While there are a preponderance of commercial advertisements in the directories there are also a number for schools and we are going to begin this entry with some of those and some information about the schools and the people who ran them.
Informal operations of the University of St. Mary, the first Catholic college in Texas, had started as early as 1852 but it was officially opened by Jean Marie Odin, bishop of Galveston, in 1855 and in 1856 the school was granted a charter as a university by the Texas legislature. Construction of the school building had begun in 1853 on a lot donated by the city – which was delighted to have a university – and the three-story structure was completed by November 1854. After having been run by the Oblates, the Franciscans, a lay faculty, the Christian Brothers, diocesan priests, the Congregation of the Holy Cross and the Sisters of Divine Providence – not to mention having been shelled and nearly destroyed in 1863 by the union navy during the war of northern aggression – the school declined [it had even closed during the yellow fever epidemic of 1867] and a deepening financial crisis threatened the survival of the university during the late 1870s and early 1880s.
In 1884 Bishop Nicholas Aloysius Gallagher assigned the east end of Galveston to the spiritual care of the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits – who were also placed in charge of the University of St. Mary. The Jesuits established Sacred Heart Parish, used the college chapel as a temporary church, and set out to build a large church designed by Nicholas J. Clayton. The new church was dedicated in 1892 and the Jesuits brought stability and academic strength to the school. Father Antoine M. Truchard, who had been ordained at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Galveston, wrote of the school:
The Institution is in a most flourishing condition, and becomes daily more popular. It is attended by pupils from all pats of Texas and Mexico. All branches of a Collegiate education are taught by a full faculty of competent professors. Military tactics form a part of the general instruction. Every facility is afforded the students to acquire the knowledge of modern languages, music, drawing and painting. The terms are exceedingly moderate – $200 cover all expenses of board, tuition, washing, bed and bedding during the whole session of ten months.
The Daughters of St. Angela Di Merci, more commonly known as the Ursuline Sisters, is an order founded in Italy in 1535 and was the first group of Catholic teachers to come to North America; they established schools in Quebec in 1639. The sisters, who had been in New Orleans since 1727, were the first order to volunteer for service in the new state of Texas. In January 1847 seven sisters, headed by Josephine Blin (Sister St. Arsene) , arrived in Galveston, and on the 8th of February were requested by Bishop Jean M. Odin to open the Ursuline Academy as a Catholic day and boarding school for girls – the first institution of its kind in Texas. The group also served as nurses during the Galveston yellow fever epidemics in 1848, 1853, and 1858, turned their newly built school into a hospital during the Civil War for casualties from both sides, worked during the disastrous hurricane of 1875 and assisted in the care of survivors of the Galveston fires of 1854 and 1882.
Margaret Edythe Young would be a graduate of the Ursuline Academy having come from St. Patrick’s. The cost was the same as the University of St. Mary but allowances were made for families having two or more daughters enrolled – the Young family had four – and for payment in advance. Tuition covered lessons in English, French and German, stationery – which included how to design (including graphics), address and compose (by a very strict set of rules) and write (penmanship) every type of correspondence, and plain and fancy needlework. In addition to her watercolors, portraits, charcoals and other art work we still have a number of pieces of hand painted china and calligraphy that are examples of talents acquired under the tutelage of the good sisters. Although attendance at a university was the exception rather than the rule for women of this time a graduate of the Academy would have had no difficulty finds a teaching position in any elementary school and would have been remarkably well prepared to understand and participate in any family business.
Another order of Catholic nuns, the Sisters of Divine Providence, arrived in Texas from Alsace-Lorraine in October 1866. Depending on the results of the latest war and treaty Alsace-Lorraine was either part of France or part of Germany in terms of the political map however culturally it was always predominantly German. Where the sympathies of the sisters – who conspired to attempt to educate this author – rested may be best determined by the fact that their mother-house in Castroville, Texas housed a military academy and their Galveston school was the German parish of the city. Two of the principles that they set forth in their advertisement are really common denominators of Catholic education in Texas. Our terms are within the reach of all was a very kind way of saying that students were not turned away if their families could not afford to pay – education was the vocation of these good women who actually lived the vow of poverty and thought less of money than of teaching. Pupils of all creeds admitted meant exactly what it said and, owing to the general excellence of the education provided, pupils of all creeds were to be found enrolled in these schools. In an age that has gone mad with political correctness it is difficult to imagine that this involved not deviating one iota from the teachings of the Church – this was neither an ecumenical nor a multicultural experiment – and oddly enough the pupils of other creeds often graduated with a greater respect for the Church than those who would graduate a century later and share the same ambivalence and ignorance of the Faith as those supposedly professing it.
