Podcast: After the Great Storm, Earning the Badge of Resilience

More of a visual learner? Read the transcript of this week's Galveston Unscripted podcast episode below:

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As Galvestonians emerged from their homes on the morning of September 9th, they witnessed an indescribable sight, an utter tragedy. The city of Galveston had been maimed and disfigured by the worst natural disaster in United States History. An estimated 6,000 Galvestonians had been lost to the calamity and the costs of the damage was in the tens of millions of dollars. imagine walking through a city full of rubble, climbing over homes that had been decimated to sticks and piles of timber, and people crying for help all around you. The citizens in complete shock, they initiated rescue and clean up efforts immediately throughout the city.

The days that followed were excruciating for all of the survivors. The weather was exceptionally hot. Communications and transportation to and from the island had been severed. Thieves and looters would scavenge through the wreckage for anything of value. City officials, police, and military personnel instituted martial law on the island. To prevent all-out chaos, all of the surviving saloons were ordered to be closed and the looters and thieves would be executed on the spot.

All able-bodied men, regardless of social status, were forced, some at bayonet point, to work cleaning up the city and disposing of the masses of dead bodies. What was the payment for these working men? They were given as much whiskey as they could tolerate in order to follow through with the unimaginable task of placing unclaimed and unidentifiable bodies onto barges that would be thrown into the Gulf. This effort would prove fallible, as most of the bodies washed back onto the beach, adding to the horrific experience. The last resort was to commence mass cremations before the bodies began to decay and disease began to spread. Urgency was of utmost importance, as the city was no stranger to deadly pathogens.

As word spread around the globe of the destruction of the queen city on the Gulf, assistance in the form of money, food, and supplies began to arrive to the staggering citizens. The city was in great need of water, food, kerosene oil, candles and basic daily essentials. Charitable organizations set up relief camps on the mainland for destitute women and children. Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross traveled to Galveston and distributed over $120,000 worth of relief supplies around the island. Railroads all over the country hauled supplies to Galveston for free, and even held competitions of what Rail companies supplies could reach the island first.

Money and supplies were donated from all over the country, and even the world. Galveston received donations from England, France, Germany, Canada, and countless other locations. Morale began to slowly improve as infrastructure began to be restarted and rebuilt.

The Street Cars in Galveston were running by September 17th. The Grain Elevator at the port was operational and grain was loaded on a ship by September 21st, and the port of Galveston exported their first shipment after the Great Storm. Over the next few months, Galveston slowly crawled back to life. Restaurants opened, homes were rebuilt, and entertainment venues made their way back into island life. The 1894 Opera House was up and running by January 1901. Many survivors and businesses lost most, if not, everything they had to their name, and many left Galveston, never to return.

City officials quickly diverted their discussion of how to rebuild the island, to discuss options to protect Galveston from another horrific event such as the Great Storm.

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J.R. Shaw Creator & Host of Galveston Unscripted

J.R. Shaw is the creator and host of Galveston Unscripted Podcast & audio tour. Shaw recognizes that history is nuanced and learning it can be powerful. He's made it his mission to reduce the friction between true history and anyone who is willing to listen! J.R. Shaw focuses on telling the full story through podcasting and social media with the goal of making learning accurate history easy and entertaining for all who seek it.

J.R. grew up along the Texas Gulf Coast, where he learned to love talking with anyone about anything! He started Galveston Unscripted after he realized how much he loved talking to people about their stories related to Galveston Island and Texas History. "So much of our history is lost when we don't have the opportunity to hear from those who lived it or have second-hand knowledge."