In the late 1870’s Galveston was the largest port west of New Orleans and was the most highly populated place in Texas – always ahead of the muddy streets where dozing dogs were disturbed only by the occasional gunfight of Houston, Dallas and Austin – there were still gunfights between saloon keepers and their step sons [Maurice Coffey comes to mind] that caused the winner to take off for the Colorado silver strike until things cooled off and there were “incidents” unique to Galveston like encouraging a crew to desert their ship in hopes of working them in a stevedore gang and then shipping them out on another ship and collecting a profit as a crewing agent [again Maurice Coffey comes to mind].
Do not misunderstand me. Galveston was not some backwater of depravity and violence under the grasp of some Moriarty like villain named Coffey – it was just a rambunctious town, growing into a city and he was one of many entrepreneurs involved in the process – he may be more familiar than most to readers of this blog but that is only because he was Margaret Edythe Young’s step grand father. By the late 1880’s Galveston was a city and would contend for the title of “first” city in the state for most of the next 40 years. Most of the entrepreneurs had more polished pedigrees than Maurice Coffey – they certainly had greater financial backing – and our entry today starts with one of the most famous of them all.
William Lewis Moody was born on May 19, 1828, in Essex County and was raised in Chesterfield County, Virginia. He studied law at the University of Virginia and in 1852 he moved to Texas and settled at Fairfield in Freestone County. After three years of practicing law he was joined by his brothers and went into the cotton business as W. L. Moody and Brothers.
Clement Eaton in A History of the Old South probably gave the best definition of the services offered by men like Moody and his brothers, “The factor was a versatile man of business in an agrarian society who performed many different services for the planter in addition to selling his crops. He arranged for the hiring of workers or the placing of the planter’s children in distant schools, gave advice concerning the condition of the market or the advisability of selling or withholding his crop, and bought for his client a large proportion of the plantation supplies.” The Moody’s were not only factors for cotton but dealt in wool, hides and almost any commodity for which they could find a market.
With the coming of the Civil War Moody organized Company G of the Seventh Texas Infantry serving as captain. His unit was captured at the fall of Fort Donelson and after months in prison camp, Moody was exchanged in September 1862 and then participated in the reorganization of the Seventh Texas Infantry, reaching the rank of colonel. He fought through the spring 1863 campaigns in Mississippi and on the 10th of July he was seriously wounded in fighting near Jackson. He was sent back to Texas to convalesce and spent the remainder of the Civil War in Austin although he retained the honorific of “colonel” throughout his life and was part of the aristocracy of the Lost Cause that ran the South for many years after the military occupation by the north ended in 1877.
Arriving in Galveston in 1866, he opened the firm of W. L. Moody and Company in 1881. He participated in the founding of the Galveston Cotton Exchange and served as president, was involved in founding the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway and in the early 1880s Moody became chairman of the Galveston Deep Water Committee, which sought help from Congress in funding the development of Galveston as a deep-water port.
Moody’s business activities centered on his cotton and banking interests in Galveston under the auspices of his firm, W. L. Moody and Company. The firm handled a substantial portion of the cotton business in Texas and in that aristocracy that was the Galveston of his day his daughter, Mary Emily Moody, married Sealy Hutchings of Galveston. By 1888 the firm was headquartered in the largest commercial building in Galveston – the Moody Building – four stories of the best of everything designed and built by Nicholas Clayton. It was also the beginning of the Moody Bank [it would not become a “national” bank until his son had it chartered in 1907 and would not have a trust department until 1927 but to give some indication of size and proportion it now manages deposits in excess of one billion dollars while it manages trust assets in excess of fifteen billion dollars – the old order passeth but the old money continueth!].
While Nicholas Clayton is synonymous with Victorian architecture in Galveston – as well as many other fine building throughout Texas – he was not the only architect working in the city or the state. Alfred Muller, who was born in Prussia in 1855 and received his training at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin immigrated to the United States establishing his own practice in Galveston in 1887. Late that year Muller won a competition for his first major building – the Galveston City Hall which is pictured in his advertisement. He also designed the main building of the Sam Houston State University) at Huntsville, the Calcasieu National Bank Building in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and the Galveston Orphans Home all of which have been demolished. Still standing are the Letitia Rosenberg Woman’s Home and the Telephone Building – both in Galveston. He also designed many houses in Galveston, the two most prominent being the Trube house and the Herman Marwitz house which belonged to the ship chandler mentioned later in this entry. As if to underscore the persistence and virulence of disease on the island Muller died of typhoid fever on the 29th of June 1896 and is buried at Lakeview Cemetery.