In case you are beginning to suspect that Galveston was some sort of Catholic enclave we hasten to note that it was a city of many faiths and while its location and prominence may have made it the site of the first Catholic cathedral, as well as the first Jewish synagogue, in the state the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists and Baptists were all represented by substantial houses of worship as well as a large number of smaller denominations, the requisite number of American agnostics and a fair sampling of pagans. It wasn’t quite like Montreal where you couldn’t spit without hitting a church but the days when the aggressively evangelistic, whom Stephen F. Austin called “excited,” “imprudent,” “fanatic,” “violent,” and “noisy” – and apparently it was the missionary Henry Stephenson who prompted Austin’s outburst that one preacher would cause more harm for his colony “than a dozen horse thieves” – were long gone and the churches occupied positions of authority without being authoritarian
By no means was all education in the hands of the Church. There was a public school system which would grow to include Ball High School which started out as an early “charter” school having been endowed by George Ball and operated for many years under the guidance of trustees rather than the school board. Private schools were also available but some of these, E. E. Scherrer’s Business College for one, attempted to trade heavily on their affiliation. Not only did Scherrer list himself as having being formerly of the University of St. Mary but displayed prominently at the top of his advertisement is AMDG which is the acronym for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam which translates from Latin to English as “to the greater glory of God” and is the motto of the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits who ran the University of St. Mary.
Claims of affiliation and motto stealing aside that is about where the similarities ended. Scherrer put himself forward as a regular graduate of the famous Bryant’s Business College which had been founded in 1854 and was best known for promoting the Platt Rogers Spencer standardized style of writing which was useful in business transactions before the invention of the typewriter . The school concentrated on penmanship, commercial calculations, business correspondence and law, telegraphy and phonography. Those who want to claim that a liberal arts education is the most practical seem to be supported by the limits of what Scherrer offered although we do have one of his textbooks and seriously doubt that most liberal arts majors could complete the math and grammar tests successfully.
Long before the Medical Branch was a landmark in Galveston the first Catholic hospital in Texas, was opened as a charity hospital and orphanage by Bishop Claude M. Dubuis and was a thirty-bed frame building. In April 1867 the staff of sisters Blandine Mathelin, Joseph Roussin, and Ange Escudé [all founding members of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word] arrived from France and along with Dr. James Nagel began caring for the sick. When a yellow fever epidemic that devastated the island from July until November 1867 filled the hospital they found themselves overwhelmed and among those who died was the young mother superior, Sister Blandine. One of the main things to remember when thinking about the early days of St. Mary’s is that so much 19th century medicine was palliative and the main purpose of institutions like this was to have someplace to warehouse the sick in time of contagion to prevent diseases spreading or to have a place for recuperation for those who could not be cared for at home. If you could afford not to you probably never set foot in a hospital.
In July 1869, with help from Dr. C. H. Wilkinson (who was still the chief physician in 1884), the sisters contracted with the government for the care of marine patients at the rate of a dollar a day each, and thereafter the hospital was able to contract for destitute city and county patients where the respective governments paid their per diem and hastened their departures as soon as possible. With the additional work more nuns came from France to help and more frame buildings were added to accommodate additional patients and orphaned children. In 1874 the orphans were moved to a new location, St. Mary’s Orphanage, but the hospital continued to support them. In 1875 and 1879 two three-story hospital buildings designed by Nicholas J. Clayton were constructed. In its early years St. Mary’s Infirmary relied for support – especially for building construction – on Bishop Dubuis but in 1881 the bishop deeded the hospital to the sisters and although it was no longer a “charity” hospital the rates for private patients ranged from $1.50 to $2.00 per day. Charges were still governed by the circumstances of the patient which meant that the poor were not turned away but those desiring private rooms were charged according to the accommodations furnished.
Medical attention in the 19th century was a combination of phrenologists, Thomsonians, homeopathics, eclectics, and a variety of other practitioners who often simply put out a shingle and offered cures. The building of the University of Texas Medical Branch would not happen until 1891 and allopathic medicine – the treatment of disease with drugs supposed to have the opposite effects to the symptoms – would not gain a stranglehold on the profession until after 1925.
Homeopathy relied on the curative power of the “vital force” that required only the slightest assistance from the doctor and his minute dosages of medicines to restore the patient to health. Botanics as a category included everyone from the midwife who used herb poultices to eclectics and Thomsonians. While lay-persons enthusiastically pursued their own idiosyncratic practices with a mixture of plant derivatives and folk practices, it was not until eclecticism and Thomsonism emerged with energetic proponents in Wooster Beach and Samuel Thomson that a systematic and theoretical botanics based approach was pursued.
