Love – his family called him Billie – happened to be on the mainland when a
powerful hurricane devastated Galveston
on Sept. 8, 1900.
storm cut the island city off from the rest of the world. Telegraph and telephone
lines were down, so word of the terrible storm spread slowly at first. But once
he learned of the catastrophe, Love with great difficulty made his way homeward
to see if his wife and two children had survived.
Three weeks later, Love
finally had time to write his mother a letter telling her what he found when he
reached the island. His six-page account personalizes the aftermath of the unnamed
tropical cyclone, a water and wind-filled giant that killed an estimated 6,000
to 8,000 people and had a major impact on the lives of many thousands more, including
The letter stayed in the Love family for more than a century.
Then one day, a young man walked into a downtown Galveston
antique mall and offered it for sale. The mall owner looked it over and bought
it. The letter changed hands again last spring, and then a final time this summer.
A relic of another era that conveys the timeless and universal sorrow of loss,
the document now has a permanent home in the Texana Collection at Baylor University.
a reason not explained in the letter, Love was in Houston
when he sat down to write his mother on October 2. He knew she had been worried,
since the hurricane had left much of what had been Texas’
largest city in ruins. Surely, as she read the letter, she understood her son’s
delay in penning it.
published for the first time, is Love’s account:
Oct 2, 
I thought you would be uneasy about
us, but I have been so busy trying to get affairs straightened out. We found little
Lucy, Ed Klein’s oldest child. She was found unconscious, and it was a week before
we knew of her. She was badly bruised, but is getting better. Harry Klein of New
York will take little Henry, and Lula & Mrs. Harkness are very anxious for Lucy
to come to them. They now live in San
Antonio and are doing well. We lost all our furniture, every thing we had
[illegible: financed?] and all my books. Did not find a trace of our house, and
have not recovered the bodies of any of the folks. I spent 6 days looking for
something to lead me to the house, but could not find even a sheet of music or
paper. There is not a house standing within four blocks of where they lived. I
don’t think I will ever get over it. I had to walk on and swim through dead bodies
for several miles before I got to the bridge. Never was in any danger, but it
was the terrible sights I saw that haunt me. Just as I got on the island saw the
body of a little boy, who was just the size of Sydney, and had on a shirt waist
just like his, and it took me a long time to determine if it was him. The only
way I could tell was by the birth mark on Sydney’s arm. Before I got to the city
I met a newspaper man, who told me everything in our neighborhood was gone and
he could not encourage me as to my family. Of course I did not expect to find
any of them alive, and when I did find Addie and Sydney I collapsed. I did not
have anything to eat or water to drink for 24 hours.
Charley Lloyd, Gertie
& Charles and Mrs Lloyd were lost; Johnson and family are all right; the [illegible:
Harkeys?] are all right, except Mrs. [illegible: Lea….?] lost three children.
I have had letters from printers and friends all over the United States,
who all offered anything they had. I am answering them as fast as I can. I had
a letter from Mattie Love’s husband, and he was very nice. I do not feel like
writing, and I hope they will all understand how I feel. I can’t get my mind on
Addie is not at all well and will have an operation performed
in a few days. I will not [illegible: discuss?] it much now, but if it goes on
will be bad. Her womb and bladder are growing together, causing kidney trouble.
She will go to the infirmary.
Willie arrived here from South America yesterday
and will work in Galveston.
I don’t think he will stay as he will not be satisfied there now. He is staying
a few days with us.
We are flat broke. It took all the money I could raise
to buy clothes for Sydney and Addie. They lost everything they had.
to all the folks and tell my friends howdy
a different hand, upside-down on the bottom of the letter’s last page is this
endorsement: “Uncle Billies letter to Grandma Love soon after the Galveston
storm – Sept. 8-1900.”
Cox - September 5, 2013 column
Storms | See Galveston
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