Although most of the dwindling number of us who remember the Ursuline Academy remember the Nicholas Clayton building the convent and school had existed for nearly half a century before it was built. The original convent building had been the former mansion of James Love, a Kentucky lawyer and legislator who had settled in Galveston in 1838 by way of Arkansas and New Orleans. He and Mirabeau B. Lamar and David G. Burnet were bitter enemies of Sam Houston whom they considered to be a Jacksonian stooge, a land speculator and a swindler. Houston returned the contempt and said they should be executed as traitors while Love threatened to put Houston on a ship to the United States and “deport” him. Texas politics has always been a full contact sport!
Love was a member of the first board of directors of the Galveston City Company and was elected in 1845 to represent Galveston County at the annexation convention and when the state government was formed he was appointed judge of the first judicial district – which is how his house became available for the sisters. This was the house that was the first convent and housed the first “academy” of 25 students. It remained and other buildings that shared its architectural style were added over the years and in the 1880’s the convent and school looked very much like the illustration from their advertisement pictured above.
From the time Cabeza de Vaca sought a safe anchorage there in 1528 Galveston has been recognized as a port city. The first permanent European settlers in 1816 were pirates and although he was not related to the Captain Morgan of pirate fame, Charles Morgan, whose ships arrived twenty years later, did not miss the mark by much. The first steamship line in Texas was originated by him and called the Morgan Line. In 1837 Morgan opened the first scheduled steamship line between New Orleans and Galveston. From that axis he expanded his regular service to Matagorda Bay ports in 1848, Brazos de Santiago[Brownsville] in 1849, Vera Cruz in 1853, Key West in 1856, Rockport, Corpus Christi, and Havana in 1868, and New York in 1875.
While it was originally headquartered at Port Lavaca it relocated to escape excessive port charges and Indianola became the chief port of the line. By 1858 the Morgan Lines had three sailings a week from Galveston and two from New Orleans, and by 1860 the company had a monopoly of coastal shipping and dominated Gulf trade through possession of the exclusive United States mail contract. While during the Civil War all of the vessels were placed in service by the Confederate States, or commandeered by the union navy, he profited from both running the blockade and supplying the blockaders and then resumed regular routes in 1866 – as a New Yorker he was exempted from the restrictions placed on Texas businessmen during the military occupation and colonial subjugation of the States of the Confederacy.
After the war the company took an active part in building railroads to feed the ship lines and by the 1870s pooling agreements were worked out among Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company, the Louisiana Western Railroad Company, and the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. In the late 1870s Morgan worked with E. W. Cave to make Houston an inland port with better facilities for the line and in the 1877 he built, at his own expense, Houston’s first workable deep water ship channel to the Gulf. By the early 1880s the Morgan Lines were sold to C. P. Huntington of the Southern Pacific Railroad but continued to operate as the Morgan Line and Charles Suderman – then of the firm Suderman & Dolson – operated the stevedores for the ships and would continue to do so after the firm became Suderman & Young.
For many years the foremost objective of Houston’s business men was to turn a malarial swamp into a deep water port. Galveston uniformly ridiculed the idea that a port, miles inland, could be profitable – with more than a little self-interest – and smugly dismissed the idea. When Sampson Heidenheimer’s six barge loads of salt – loaded at Galveston – ran aground and were dissolved by a rain storm about where Houston’s turning basin is today, the Galveston Daily News smirked, “Houston at last has a salt water port. God Almighty furnished the water; Heidenheimer furnished the salt!”
The Houston Direct Navigation Company was created to avoid wharfage charges at Galveston. Demonstrating their power in the Legislature, Galveston’s members saw to it that the charter specifically denied the new firm exclusive rights to navigate OR to improve the channel. The company shipped freight between Houston and New York and in 1869 it transported an estimated 11,554 passengers and materials, including those used in the construction of the International-Great Northern Railroad.
The company operated four passenger steamers, eighteen barges, and three tugs by 1872 and by the time Charles Morgan of the Morgan Lines acquired the company in 1873, along with the Buffalo Bayou Ship Channel Company and other channel interests, six steamers, forty barges, and five tugs were in operation. Morgan’s ship, the Captain Theissen, reached Clinton, seven miles below Houston, in 1876. Morgan was the big player at the table who could remove or circumvent the original charter restrictions and expand the port prospects for Houston.
While there was a public tension between Houston and Galveston many of those involved in that dispute openly were in fact attempting to expand the business possibilities of Houston as a port. Just as John Sealy had moved his family and his bank to Houston during the war of northern aggression Houston was seen as a refuge of last resort and kept in reserve for possible future development. Morgan was a prime example of this opportunism and between the late 1860’s and the 1880’s his company moved a nearly two million bales of cotton down the bayou to Galveston where it was loaded on ships for export.
