Lost at Sea

The two recent hurricanes, Harvey – which hit my hometown and state, and Irma – which hit Florida, brought to mind an unusual antique photo that I ran across a couple of years ago.

It depicts what are obviously funerary floral tributes featuring seafaring imagery. I was intrigued enough that I needed to find out more about them — a task that was simplified by the fact that their full names were spelled out in the flowers

$_57-3Two marines, James Franklin Robinson of Ohio and Bardie Wayne Ray of Mississippi, were washed overboard and drowned when the United States’ battleship New Hampshire, proceeding to the Mexican coast, ran into a hurricane off the Florida coast in August 1915. The accident was thought to have happened somewhere just south of  the Florida coast in the gulf.

Robinson’s mother Mrs. W. A. Robinson, who lived at No. 222 West Street in Uhrichsville, Ohio and  Ray’s mother, Maude Ray Holcombe,were notified that the bodies were never recovered.

The ship was returning to exercises off the east coast to Vera Cruz.

The floral tributes were displayed onboard during a funeral at sea, held by his shipmates.

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The immense hurricane proceeded through the gulf, striking Galveston. It would be the first great test of the island’s new seawall. Thankfully, the test was a success, and damage in no way resembled the horror that Galvestonians experienced 15 years earlier.

Ghostly Appearance at the Pier

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Many people assume that the majority of Galveston hauntings stem from the 1900 Storm. While it’s true that the overwhelming loss of life during that hurricane contributed to the population of restless spirits of the island, entities were experienced long before the waves of 1900 washed across the city.

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Pier 33 in 1910

In January of 1894, Galvestonians were talking about the wraith of a woman seen on the West End. She was said to be the spirit of a woman who had drowned in the neighborhood years before.

Appearing at midnight and clad in a calico gown, she clutched a shawl that was drawn around her shoulders and beneath her chin. Moving slowly and deliberately she moved from the east end of Pier 33 to the west end, then going over the edge.

There were different theories at the time as to whether she had fallen or jumped, but no sounds of footsteps or a splash was ever heard. If witnesses rushed to the end of the pier to look, there was no sign of her in the water.

Was she distraught from the loss of a child during a Yellow Fever epidemic, or a husband lost at sea? Was she a victim of the harsh life experienced by many during the rough, early years of the city? It seems her identity and story will remain a mystery.
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In 1894 that area, home of the newly constructed Moody Cotton Compress, was bustling with business and waterfront workers, but as 12 o’clock neared…no one ventured toward Pier 33, at one time called Western Wharf.

The sad spirit became such a regular occurrence, that even those who lived nearby avoided the area around the midnight hour.

Today grand cruise ships past the spot of the ghost’s appearance on their way to dock at the cruise terminal. I wonder if she even notices.

 

GOG-CoverRead more tales of Galveston’s spirited past in ‘Ghosts of Galveston’ from The History Press.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1467119652

 

 

Beads for Elizabeth

20150210_140010_DSC_7256Having escaped from an abusive marriage to an alcoholic husband, Elizabeth Percival started a new life with her two step-daughters Florence and Jessie. She opened a restaurant named The English Kitchen, serving the English dishes from her childhood with a boarding house on the floors above it. In the following months she and the girls gained a loyal following of customers and friends.

In March of 1881, Elizabeth and her daughters invited their friends to join them at their restaurant, which was right on Galveston’s Mardi Gras parade route, for a night of fun and fellowship.

They had no way of knowing the night of revelry would end in tragedy.

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Elizabeth’s ex-husband hid among the floats and marchers in the parade. As he passed the restaurant, he took aim and shot Elizabeth in front of all who loved her. Her step-daughters, who she had rescued from their natural father, were grief-stricken, and erected a beautiful marker over her grave.

I stopped by Trinity Episcopal Cemetery to leave beads for Elizabeth. While the island of Galveston is in the middle of Mardi Gras season, I didn’t want her to be forgotten.

I hope you’ll enjoy more of Elizabeth’s story, along with other amazing stories behind the gravestones of Galveston in my book, “Galveston’s Broadway Cemeteries,” from Arcadia Publishing. Available on Amazon.com.

Fashionable New Year’s Visits

Calling Cards For Greeting New Year in the Victorian Era (1)

In genteel Victorian-era society, making visits or “calls” was the fashionable thing to do on New Year’s Day.

Gentlemen would don their finest attire and make the rounds, visiting all of the ladies of their acquaintance.

Ladies were discouraged from sending invitations for them to do so, as that would seem “desperate.” Instead, the local papers would often print lists of homes that intended to receive callers that day.

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Upon arriving at a home (preferably in a carriage), the gentleman would be invited to remove his hat and overcoat. His gloves were often left on his hands, as the visits, to be considered polite, must be kept fairly brief. – not exceeding then or fifteen minutes.

The gentleman would then send his calling card with a servant to the host, announcing his arrival, and would be ushered into the reception room.

b2014_1_29_detail_categoryBaskets or receiving trays would hold the cards of each day’s callers. This beautiful example is in the Bishop’s Palace in Galveston.

Calling Cards For Greeting New Year in the Victorian Era (12)

Ladies could receive guests at their own home, or come together in small groups to receive callers together. Young ladies visiting for the holidays partook in the visits of their hostesses’ homes.

They would have spent the previous day making the parlor as inviting as possible with a warm fire, and small table with refreshments such as fruit, cakes, tea and coffee. Alcohol was never served.

Fashionsfor1845Common visiting hours were from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. which, although it was enjoyed, must have been quite exhausting. Because of the constant “change of faces” due to the coming-and going of guests, they were to receive each as politely and pleasantly as the first. Thankfully, callers knew to avoid lunch and dinner hours.

Calling cards were kept by the hostesses, and often reviewed later. In addition to reminding the hostess of the caller’s name, much could be discerned from the quality and style of the card.

The two or three days succeeding New Year’s were the ladies’ days for calling, “upon which occasion they pass the compliments of the season, comment of the festivities of the holiday, and the number of calls made.”

IMG_0926AAlthough the ladies’ visits were considered to be less formal, they would also include refreshments, finery, and by today’s standards seem quite formal.

Whatever you are doing this New Year’s Day, I hope 2016 brings you laughter, adventure and fun glimpses into our fascinating history!