I was thrilled this weekend to find a grave marker for a member of the Mosaic Templars of America, in Marshall, Texas.
The Mosaic Templars of America was an African American fraternal organization founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1882 and incorporated in 1883 by two former slaves, John E. Bush and Chester W. Keatts.
The organization was established to provide important services such as burial insurance and life insurance to the African American community. Like many fraternal organizations, the Mosaic Templars’ burial insurance policies covered funeral expenses for members, both men and women, who maintained monthly dues.
By 1913, the burial insurance policy also included a Vermont marble marker. These markers are still found in cemeteries across Arkansas and other states. As membership grew, the Mosaic Templars expanded its operations to include a newspaper, hospital, and building and loan association. The organization attracted thousands of members and built a complex of three buildings at the corner of West Ninth Street and Broadway in Little Rock, Arkansas. The National Grand Temple, the Annex, and the State Temple were completed in 1913, 1918 and 1921, respectively.
A blank Mosaic Templars of America [MTA] Monument Claim Form. In order for a deceased MTA member to receive an MTA marker, local chapter officers had to complete and sign the monument claim form to verify that the deceased MTA member had paid all dues and fees, and confirm that the deceased was a member in good standing. They also had to submit the member’s information that was to be placed on the marker, and had to provide a delivery address for the completed marker.
According to their official 1924 history, the MTA authorized a Monument Department as early as 1911 to provide markers to its deceased members. Operations were managed by the state jurisdictions until 1914, when the MTA created a national Monument Department to centralize operations and cut costs. Members paid an annual tax to finance the department, and were promised a marble marker.
A traditional MTA marker had a rounded and forward-sloping top, with the MTA symbol cut into the top center. The name of the deceased member was carved below the symbol, with dates of birth (if known) and death. The name of the local chapter, the chapter number and the city where the chapter was located could be found on the bottom. MTA markers issued by the Modern Mosaic Templars of America appear exactly as the MTA markers except with the word “Modern” carved just above the MTA logo. The dimensions of the markers generally measured twenty-five to twenty-nine inches in height, fifteen to seventeen inches in width, and three to five inches in depth.
The name of the organization, taken from the Biblical figure Moses who emancipated Hebrew slaves, elected the Templars ideals of love, charity, protection, and brotherhood. The organization was originally called “The Order of Moses,” but the founders revised the name to “Mosaic Templars of America” in 1883 during the incorporation process. Modeled after the United States government, the organization consisted of an executive branch, a legislative branch, and even a judicial branch.
The organization struggled to regain its status, but by the end of the decade it had ceased operations in Arkansas.
But I want to also share a bit about Amy since it is her grave marker, after all.
She was born in Tennessee in 1864, to Abner Dollis and Celia Bloodsworth Dollis.
By the time she was 25, in 1860, she was working as a live-in cook in the home of Sheriff William Poland and his family.
Just ten years later she had married, and was the widow of, “John” whose last name was not listed in the city directory. She had a two-year -old daughter named Cely, who was obviously named for Amy’s mother.
By 1912 she supported her daughter by working as a “washerwoman,” and lived at 805 Riptoe Street in Marshall, where only a couple of older homes still stand.
Her death certificate lists her father as Abner Dollis, and her cause of death by apoplexy (the term commonly used for a stroke).
Her daughter Pearl (this was possibly a middle name for Cely), a public school teacher, married Rufus Brown. In 1910, the couple was living with Amy in her home.
Amy died of apoplexy (a term commonly used for stroke), in 1928.
Amy Dollis’ marker, the one I spotted in Marshall, is not in the database being created by the curator of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at this time, so I was thrilled to be able to share the find with them.
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.
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.
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.
Read more tales of Galveston’s spirited past in ‘Ghosts of Galveston’ from The History Press.
When I found this amazing (and immense) Woodmen of the World grave marker in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, I had no idea that the person who rests here had important ties to Galveston.