As the volumes increased beyond the capacities of Galveston’s facilities more docks with deeper water and more rail lines were needed and Houston provided the rail hub without being subject to the tariffs of the Galveston Wharves – a private company that offered no bargains – or the control of the Galveston establishment [most of whom were shareholders in the Galveston Wharves]. Morgan may have been the first large player to put Houston in the game but starting in the 1880’s many Galveston firms would begin expanding northward.
Large businesses create small businesses and no where was this truer than in the shipping industry of Galveston. Charles Morgan may not enjoy our unalloyed admiration but there is no doubt that his ships made businesses like Herman Marwitz’s ship chandlers not only necessary but profitable. Some of the items they offered were:
- Bagnall & Loud [Boston] block and tackle for both controlling the sails and providing an efficient way of handling cargo
- Revere Copper Co. [Boston] metal sheeting for hulls from the mill opened by Paul Revere in 1801
- Valvoline which had been in the business of providing crude oil based machine lubricants since the Dr. John Ellis created the first motor oil and was awarded a design patent for petroleum, distilling and refining equipment in 1866
- Edson’s diaphragm pumps invented by Jacob of Edson in Boston in 1859 and his 1880 pump which received a U.S. patent and was the first to use rubber diaphragms and valve seals.
Although Marwitz’s firm is no longer in business all of these companies that he represented still are. To give some measure of the prosperity created through his firm his house – “Marwitz Castle” was commissioned from Alfred Muller and although it is no longer standing the house at 1103 33rd Street that he purchased as a wedding gift for his daughter Ida still is. This house was originally constructed in 1866 and served as the summer home of the former Texas governor Richard Coke, from 1870 to 1876. In 1876 Horace Sloan and his wife Jane Austin Sloan, sister of Texas hero Stephen F. Austin, purchased the home. After his 1889 purchase Herman Marwitz had Nicholas Clayton expand the house to include a ballroom, a corner turret and two upstairs bedrooms. Prosperity creates prosperity and government control created most of the Galveston you see today.
Stevedores were another growth industry for the island. From 1875 to 1925 the port worked at near capacity year round. You needed a steady supply of workers which – in addition to the fact that Maurice Coffey was on the lam – was why John Young was managing the family’s New Wharf Saloon at the north end of 33rd Street (with his family living upstairs) at night and running stevedore gangs for Sweeney during the day.
Since not everything was done dockside having workers was only half the battle. You might use a ship’s block and tackle to move cargo but if it was a sail was the only power – and it often was – in order to move enough cargo quickly enough you needed either horse power [literally] or steam power from either a small boiler hauled dockside or a barge with a steam derrick to load or discharge ships anchored in Bolivar roads. Having access to that equipment was where the capital investment requirements entered the business.
Working cargo required a good deal of labor and a good deal of skill but cargoes were not containerized and could present a challenge to the most experienced stevedore. If a rope gave way or a sling failed and some valuable item wound up in the water this was not the age of paperwork. Divers were brought in and whatever had been lost was retrieved and salvaged. The clerks, the pettifoggers and the insurance adjusters could argue about what had been salvaged after the fact but the stevedores finished their jobs promptly.
If you look at a chart of Galveston you will find a spoil area noted as containing ballast. In the days before ships had dedicated tanks that allowed them to adjust their trim and depth they did this by putting rocks in their holds. These rocks were unloaded to make room for cargo or were placed on board ships without cargo so that they would be stable while sailing to their next port. Without being conglomerates every shipping business sought to maximize profit with everything it did and brokering rocks – for which you may have paid nothing to start out with – was a business man’s dream.
Galveston had a growing population and not a supermarket or even a grocery store in sight. The citizens bought their meat from a neighborhood butcher, their bread from a baker, ice off of a wagon, milk – if they didn’t own their own milch cow – off of a wagon and any greens and herbs that they didn’t raise themselves from a greengrocer. Canned or tinned goods might come from any of the above just a soap, bleach or lye might be stocked or the latter items may have come from a hardware or feed and seed store. Most of the shopping was a neighborhood exercise where you bought what you needed from people you knew who probably came from where you came from, lived not far from you and attended your church. Community actually meant exactly that!