The “heroic” nature of allopathic medicine in nineteenth-century America often made the patient dread the cure as much as he did the disease. Dosings of mercury, harsh purgatives, emetics, and bloodletting that were primary features of so-called regular medicine created a market for alternative therapeutic systems. Samuel Thomson was the proponent of a method that deviated from regular medicine’s therapeutic regimens more in materials used than in method. Beginning his full-time practice with a Boston infirmary in 1805 he pursued a therapeutic course that sought to provoke the same physical responses in patients as the allopathic system but used “a regimen of kindly medicines” or botanicals rather than mercury and other harsh “minerals.” Thomson’s followers liked the energetic approach to therapy as well as Thomson’s willingness to sell the entire system to anyone with twenty dollars which released them from “dependence on the pretensions of a learned profession”
Later the system’s fatal flaw – the aversion to germ theory – would discredit almost everything that was valid about it for the best part of a century. Thomson’s original views on etiology were founded in vitalism and germ theory was, in essence, mechanical. Germs, like any other “microscopical animalcule ever found in the excretions of fluids of the body in a person diseased are the result of a disease and not the cause of it”, Thomson had proclaimed, and to deviate from that position would be to deviate from the most fundamental principle of both Thomsonism and physio. By the beginning of the twentieth century, science meant progress and physios were considered hopelessly old-fashioned. They also suffered from a complete inability to form a unique identity and institutional structure that would promote its principles and support its long-term existence. When Thomson published A New Guide to Health he, like many other Americans, celebrated the independent and self-reliant individual. In less than a century, however, Americans had more faith in the so-called credentialed professional and the failure of homeopaths and botanical practitioners was more than the decline of minor participants in the antebellum medical competition, it was a fundamental shift in society.
Cleanliness may not have been next to Godliness and the medical profession sold everything from a chill and fever antidote to a combination of sarsaparilla and lodite of potash said to cure syphilis there was no doubt about the fear of yellow fever. Turning to the directory itself we find the following account under the heading GALVESTON AS A HEALTH AND SUMMER RESORT:
In this connection it is scarcely improper to allude to the acknowledged healthfulness of Galveston. Here there is little if any of the deadly malaria that lurks in the creek, bayou and river bottoms of the interior. A case of chills and fever very seldom originates here. As to yellow fever, which formerly ravaged this coast, neither Galveston nor Houston have suffered an epidemic for nearly 20 years, the last one having been in 1867. In late years the fever has prevailed at other points in communication with Galveston, but has been kept out by a rigid system of quarantine. In 1883 yellow fever prevailed in Vera Cruz, and one death occurred from the disease in the summer of that year on board a vessel from the port mentioned, and at the time lying in Bolivar Roads. But so strictly were the State quarantine regulations carried out by Dr. Blunt, acting under the State health officer Dr. Swearingen, that the city was kept entirely free and healthy. The discovery by Dr. Freire, a distinguished physician of Brazil, showing yellow fever to be due a microscopic living organism in the blood, which can exist in goods, in clothes, in ships, in the air of an epidemic, and which were found alive in the soil of a yellow fever grave, a year after burial – an organism as communicable as smallpox and as contagious and infectious – has confirmed the public belief in the efficacy of quarantine. I is probable that hereafter the quarantine at this port will amount to total non-intercourse and the city be kept healthy and salubrious.
The reason we quote the article out of the directory at such length and place the quote following the advertisement for the steam laundry is that the “discovery” of Dr. Freire seemed to dictate that everything possible be boiled or burned to safeguard against the fever. Thus a steam laundry would do great business in a city mindful of the needs of prophylactic measures. Unfortunately Dr. Freire was wrong. Yellow fever was caused by mosquito bites and the death of the sailor in Bolivar Roads did not result in more deaths and another epidemic siege more by the grace of God than any tonic administered or clothing sterilized by steam.
The water supply for Galveston has always been a problem. Both the Gulf and the Bay are salt water and not potable. There was always some well water and artesian springs played a large role in the supply but almost every building, and certainly every home that was more than a shack, had a cistern.
Using the roof as a rain collection surface, gutters and downspouts delivered water to the cistern – basically a big collection tank. Most had an overflow outlet and some had a diverter on the inlet, to direct the water away from the building when the cistern became full. Although some were manufactured of iron, steel or made of wood, most were constructed of brick or stone and made watertight with an interior parge coat of hydraulic cement. The masonry cistern chamber could be shaped like a vault, bell, beehive, jug or flat-topped with a wooden platform for the cover. Most were a large rectangular box located under a porch, with the porch floor being the cover.