Alexander Sessums (born in 1830 ) came to Texas and married Mary Howell Runnels (born 1835 in Houston) in 1854.
He became an important cotton and wool factor in Galveston, eventually also purchasing the wholesale grocery supply on the Strand from Ware & McKeen. Sessums also ran a mill in Houston.
Sessums’ office was upstairs in the John Berlocher Building (2313 Ships Mechanic Row, across from the Tremont Hotel) which was built in 1858. At the time, the Berlocher was four stories, only three of which remain.
Alexander died at the young age of 43 in 1873.
His monument at Glenwood definitely signifies his success in business, towering over surrounding markers. A beautiful example of Wo
odmen of the World gravestones, the marker shared by Sessum and his wife features morning glories (symbolizing resurrection), roses (symbolizing beauty, for Mary) and acorns (symbolizing immortality for Alexander).
“Broken branches” lay at the base, with individual inscriptions for Alexander and Mary.
It’s well worth the trip to Glenwood to see this stunning sculpture in person.
CLICK HERE for a video showing the entire monument:
Having wandered through countless cemeteries in the past forty years, I can easily recognize most of the common iconography or symbolism used to decorate the markers. That makes it especially exciting to see something new (to me).
This unusual marker in Galveston’s Calvary Catholic Cemetery features two lambs resting their heads together, marking the grave of two siblings, each of whose inscriptions is featured on opposite sides of a double-sided stone.
Happily the children’s names are on the stone. So many markers of this type only identify small children as “Son of” or “dau. of” and give the parents initials or names. Their parents remain a mystery however, for the same reason.
Born June 29, 1888 and died Sept. 30, 1888.
Dearest loved one, we have laid thee
in the peaceful grave’s embrace,
but thy memory will be cherished
till we see thy heavenly face.
Almost exactly one year after their daughter’s death, a son was born to the couple. But that joy was short-lived as well.
Sept. 10, 1889 and died Dec. 26, 1889
‘Tis hard to break the tender cord
When love has bound the heart
‘Tis hard so hard, so speak the words
Must we forever part
Losing a child so close to Christmas always seems especially poignant.
There are almost two full pages of Andersons in the local directory during this time period, and unfortunately no further clues as to the identity of the parents at this time. Looking for other Andersons in the same cemetery failed to provide more leads as well due to the number of seemingly unrelated individuals with that surname.
Both of the children were just three months old. I wonder if the couple had any more children who survived, but likely will never know.
Although I occasionally run across a rare exception, lambs on gravestones denote the resting place of children and symbolize purity and innocence. This symbolic use of the lamb pre-dates Christianity, being used first by the Egyptians.
Many lamb figures on grave markers from this time period are missing their heads, or so severely eroded that they appear more like a lump than a small animal. This one is lucky, perhaps because of the strength of their necks resting against each other, to still be intact.
I wonder if there are any family members left on the island to visit this poignant remembrance.
An unassuming, concrete grave marker people might wander by, thinking surely not much of a story could lie here. They would be wrong.
The first clue that this is no regular grave is in its location: the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas. This cemetery is located about a mile southeast from the Walls Prison Unit and contains over 2,000 graves of inmates who either died in Texas prisons or were executed Graves of inmates whose bodies weren’t claimed by family or friends.
The male graves far outnumber the female sites, which makes them especially intriguing.
Though her marker states her age as only 27, she was actually 34 years old (born in 1895)…still so young to die.
When she was just a teenager, Judy Bell Tally married Jessie Burse. The couple lived on a farm in Gilmer, in Upshur County, Texas and had a daughter named Estelle in 1913.
It was not a happy marriage though. Jessie had a terrible temper was abusive to Judy, even whipping her.
Judy sought consolation in another man’s arms. Her lover, George Anderson, was enraged by the whippings and stated to friends that he was going to “get his meanness on” and kill Jessie.
After spending the day at the home of Judy’s father, Will Tally, George and Judy left around midnight to walk to her home. They had no idea they were being followed.
