.

[2] James H. Mangam, “In the State of Texas: The Saints Firm in the Faith and the Good Work Progressing,” Deseret Evening News, 1900 Nov 03, p. 22.

[3] Journal History of the Church, 25 Nov 1900, p. 2-3.

[4] Duffin Diary, 1900 Nov 19. “To day I have been looking over the wreck caused by the storm of Sept. 9th. It is terrible to look upon. Along the southwest, the south and the eastern portions of the city, hundreds of houses were totally destroyed, and thousands of people lost their lives. I passed by one building, brick, that at the time of the storm contained one hundred twenty inmates. The building was totally destroyed, and besides many others who were killed, it is said there are now sixty buried beneath the ruins. On the cost coast the damage was very great as well as in the city.” Duffin Diary, 1905 Nov 15. The last sentence of the quote is “Galveston is rapidly recovering from the effects of the disastrous storm of 1891.” I don’t know why President Duffin wrote 1891. It’s not a transcription error.

[5] Folkman Diary, 1900 Oct 27.

[6] “[d]id not get to talk much” 1901 Mar 12; “storm had damaged him very much” 1901 Mar 15; “their father had been killed by the storm” 1901 Mar 16; “old gentlemen was batching it” 1901 Mar 17; “[f]ound things all built up again” 1901 Mar 19.

[7] The Coquats’ baptismal date, date of move to Galveston, and supposed reason thereof are from James D. Walsh, a descendant of Sister Coquat through her second marriage (here). Elder Folkman mentions the Coquats 1901 Aug 04, 06 and 1902 Feb 22-25, including blessing one of their grandchildren on the 25th. “Spent most of the day showing,” 1902 Feb 24.

[8] The reception included three choir and two band numbers, one each from a quartet, duo, and soloist, six speeches, and a recitation. “Plain City Notes. Reception Tendered a Missionary Recently Returned,” Ogden Standard Examiner, 1902 Apr 10, p. 5.

[9] Other program items included descriptions of foreign lands, recitations/songs in various languages, and tales of mission life. “North Ogden Amusement Hall. Committee Says That It Will Cost About $5,000. Quorum of Seventies Hold Their Meeting—Other News Items,” Ogden Standard Examiner, 1903 Dec 24, p. 6; “Fiftieth Anniversary of Organization. North Ogden Quorum of Seventies Celebrates,” Ogden Standard Examiner, 1903 Dec 30, p. 5.

[10] “Elders at Galveston Safe,” Deseret Evening News, 1900 Sep 18, p. 4. Paragraphing changed.

[11] The details of Elder Brooks’ death come from a letter by his daughter, Mildred Jones, excerpts of transcript in my possession. The letter was written decades after the fact.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Edje, thanks again for this. I’ve really enjoyed the posts thus far.

    Comment by Christopher — October 22, 2008 @ 1:22 am

  2. Wow, as a Texan, I loved it. I had no idea that missionaries were in Galveston during the great storm. I wonder if any of these converts became the base for the church growth in Houston?

    Comment by PJD — October 22, 2008 @ 9:57 am

  3. Thanks, Chris and PJD.

    Sister Nunn/Munn is not listed anywhere in early Texas church records. Normally when missionaries found a member they reported them to mission headquarters; Elder Folkman did not do so for Sister Nunn. I have not traced her children or grandchildren.

    Brother Coquatt died just a few years after the storm. Sister Coquatt stayed in Galveston for another decade or so, IIRC, then moved back to central Texas, where she remained faithful to the church. She has descendants who are active members.

    There were a handful of members in Houston at the time of the storm. I have not traced their experiences.

    Comment by Edje — October 22, 2008 @ 11:20 am

  4. […] Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the Church in Texas, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » From The Archives: Posts You Might Have Missed, September-October 2008 — July 4, 2009 @ 9:01 am


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