“Queen of the Waves” – Storm of 1900 Galveston

 

“Queen of the Waves” – Storm of 1900 Galveston

 

Wherever they are in the world on Sept. 8, the members of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word sing an old French.

 

Brief:

 

Among the dead were 10 sisters and 90 children from the St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum, operated by the Sisters of Charity.

 

The sisters also operated St. Mary’s Infirmary in Galveston. It was the first Catholic hospital in the state, established in 1867.

 

The sisters were called to Galveston by Catholic Bishop Claude M. Dubuis in 1866 to care for the many sick and infirm in what was the major port of entry for Texas. They were also charged with caring for orphaned children, most of whom had lost parents during yellow fever epidemics.

 

At first the Sisters of Charity opened an orphanage within the hospital, but later moved it three miles to the west on beach-front property on the former estate of Captain Farnifalia Green.

 

The location seemed ideal as it was far from town and the threat of yellow fever.

 

St. Mary’s Orphanage consisted of two large two-story dormitories just off the beach behind a row of tall sand dunes that were supported by salt cedar trees. The buildings had balconies facing the gulf.

 

Plot Note:  There is no real set or expected actions of the PCs, but this is what happened the first time.  If they do nothing it shall continue to happen.

 

Sequence of Events (Hours correspond to the times in the main timeline):

 

1-1.5                  Sister Elizabeth Ryan, one of 10 sisters at St. Mary’s Orphanage, had come into town that morning to collect food. Despite pleas from Mother Gabriel, the assistant superior at St. Mary’s Infirmary, for her to stay at the hospital until the storm passed, Sister Elizabeth said she had to return to the orphanage.

 

Sister Elizabeth said that she had the provisions in the wagon and if she did not return the children would have no supper. She didn’t know that whether she returned or not there would be no more suppers at the orphanage.

 

During the afternoon the winds and rain continued to increase. The tides of the gulf rose higher and higher with fierce waves crashing on the beach sending flood waters into the residential areas.

 

According to one of the boys at the orphanage, the rising tides began eroding the sand dunes “as though they were made of flour.” Soon the waters of the gulf reached the dormitories.

 

The Sisters at the orphanage brought all of the children into the girls’ dormitory because it was the newer and stronger of the two. In the first floor chapel, they tried to calm the children by having them sing “Queen of the Waves.” The waters continued to rise.

 

Taking the children to the second story of the dormitory, the Sisters had Henry Esquior, a worker, collect clothesline rope. Again they had the boys and girls sing “Queen of the Waves.”

 

2                       By 6 p.m. the wind was gusting past 100 miles per hour and the waters of the gulf and bay had met, completely flooding the city. Residents climbed to the second stories, attics and even roofs of their homes. Flying debris struck many who dared venture outside their homes.

 

3                      Around 7:30 p.m. the main tidal surge struck the south shore.  Houses along the beach front were lifted from their foundations and sent like battering rams into other houses. Houses fell upon houses.

 

At St. Mary’s Infirmary the flood waters filled the first floor. From the second story balcony, the sisters pulled refugees in as they floated by and brought them into the over-crowded hospital. Almost every window in the facility was broken out sending the wind and rain whipping through the building.

 

At the orphanage, the children and sisters heard the crash of the boys dormitory as it collapsed and was carried away by the flood waters.

 

The sisters cut the clothesline rope into sections and used it to tie the children to the cinctures which they wore around their waists. Each Sister tied to herself between six to eight children.

 

It was a valiant, yet sacrificial effort to save the children. Some of the older children climbed onto the roof of the orphanage.

 

Eventually the dormitory building that had been the sanctuary for the children and sisters was lifted from its foundation. The bottom fell out and the roof came crashing down trapping those inside.

 

Aftermath:

 

Only three boys from the orphanage survived: William Murney, Frank Madera and Albert Campbell. Miraculously all three ended up together in a tree in the water. After floating for more than a day, they were eventually able to make their way into town where they told the sisters what had happened at the orphanage.

 

One of the boys remembered a sister tightly holding two small children in her arms, promising not to let go.

 

The sisters were buried wherever they were found, with the children still attached to them. Two of the sisters were found together across the bay on the Mainland. One of them was tightly holding two small children in her arms. Even in death she had kept her promise not to let go.

 

At St. Mary’s Infirmary, there was no food or water. While the main hospital building was still standing, the adjacent structures, had been destroyed.

 

The hospital was packed with those who were injured and those who had no where else to go. Two of the Sisters walked about the area until they found crackers and cookies that had been soaked in the water. They brought them back to the hospital and over a fire they built in the street they dried the food and served it to those in need at the infirmary.

 

Firmly committed to the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, the Sisters repaired St. Mary’s Infirmary and, one year later, opened a new orphanage. Today the sisters have extended their ministry to other states and foreign countries.

 

Queen of the Waves, look forth across the ocean
From north to south, from east to stormy west,
See how the waters with tumultuous motion
Rise up and foam without a pause or rest.

But fear we not, tho’ storm clouds round us gather,
Thou art our Mother and thy little Child
Is the All Merciful, our loving Brother
God of the sea and of the tempest wild.

Help, then sweet Queen, in our exceeding danger,
By thy seven griefs, in pity Lady save;
Think of the Babe that slept within the manger
And help us now, dear Lady of the Wave.

Up to the shrine we look and see the glimmer
Thy votive lamp sheds down on us afar;
Light of our eyes, oh let it ne’er grow dimmer,
Till in the sky we hail the morning star.

Then joyful hearts shall kneel around thine altar
And grateful psalms reecho down the nave;
Never our faith in thy sweet power can falter,
Mother of God, our Lady of the Wave.

 

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