The first thing that struck us about this advertisement was the declaration that, “Iron safes and locks opened on short notice,” by a firm whose main business may have been firearms. Hunting and fishing were both part of the everyday life of many Galvestonians in part to put food on the table and in part as a leisure activity of the newly wealthy and the beginnings of the tourist trade. William Lewis Moody had a large hunting lodge, located on Lake Surprise in southwestern Chambers County, and boats for both bay and open water fishing were available for hire. This was an age when almost every household had a gun, not out of some supposed paranoid delusion, simply because it was part of the necessary hardware of life – just like a hammer, a saw or a fishing pole – and while there were murders committed out of passion, greed or sheer meanness the crime rate was noticeably lower and we haven’t come across any stories of massacres by people off their medication. Although they are not included in the advertisement we assume they also carried golf clubs since Galveston had the state’s first golf course – true to the Scottish model of links along a beach – and we assume that a large number of golfers attempted to teach their clubs to swim at various holes and needed a steady supply of replacements.
Real Estate in Galveston has always had a colorful history. In modern times it may start with the Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company which was founded in 1830 to sell off parts of the 3,743,163 acres that had been given to Joseph Vehlein, David G. Burnet, and Lorenzo de Zavala under empresario grants from the Mexican government to attract colonists. Although the island itself was a site forbidden to non-Hispanic Texans without permission from the president of Mexico, Michael Menard entered into a land speculation that in 1834 allowed him to acquire title to a league and labor [4,605 acres] on the eastern end of then vacant Galveston Island. Menard was unable to develop his prospect prior to 1836, and his title was questioned by rival claimants during the First Congress of the Republic of Texas. He had to pay the republic $50,000 to clear the title and had to take in many other partners to form the Galveston City Company which was organized in April 1838 and began issuing deeds to investors and purchasers. The rest, as they say, is history and prior to the construction of the seawall and the grade raising it was a history of speculators buying three blocks in from the water and selling when it became ocean front property, and the wealthy buying the wharves. By the late 1880’s Galveston had grown from a few wards perched on the eastern end of the island to seven wards and the owners of the railroads, cotton presses and shipping interests had begun building houses that could be sold to workers. Never a company town, in the sense of Pullman’s Lake Calumet or later Ford’s Dearborn, Galveston escaped the worst of their problems for many years.
Dining out was always part of life on the island. Some workers had only rooms provided by way of lodging and although most hotels had dining facilities attached their guests may not have chosen a plan that included meals or may have chosen to find their entertainment elsewhere. There were beer, whiskey and coffee saloons [take that Starbucks!] and these ranged from working man’s taverns to establishments like Henry’s Opera House Exchange the one constant being that there were no ladies present in any of them. Francois Giozza’s Epicurean Restaurant may have had a lot in common with Henry’s but it also offered private dining rooms for discreet rendezvous. Of course it also offered “commutation tickets” which allowed patrons to purchase twenty-one meals for $6.00!
As early as 1850 Melinda Rankin wrote in her tour guide entitled simply TEXAS that, “a traveler, passing through during the months of April and May, would not fail of pronouncing it to be the most charming spot on earth,” Forever after stagecoach, steamship, and riverboat lines made desperate bids for tourist traffic, offering excursion rates, and promoting the charms and comforts of Texas. Between 1873 and 1878 commercial buffalo hunts, promoted by railroads and ranchers, drew hunters who spread the state’s fame as a hunter’s haven. The guides to Texas written in the cow hand idiom by Charles A. Siringo and sold on west-bound trains are said to have outsold the Bible between 1885 and 1900.
Whether it was cotton or temperament the cities of Galveston and Dallas were always closely allied. Moody’s first Texas home was in Fairfield which is closer to Dallas than to Galveston and he remained a benefactor of that community. A. H. Belo published both the Galveston Daily News and the Dallas Morning News which he started as a satellite publication in 1885. The owner’s of the Tremont and Windsor hotels chose a unified add in the directory offering the same amenities to commercial travelers and discounts for theatrical companies.
One of the services provided for the traveling salesmen were sample rooms. Sample rooms were rooms which could be rented for the display of wares in an age before power point presentations. Located next to these rooms, or even adjoining them, were small guest rooms which the salesmen could occupy. They were much less expensive than renting a meeting room and far superior for displaying wares than a guest room. Tourism may have been on its way to dominating the lodging industry but in the 1880’s in Galveston the commercial traveler was still king.