The couple stopped in a plum thicket to make love (three times, according to court records), and afterward were sitting together talking when her husband Jessie came up the path. Judy cried “There’s someone with a gun,” and Jessie, brandishing a stick in one hand and a gun in the other, yelled “I’ve ****** got you!” He raised his gun to take aim but George shot first, killing Jessie immediately.
According to trial records, George explained, “when he done that of course, I, just like any other man would do to protect myself, I shot. She insisted on me taking the gun to kill her father a rabbit, that’s why I taken the gun.”
He and Judy Bell then picked up Jessie’s buckshot ridden body and carried it to a thicket about four hundred yards away. It was a dark night, and no one else was in the area.
The body was soon found by accident, and by April the couple was being tried for murder.
George Anderson pled not guilty, but was sentence to 99 years. Upon arrival at the Darrington Prison Unit in Huntsville he was assigned inmate number 49518.
Judy Bell Burse also pled not guilty. She was convicted on August 12, 1922 and sentenced to 40 years. She was incarcerated at the Goree Prison Unit in Huntsville, which was a women’s prison at the time. Her inmate number was #48471.
Judy was considered an ideal inmate and was soon named a trustee, being given special responsibilities in the prison. Unfortunately, she died of pancreatic cancer in January of 1929, never seeing freedom again. She must have “fibbed” about her age, as her marker lists it as being 27. She was 34.
On the other hand, George was constantly getting in trouble for his temper, imprudence and “laziness.” The harsh punishments of the day didn’t deter him, and probably fueled his rage. His second escape attempt, on June 26, 1924, was successful and he was never recaptured. The last word in his prison log is “Gone”.
I wonder if he knew or cared that Judy died five years later.
And there is no trace of what became of Judy’s daughter Estelle. She was perhaps the most poignant and certainly the most blameless victim of the crime.
There’s always so much more to the stories behind the stones than an inscription can reveal.
Among the most famous and tantalizing stories to come from the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” franchise is one that begins with a death at the Tremont House Hotel in Galveston.
The curious tale began when a young actor named Charles Francis Coghlan visited a gypsy fortuneteller. The mystical soothsayer told Coghlan that he would die at the height of his fame in a southern U. S. city – but that he would have no rest until he returned home.
The prediction tormented Coghlan, disturbing him so much that he repeated it to friends and co-workers numberous times in the course of his life.
Over the next thirty years, Coghlan became one of the most famous actors of his day, appearing on stages across the U.S. and Europe. During the rare weeks that he did not appear on the stage, he and his wife retreated to their beloved home on Canada’s Prince Edward Island.
On October 30, 1899, Coghlan arrived in Galveston with his performing troupe, ready to present one of his own works, titled “The Royal Box.”
He never had the chance to appear on stage on the island, however. He became seriously ill with what doctors at the time diagnosed as acute gastritis. His understudy, Mr. Robinson, received wonderful reviews often mistakenly credited to Coghlan in print.
The actor’s wife remained with him, transcribing the first four acts of a new play, which he dictated while resting for four weeks. But, after an abrupt relapse of pain, he died in bed at the Tremont Hotel on November 27, with his distraught wife by his side. He was 57 years old and at the peak of his career.
His body was taken to the Levy Brothers Funeral Home, while his wife attempted to make arrangements in a strange city far from family and friends.
The grieving widow knew that her husband, upon his death, had wanted to be cremated and buried in New York. Galveston did not have a crematorium at the time, so she arranged for her husband’s body to be sh
ipped to the nearest facility in St. Louis.
By the time those preparations were made, a flood of demands from family and admirers insisted he be taken immediately to New York. It is no wonder that confusion exists about the final arrangements for the disposition of the actor’s body. Unfortunately, the funeral home records from this time were destroyed in 1979.
Her funds and energy exhausted, Coughlan’s widow had his remains placed in a temporary receiving vault at the Lakeview Cemetery until she could manage to have him sent to New York the following year.