Even though the water wasn’t supposed to be used for drinking because of the undesirable debris, like leaves, dirt and bird droppings it was often boiled and consumed which explains many of the “tropical” diseases almost as much as the constant presence of standing water. The overflow would discharge some floating debris but the stuff that sank would need to be periodically cleaned out and anybody in the cistern business had steady employment.
At high tide, before the construction of the seawall, much of the island could have water in the streets. In addition the shapes of the neighborhoods as they grew nearer the beach and to the west could be altered and today’s waterfront view could be tomorrow’s island. Most of the houses on the island were frame. Many of the charming structures that grace the island today started out as kits build in Maine and brought to Galveston as part of a triangle trade that brought industrial tools into the northeast from Europe, finished timber to Galveston and sent cotton back to Europe. One of the glories of a block and beam foundation on a frame house is that you can lift it higher to keep your feet dry or even move it several blocks or several miles to a better site – it is a little odd to think of a two, or even three, story house as a mobile home but effectively that is exactly what they were.
Before you conclude that Galveston was a malarial swamp with a bunch of cheap frame houses you need to remember that it was the “First” city of Texas. Largest in terms of population, richest in terms of trade and a leader in almost every category by which cities were measured. It had all of the problems of every 19th century urban setting and a few that were unique to it but it was growing and confident and had an architect to match its glories – Nicholas J. Clayton. By 1884 he had designed and built the Beach and the Tremont hotels, the Harmony and the Artillery halls, the Masonic temple, the W. L. Moody building, the Galveston Daily News building, the Eaton Memorial Chapel [Episcopal]and Catholic churches in Austin and Waco. All of this after he had cut his teeth on the George Sealy house on Broadway that was designed by renowned architect Sanford White but which he had worked as a supervising architect on – in fact it is correspondence with him that confirms White as the principal architect of the house.
Dressed to the nines [One theory has it that tailors used nine yards of material to make a suit or, according to some authors, a shirt. Therefore the more material you had the more kudos you accrued.] certainly seems apropos when describing the clothes that came from a tailor who specialized in costumes for balls, theatricals, processions and tableaux. Galveston had a large European population and the social calendar was strewn with opportunities for fancy dress. It is amusing to note that the “clip art” used by this tailor was used by others as well all of whom were in debt to Hablot Knight Browne – Charles Dickens illustrator – for the original.
While water was often the principal mode of transportation the train was the airliner of its day and while you could get to Houston in several hours on a steamer you could get there is less than two on the train and make connections to anyplace from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. While the Santa Fe would headquarter in Galveston for many years the Texas Pacific had its principal Texas offices in Houston and Marshall.
The basic design of Pullman’s unique sleeping car eventually contained enough sleeping berths for all the car’s passengers. During the day, the berth could be folded up and hidden away. At nighttime, however, the bunk could be lowered over the two seats below it, which folded down. There were curtains for privacy and separate washrooms at each end for men and women.
Pullman Palace Cars also included fresh gourmet meals, which helped shorten trips because the train was no longer required to stop for meals. The dining cars were the picture of extravagance, with elaborate chandeliers, electric lighting, silk shades and leather seating. Heating and air conditioning, advanced for the time, made it increasingly desirable on long trips.
The causeway that ran from Virginia Point to the island was the means by which trains came and went and Union Station was so busy that it had tracks for seven trains to be in the station at the same time. The Galveston Railroad Museum is actually located in the 1932 Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe depot does a wonderful job of giving the casual observer a history of rail on the island.
Once you got to Houston you had to get around and there was neither Hertz nor Alamo to serve your needs. No problem. You could hire an omnibus or a carriage depending on the size of your group – you could even hire a horse if you were alone – and there was a baggage wagon that would take your baggage to any of the depots to forwarding. The most amazing thing about the City Stables run by Mr. Baldwin was that the transfer stable was at Congress and Milam [just south of the Southern Pacific station] and the livery stable was located on Fannin between Preston and Prairie which was more or less the center of the business district then.
Texas and Galveston have always occupied a unique position being the locus of western sensibility and southern charm. By 1884 many of the wilder aspects of the city when it was a frontier town with a deep water port had begun to fade. It was a business center, a trade and railroad hub, it had schools including a university and the churches were doing their job of civilizing the better angels of the population. Like America it was growing and optimistic and its best days were still to come.