Before looking specifically at this railroad it might be helpful to look at how railroads were financed in the 19th century and why they could be lucrative for their developers and bottomless pits for their operators and investors. The International and Great Northern – whose creation was made possible by the Houston Direct Navigation Company as its supply line – was supposed to be allowed to issue $10,000 in bonds for every mile of track laid AND receive 16 sections of land (10,240 acres). When the IGN applied for the bonds the then state comptroller, Albert A. Bledsoe, refused to sign and register the bonds contending instead that the rail company had paid state legislators in exchange for their votes in favor of legislation authorizing the transfer – charges denied by both the railroad, which was found innocent of fraud, and the legislators who were never brought to trial. In a compromise settlement the railroad was granted its bonds and given 20 sections of land (12,800 acres) for every mile of track laid AND was exempted from state taxation for twenty-five years. Bledsoe, a radical republican, was hastened from office and died at his Dallas home on the 8th of October 1882 at which time the railroad owned 6,432,000 acres of state land, eighty-eight locomotives, sixty-one passenger cars, 1,919 freight cars, and eighty company service cars. The land would be sold for $4,668,850 – about seventy-two cents an acre – all for the profit of robber baron Jay Gould and the railroad would undergo regular receivership and reorganizations until it was finally acquired by the Missouri Pacific.
While the IGN and Houston Direct Navigation Companies may have been efforts to put Houston on the map the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company was chartered to build a railroad from Galveston to the interior of Texas without passing through Houston. The projected route crossed the Brazos River near Columbia and ran through Caldwell, Cameron, and Belton on its way to the western boundary of Texas and its terminus at Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory. On the eastern route the train passed through Paris, Texas on its way to St. Louis.
Not all of these diversions were caused by spite or animosity. There was a very real desire to avoid wharfage fees user fees for rail cars going over other lines. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe went through towns that export large volumes through the port of Galveston and if costs could be reduced, well, that was business. The reason the line ran to Purcell, in the then Indian Territory, was to join up with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line out of Kansas City. The later was the dominant line which absorbed the smaller railroad through a merger although in order to meet the terms of Texas law that required all Texas railroads to be headquartered in the state – reaction against Jay Gould and the carpet baggers – the GC&SF was operated as a subsidiary from its offices in Galveston.
Where there was a freight line there was often a passenger line and the Hot Wells health resort of San Antonio attracted visitors by the thousands through such imaginative devices as ostrich races. The resort was the result of an accident. The Southwestern Lunatic Asylum had drilled a well to supply water to their facility on South Presa Street near the San Antonio River. Instead of sweet potable Edwards water the well instead produced 104 degree water with a strong sulfur odor that was unfit for domestic use at the Asylum. The volume of 180,000 gallons per day made the medicinal and recreational potential of the strong-flowing well recognizable immediately.
Charles Scheuermeyer established a resort nearby and advertised benefits of taking the waters. According to Scheuermeyer they were, “a certain cure for syphilitic and mercurial diseases peculiar to females, also rheumatism, whether it is inflammatory, sciatica, rheumatic gout or paralysis. For ulceration of the stomach, dyspepsia, indigestion, chronic diarrhea, malaria, biliousness, asthma, catarrh, sore or weak eyes, granulation and all inflammation of the eyelids, weak back, piles, tapeworms. Will positively cure scrofula, or King’s evil, all eruptions and skin diseases, such as eczema, erysipelas, blotches, boils, carbuncles, tetter, scaldhead, ringworm, herpes, chilblains, fallout of hair, itch, nettlerash, and old chronic sores that have resisted treatment.”
Of course San Antonio was not the only place with mineral springs and pretty soon anyplace that could put those who had gotten into hot water figuratively into hot water literally were cashing in. Boerne, Kerrville were known for their “fresh” air for the tubercular as was Comfort which may have been the most German of the three with a tradition of secular funerals, the German turnverein movement and even a Bolshevik Hall – which may explain the Treue der Union monument.
Even though this might be considered the age of the iron horse the four-legged variety was just as important. The train stopped in Kerrville and Comfort but if you wanted to get to Fredericksburg or Junction City you took the connecting stage-coach. Getting around the island was much the same with carriages, single rigs and saddle horses in every day use and your house may have had an attached stable but there was no such thing as an attached garage!
As we come to the end of this entry we will come to the end – literally – of many Galvestonians. Going from monks being the lowly washers of the dead to the 17th century “Company of undertakers” in England the funereal practises have undergone profound changes over the years. Where once cabinet makers were the logical choice for coffin builders as the practises became more elaborate the requirements became greater. With the need for a public display of grief – and the sincerity of mourning in direct proportion to the level of ostentation – not to mention the need to bury the deceased at a healthy distance from the living stable owners became the logical choice of their day. They had the horses, wagons could be converted into hearses and they had the carriages to carry the mourners to the burial grounds and back – there were just too many people to fit everybody in a churchyard – and in a place like Galveston a water tight casket had to be a good seller. Levy would eventually leave the stables behind and become a full-time undertaker but in 1888 he provided either or both – as the customer needed.