It is my habit to compose these blog entries on Sunday mornings and I had anticipated that they would all be centered on Margaret Edythe Young. Both of these rules will prove a little flexible this week. As I go further into her story I find there is a tremendous need to include material to put her days and works into a context that will make it something more than mere family history and as I discover sources I want to explain where they are from and what they are in order that I may encourage my readers on their own voyages of discovery.
A happy coincidence this week is that today is Independence Day. Her family was Irish, refugees from the Potato Famine and its consequences, but they became Americans. Not hyphenated Americans but proud citizens of a great republic who went on to serve their communities in business, in office and in the armed forces. Although no group has assimilated more thoroughly – or more successfully – into American life no group has clung so tenaciously to its heritage or had that heritage have such a profound impact on their adopted country.
I have often thought that it was our shared heritage – having to throw off the yoke of English oppression – that gave us so much in common but it is with a tremendous sadness that we look at these pictures of turn of the century Ireland. The United States were close to celebrating the sesquicentennial of their independence and were looking forward like no other nation of the day. Ireland still labored in captivity and even the pictures meant to show rural life at its best betray the poverty of a people left in feudalism to get by in conditions that we condemn in the third world today.
There is the story of the Irishman travelling west through America and when he comes to the Rockies he writes to his brother, “Sean, come quick. They’ve got so much land here they’re stackin’ it up!”, and this feeling of having reached a promised land must have surely delighted the Irish of Galveston as well. It may have been little more than a swamp but it was FREE! and all of Texas and unlimited vistas of freedom opened before them.
You have only to consider another American holiday – St. Patrick’s Day – to see how the harp and shamrock are part of the tapestry of liberty. What other holiday, short of Independence Day, brings out such a joyous celebration of the good things that are American? Unless you live in an Italian community you are as likely to think that Columbus Day has Spanish roots [the Nina, the Pinta, the Santa Maria] and you may not even know that he hailed from Genoa. While Ireland may be considered the gentiles Israel – someplace everybody wants to be from but nobody wants to live – being Irish is like being a Texan. The experience is too large for all but the hardiest of souls and the only thing that tempers them is being an American as well. Like my great grandfather I am blessed to be Irish, privileged to be Texan and honored to be an American.
The anchor and north star for the Irish in Galveston were the fraternal organizations and the Church. In an effort to present the communities view of how they imagined Ireland and how they responded to America we have used pictures from a Photographic View Album of Irish Life from Valentine & Sons, Dundee, County Donegal and captioned them with information from Morrison and Fourmy’s General Directory of The City of Galveston 1899-1900 about the fraternal and Church organizations. The city directories are not like our modern phone books. They have the names of many of the residents, their professions, their residence, their office address or employer and a good deal of other information. As you will see from other data we have collected from the directory they are very good sources of information.
The advertisements in the directories are a social history unto themselves. I have, for instance, learned that J. J. Schott, Druggist, could have sold me Pal-Pinto Water that cured rheumatism, jaundice, diseases of the prostate gland and liver troubles – thank Heaven he was open all night! The Marx Brothers were neither a vaudeville act nor movie stars – they were shoemen who sold snappy styles in up-to-date footwear. B. A. Cook, the grocer, sold California wines and brandies and both wholesale and retail butterine – I think he missed out on the chance to advertise that your cook could be your grocer. Richard Helms sold and did first-class repair work on bicycles, E. A. Joseph & Company could supply hats, caps and umbrellas and Wm. Schadt could furnish you with mantels and grates and all your building needs. The ads are a unique window on a past world.
The indispensable source for Galveston history is the Rosenberg Library. In particular the Galveston and Texas History Center of the library has fantastic online resources – I have used their list below to indicate people lost in the 1900 Storm. The Center, on the third floor of the library, has some of the most professional – and kindest – research librarians that you will ever encounter. When I began this project nearly 20 years ago my first stop was the Rosenberg. Now I am there online at least once a day and find a reason to be there in person at least once a week – you never know when you will chance on your own Rosetta Stone.
Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division No. 1 of Galveston – organized March 5, 1895, Membership 75. Meet 1st Tuesday, 3rd Sunday of each month at St. Patrick’s Hall. Owen Byrne, president Peter Morris, vice-president Michael Hefferman, recording secretary M. F. Collerain, financial secretary P. W. Collerain, treasurer Mike McCormack, the current AOH National Historian, related to us recently in an email, when a devastating storm in December, 1900 killed 8,000 people in Galveston and left thousands homeless, the AOH was among the first to assist. A letter from the Dallas County President sent to the AOH National Board read in part: Hardly had the storm spent the mad fury of its force when your grand old order came with ample assistance to alleviate the suffering of the wounded and relieve the distress of the homeless.
Emmet Benevolent Association, Branch No. 54 – organized March 4, 1878, Incorporated January 1, 18979, Membership 100, Meet 1st and 3rd Friday of each month at Temple of Honor Hall. M. F. Collerain, president Martin Kelly, vice-president Pat Barry, treasurer P. J. Studdert, recording secretary M. Hefferman, financial secretary G. O’Shaughnessy, John Smith, Wm. Murphy, trustees.
