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A Terrible Storm, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 178, 28 October 1880
A Terrible Storm
In the end of August last, it will be remembered, a terrible storm devastated several towns in the Gulf of Mexico. A letter from Mr. Zander (brother of Mr. Henry Zander, of Ashburton), who left this town in July last, to go to Mexico, shows that he, bis wife, and child, had some experience of the hurricane, or at least, of its effects, and as Mr. Zander’s narrative of their troubles may be interesting to his friends and acquaintance here, we give his story in his own words. The letter is written to his brother, and we take the extract from it.
Brownsville, Texas, Sept. 3, 1880.
My Dear Henry, —Not until yesterdid we have the pleasure of receiving your July letters. The reason for this delay, and our inability to write to yon by the steamer, which was to have left Frisco on the 28th August, you will learn by the following narative. Wo left San Francisco on Friday, July 30th, and reached Galveston by way of Kansas City and Fort Scott, which is the shortest and cheapest route, on the next Friday, August 6th. The day before, I met in Dallas a gentleman from Brownsville, who told be that he bad just received a letter from New Orleans informing him that a steamer would leave for Brazos next Sunday, and touch at Galveston on Monday The
steamer, in the meantime, was detained in New Orleans until Tuesday night and did not reach Galveston until Thursday morning, August 12th. We had to lay 48 hours in the Galveston Bay, because the captain told us that a fearful storm was x’aging outside in the Gulf, and that it would be dangerous to go out. At last the weather calmed down, and on Saturday, August 14th wc made steam for Brazos, where we arrived next morning, Sunday 15th. But oh ! What a sight to behold. The whole island of Brazos under water. Not a house nor a hut to be seen, and nothing but wrecks of ships and steamers. There we wore, with no possibility to go ashore. Dr. Wolff [a relative of the writer] being quarantine officer, of course we had expected that he would come on board with the pilot, but not a soul was to be soon anywhere. You may imagine how anxious wo all were, especially when the captain said that we would probably have to go back to Galveston again. All day long we were on deck looking out for some human being, and you can imagine Carrie’s and my anxiety about the doctor, when we knew that the quarantine station had been swept away.
In the meantime, Carrie had been very seasick. . . . . . . A dark object
moving inside the bar of Brazos was detected coming nearer the ship, and on closer observation was found to be a rowboat, with five men in her, rowing for their lives. When about half a mile from the ship they signalled that they were worn out, and could not come any nearer, so we got up steam and steamed up to them. There was the pilot, Captain Baker, and four French mariners, nearly exhausted, as the bar and sea were very rough, and they were brought on board. After a little rest Captain Baker told us that a terrible storm had swept over the entire country on the lower Rio Grande, that more than half of Matamoros and Brownsville were lying in ruins, and that in Point Isabel not a house with a good roof was left. Luckily, lie brought us news from the Doctor, who was safe and sound in Point Isabel, and who intended to come out with the pilot, hut Captain Baker would not bring him, as he considered it too dangerous, and really, when we saw the boat with the men in it, we thought every moment she would capsize. The four French mariners who came out with Captain Baker were sailors of a French barque which had been wrecked a few days before, and he had to pay them 025 a-piece to induce them to come along with him.
The sea having subsided and calmed down overnight, Captain Baker and his crew wont to sound the bar and find a channel, so that the steamer could cross. While-they were gone, a steamboat from Brownsville hove insight at the mouth of the river, and on coming nearer we found it to be the tug Ethel, an old tub, but the only boat which was saved from the storm. Old as she was we were glad to see her, as now at least we had a chance to get ashore.
The Ethel went over to the bar, found a good channel, and was soon followed by our steamer, so that at last we were in comparative safety. Here we found the Doctor, who had come over from, the Point in a boat provisionally rigged out. He told us that Mrs. Wolff, . . .
. . had been down at Brazos for over two weeks, waiting for us, but seeing the storm approach, he had sent her back to Brownsville, whore, with the exception of the fright they had during the storm, they were perfectly safe, not having suffered any. Meanwhile the Ethel, which' was to take us over to the Points, sprang a leak,
which they partially repaired in about two hours, and then we got on board of her. Our luggage, for which there was no room on the Ethel, was put into one,of the steamer’s lifeboats, and tied on to the tug. Hardly were wo fifty yards away from the steamer when the Ethel sprang another leak, and there we were, the water rushing in as fast as it could be pumped out of her. Somehow, though, they managed to repair the damage, and about live hours after wo left the steamer reached what was left of the wharf of Point Isabel, while we ought to have got there in about half an hour. I don’t know whether you remember that wharf. It is about 600 yards long, and was formerly easy enough to walk on, but the storm had torn all the planks off, and there was nothing left but the piles and the sleepers, over which we had to walk. I took baby in my arms and inarched on bravely ahead. Behind me came Carrie, led by two Mexicans, as the doctor would not trust himself to lead her. At last we got to terra Jirma, and very glad we were. Here an old
acquaintance of mine and the family, kindly offered us one of her two rooms, which we were very glad to accept. Now there was the difficulty to get up to Brownsville ; the railroad had been washed awav, the telegraph line down, and the whole road more or less under water. Some of the passengers who came with us, and who had business to attend to in Brownsville, started on foot, and were from 36 to 48 hours getting up ; others again hired an ox-cart, which was almost as bad. Probably if I bad been alone, I would have gone afoot or on an ox-cart too ; but it was impossible for Carrie and •the baby to travel that way. Besides, the mosquitoes were so terrible on the road tjfet they could not have stood it. And then we were not in such a particular hurry to get up to Brownsville, except to see the family, and we knew they were well. The only thing wanting in Point Isabel was fresh drinking water, as the cisterns had been filled by sea water, and as we could not drink that, we bad to drink beer. At last, after staying five days at the Point, we heard that a Government mule team had come down from Brownsville to take up some soldiers, and through the influence of Dr. Wolff, they allowed us to come along. We started from +here on Saturday, 21st August, at five o’clock in the morning, and expected to reach Brownsville that same night, but on account of the bad roads we could not make it, and had to camp out, within six miles of this place. What wo suffered that day and that night is beyond all description. To be riding all day long in the hot sun in the month of August (and you know what that means) ; to be eaten up by millions of mosquitoes ; and coming through chapparrall and brushes, where we had to look out for our eyes ; and thousands of groat big ants falling on us—l tell you it was more than I ever expected to go through. How Carrie and the'baby stood it, I don’t know to this day, but they were partly shaded by a waggon cover. The skin of my hands and arms came off, as yon would peel an orange, and the doctor’s hands were so swollen from mosquito and ant bites, that he could not use them for a week or so after I tell you, when on Sunday morning we came in sight of the Brownsville and Matamoros church steeples, some glad faces might have been seen not far from there. At home wo found everybody well.
A Terrible Storm, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 178, 28 October 1880
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