Galveston (mid 19th Century) served as a transfer point for oceangoing vessels and coastal steamers which ran a route through Galveston Bay and Buffalo Bayou to Houston.
The island has sometimes been called the "Ellis Island of the West" as it was the primary point of entry for European immigrants settling in the western United States. German immigration during this period was so great that the German language became a commonly used language on the city's streets. The immigrants were not simply the poor or the oppressed seeking refuge but many of the educated, middle class.
The Galveston Weekly News described one 1849 ship's arrival as carrying members of the "wealthy class" including lawyers and merchants and many skilled workers.
|Beach Hotel catered to vacationers until a fire in 1898.|
Between 1838 and 1842, 18 newspapers were started to serve the island's rapidly growing population (The Galveston County Daily News is the sole survivor). A causeway linking the island with the mainland was finished in 1860, which paved the way for railroad expansion.
In 1843 Henry Rosenberg (friend of my great Uncle Chauncy Sweet) settled in Galveston from Switzerland. I shared about his contributions to the city HERE.
The construction of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad, which built a bridge to the island in 1860, strengthened the link between the two towns.
Tensions over slavery in the U.S. as a whole eventually led to the American Civil War, [April 12, 1861 to April 9, 1865], in which Texas joined on the side of the Confederacy. The Battle of Galveston was fought in Galveston Bay and island on January 1, 1863, when Confederate forces under Major General John B. Magruder attacked and expelled occupying Union troops from the city, which remained in Confederate hands for the duration of the war.
Juneteenth, which is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, owes its origins to the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation upon the return of Union forces to Galveston in 1865.My ancestor, George T. Granger (Lucy's husband) wrote at the beginning of the Civil War in Dec. 1861 of the death of their daughter, Mary Phillips, HERE for letter and transcription.
During the Civil War, orphans Zulieka and Ada Phillips were taken in by the Granger family, either with Lucy Pulsifer Granger, their grandmother, or with Aunts Lucy Granger Wakelee or Lizzie (Elizabeth) Granger Sweet. I am a descendent of Zulieka. I wrote in my blog about their mother's letters to her sisters prior to the outbreak of the war HERE transcriptions of more of Mary Phillips letters.
Following the war Galveston quickly recovered; northern troops were stationed in the city, and a depleted state demanded the trade goods denied by the blockade and the war effort. With so many susceptible people present, however, the city in 1867 suffered one of its worst onslaughts of yellow fever, which affected about three-fourths of the population and killed at a rate of twenty per day. This disease, a malady of most southern ports, did not cease to be a threat until the institution of rigid quarantines after 1873. Galveston nonetheless surged ahead and ranked as the largest Texas city in 1870 with 13,818 people and also in 1880 with 22,248 people.
In spite of efforts to maintain trade supremacy by improving port facilities and contributing to the construction of railways running to the city, Galveston business leaders saw their town slip to fourth place in population by 1900. Galveston acquired a coast guard station in 1897 which still operated in the 1990s and a small military base, Fort Crockett (1897–1957), but other cities such as Dallas acquired transcontinental rail connections and a growth in manufacturing establishments. At a time when Houston, Beaumont, and Port Arthur benefitted from the oil discoveries of the early twentieth century, Galveston had to put its energy into a recovery from the nation's worst natural disaster, the Galveston hurricane of 1900. The island lay in the pathway of hurricanes coursing across the Gulf of Mexico and suffered at least eleven times in the nineteenth century.I mentioned Elizabeth Granger Sweet, "Grand Aunt" to my relatives, who survived the hurricane of 1900, HERE.
And my own grandfather, George Rogers, Sr. also was a survivor of that hurricane, who I honored in this post which includes details and pictures.
The Galveston hurricane of 1900, with wind gusts of 120 miles per hour, flooded the city, battered homes and buildings with floating debris, and killed an estimated 6,000 people in the city. Another 4,000 to 6,000 people died on the nearby coast. For future protection the city and county constructed a seventeen-foot seawall on the Gulf side of the island, raised the grade level, and built an all-weather bridge to the mainland. The development of other ports by means of the ship channels, alternative sites for business and manufacturing provided by other modes of transportation, and notoriety because of hurricanes destined the island city to medium size.My grandmother, Ada Swasey Rogers, also survived the storm, and in 1906 married my grandfather.
I gave a lot of the same information about Galveston a couple of years ago on this blog HERE.
|Rogers house, built by my grandfather and where my father was born in 1914.|
|Busy Dock Scene, Galveston, ca. 1912.|
The Galveston–Houston Electric Railway was established in 1911 and ran between the city and Houston. The railway was recognized as the fastest interurban line in 1925 and 1926.More recent times:
During the years between the world wars Galveston, under the influence of Sam and Rosario (Rose) Maceo, exploited the prohibition of liquor and gambling by offering illegal drinks and betting in nightclubs and saloons. This, combined with the extensive prostitution which had existed in the port city since the Civil War, made Galveston the sin city of the Gulf. The citizens tolerated and supported the illegal activities and took pride in being "the free state of Galveston." In 1957, however, Attorney General Will Wilson with the help of Texas Rangers shut down bars such as the famous Ballinese Room, destroyed gambling equipment, and closed many houses of prostitution.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Howard Barnstone, The Galveston That Was (New York: Macmillan, 1966). Charles Waldo Hayes, Galveston: History of the Island and the City (2 vols., Austin: Jenkins Garrett, 1974). David G. McComb, Galveston: A History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986).
My grandparents had moved from Galveston to Fort Worth TX by 1920.
|Postcard view of Beach Boulevard, early 1940s|
Beginning in 1957, the Galveston Historical Foundation began its efforts to preserve historic buildings. The 1966 book The Galveston That Was helped encourage the preservation movement. A new, family-oriented tourism emerged in the city over many years.The 1960s saw the expansion of higher education in Galveston.
|Historic "Strand District" of Galveston|
In the 2000s, property values rose after expensive projects were completed and demand for second homes,[which] led some middle class families to move from Galveston to other areas.
In 2007 The Associated Press compiled a list of the most vulnerable places to hurricanes in the U.S. and Galveston was one of five areas named. Among the reasons cited were low elevation and the single evacuation route off the island which is blocked by the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston
Hurricane Ike made landfall on Galveston Island in the early morning of September 13, 2008 as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h). Ike produced waves and a rising storm surge of about 14 feet (4.3 m), which went around the famous Galveston Seawall, flooding the city via the storm sewers, and the unprotected "bay side" of the island, before the first winds or drop of rain. The storm left Galveston without electricity, gas, water pressure and basic communications.Handbook of Texas History online
and Wikipedia provided facts.
The city will continue, though it may have changes again. But the bones of my ancestors are buried in the cemeteries of Galveston.