St. Patrick’s Branch, No. 522, Catholic Knights of America – organized January 3, 1888, Membership 31. Meet 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month at their hall NE corner of 35th and Avenue K. Rev. J. T. Nicolson, Spiritual Director W. N. Ray, president [the entire Ray family perished in the 1900 Storm] Geo. Stenzel, recording secretary J. H. Milan, financial secretary and treasurer [Milan’s wife and four children – aged 1, 2, 3 & 4 perished in the 1900 Storm] R. Echavarrie, sergeant-at-arms J. J. Carroll, sentinel The objective of the organization was to, “promote friendship, unity, and true Christian charity among its members; friendship in assisting each other by every honorable means; unity, in associating together for mutual support of one another when sick or in distress, and in making suitable provision for widows, orphans and dependents of deceased members; true Christian charity, in doing unto each other as we would have others do unto us.”
St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum– on Galveston beach 4 miles west of Tremont Street. Under the supervision of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. Mother Gabriel, Superior [There were 90 children and 10 nuns lost here in the 1900 Storm] There was no Child Protective Services in 1900 and the care of foundlings was left to orphanages however in Galveston there was an additional charge to keep for these institutions. Many of the seaman who came from Galveston, or who lived there between voyages that could last six months to two years, had families without the benefit of clergy. They lived with their wives and children when they were in port but when they went back to sea their wives might return to work in saloons or for pennies on Post Office street and their children would be left with the sisters – visited by their mothers in a safe environment and restored to their families when their father’s returned. Progress has done away with such institutions.
Altar Society of St. Patrick’s Church – organized 1875. Membership 100. Meet 1st Sunday of each month 4 p.m. Rev. C. J. G. Lowery, spiritual director Mrs. E. M. MacInerney, president Mrs. M. Bailey, vice-president [the entire Bailey family – husband, wife and three children – aged 1, 2 & 3 perished in the 1900 Storm] Mrs. C. S. Ott, secretary Mrs. D. Fahey, treasurer
Children of Mary of St. Patrick’s Church – Membership 60. Meet 3rd Sunday of each month 4 p.m., at girls’ school. Rev. C. J. G. Lowery, spiritual director Miss M. McKenna, prefect [Joseph Patrick McKenna, his wife and two children as well as Patrick Joseph McKenna and his two children perished in the 1900 Storm]
The Daughters of Erin of St. Patrick’s Church – organized 1898. Membership 60. Meet 4th Tuesday of each month 4 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Hall. Rev. C. J. G. Lowery, spiritual director Mrs. P. Collerain, president
League of the Sacred Heart of St. Patrick’s Church – organized 1892. Membership 150. Meet 1st Friday of each month at the church. Rev. C. J. G. Lowery, spiritual director Miss Mary Graney, secretary
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church – NW corner of 34th and Avenue K. Rev. Father C. J. G. Lowery, pastor Rev. John T. Nicholson, assistant Services: Mass 6 and 8 a.m. High Mass and sermon 10 a.m. Cathecism 9 a.m. Vespers 7:30 p.m.
Holy Rosary Industrial and Day School – NW corner of Sealy Avenue and Avenue I. Industrial school for girls and day school for boys and girls under the direction of the Sisters of the Holy Family.
St. Patrick’s Parochial School – SW corner of 34 street and Avenue K. Day school for boys and girls under the direction of the Ursuline Ladies.
University of St. Mary – Southside of Sealy Avenue [Avenue I between 13th and 14 streets] A complete collegiate and commercial school for boys and young men. Under the management of the Fathers of the Society of Jesus. Rev. Father Amadeus Guyol, S. J. president and rector Rev. V. Jouannet, S. J. Rev. Thomas J. O’Callaghan, S. J. Rev. A. Blatter, S. J. assistant pastors Rev. Geo. A. Rittmeyer, S. J. professor of rhetoric and humanities Rev. Michael Kenny, S. J. professor of grammar Rev. Leo Dowling, S. J. Rev. A. B. Cooke, S. J. Rev. Paul E. Elfer, S. J. Rev. Emil Baher, S. J. Rev. John McGhee, S. J. professors of languages
Ursuline Convent – South side of Avenue N between 25th and 27th Streets. Boarding and day school for young ladies. Under the direction of the Daughters of St. Angeli di Merici [Ursuline Ladies] Mother St. Agnes, superioress, 40 assistants. The nuns at the convent began tolling the bell when the 1900 Storm stuck to guide people to the safety of the Academy building – after the storm some 1,500 people were found there having been saved by the refuge.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the Catholic church presence in Galveston of 1900 there are at least two dozen more including the Cathedral. It was selected for the interest of the Irish of the city at that time and especially for the impact on Margaret Edith Young and her family. In addition to the Catholics there were two Jewish congregations including B’nai Israel where Rabbi Cohen presided, a Russian Greek Orthodox church, a Seaman’s Bethel and too many protestant churches to enumerate. As the story continues we will return time and again to these institutions, especially the Ursuline Academy that in 1900 offered two five month terms, tuition $100.00 per term, music and art classes extra!