In September of the following year, the infamous 1900 Storm hit Galveston, killing thousands and sweeping coffins out of mausoleums and vaults. Though the vault where Coghlan’s body was constructed of heavy granite blocks, it was washed away like so many other structures on the island.
Those coffins that were recovered were reinterred in the cemetery, but many were never found. Coughlan’s casket, which was among the missing, had been caught in the swift-running current and believed to have been swept into the Gulf of Mexico. The New York Actor’s Club offered a sizable reward, but the casket was never located.
Because his widow had purchased an elaborate cast iron casket for her beloved, it is highly unlikely it could do anything but sink in a body of water.
In 1929, an edition of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” published a rumor that had developed in the years after the storm.
The original Ripley feature said: “Charles Coughlan comes home! He died in 1899, and he was buried in Galveston. When the tragic flood came his coffin was washed out to sea and the Gulf Stream carried his around Florida and up the coast to Prince Edward Island – 2,000 miles distant – where he had lived.”
Ripley mentioned in October of 1908, fishermen spied a large box floating the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Snagging it with their nets, they pulled the badly damaged object to shore. A silver plate was revealed after cleaning off a few barnacles, which identified it as the casket of Charles Coughlan.
The legend tells that the actor was taken to his home church on Prince Edward Island and buried near the church where he was baptized in 1841. His wandering spirit was finally home.
Truth or Urban Myth?
Numerous books and articles have been written about the incident over the years, with slight to outrageous changes in the details. A brief internet search yields several versions of the story.
Local cemetery records of the small church on Prince Edward are considered to be complete and accurate. They show no sign of Charles Coughlan’s burial, and no gravestone exists.
It was reported that his daughter, actress Gertrude Coughlan Pitou visited Prince Edward in the 1980s and stated that her father’s remains had not been recovered or reinterred in Galveston. This report is seemingly eerie enough, since Gertrude herself died in 1952!
His sister, actress Rose Coughlan, was highly offended by the stories about her brother and she asked Robert Ripley for a retraction. Ripley, ever the savvy businessman, declined. He credited Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson, a Shakespearean actor and friend of Coughlan, for sharing the story with the publication.
The question remains: If Charles Coughlan is not at home at rest, and not in Lakeview Cemetery…where is he?
During the Thanksgiving holidays, we are surrounded by symbols of harvest and bounty. One of the most popular symbols of the season’s bounty is a sheaf of wheat, which is why it is often incorporated into decorations.
The image is so connected with bounty and prosperity that it was at one time used on United States currency.
Religiously, the image of wheat has a deeper meaning. Wheat is baked into the Eucharist, a motif of everlasting life through belief in Jesus. Therefore when wheat is used on gravestones or memento mori, it represents a divine harvest – being cut to resurrect the “harvest” into everlasting life or immortality.
Wheat has also been symbolic of love and charity in the bible, and was a popular emblem used by Masons.
The wheat sheaf can also signify a long and fruitful life, often more than 70 years.
So the net time you see an image of wheat on a grave, check the lifespan of the person who the stone memorializes.
Folklore and customs concerning death and cemeteries can run from humorous to gruesome, and are almost always entertaining. Most of us have heard it’s bad luck to walk across a grave or speak ill of the dead, but if you didn’t know that collecting epitaphs could cause you to lose your memory perhaps you should read on…just in case!
As soon as death occurs, the mirrors and pictures in the room should be covered or turned where they can’t be looked upon. It is bad luck to let the reflection of the corpse be seen in the mirror.
Cover mirrors with black crepe or veiling to prevent the deceased’s spirit from getting trapped in the looking glass
A European tradition says that if you look into the mirror before the body is removed, you can see the deceased looking over your shoulder.
Sweeping the home before the corpse is taken out will ensure that the person who does so will be the next to die.
Take care that you do not see your reflection in a hearse, or you will be the next to be carried in it.
Being the first to leave the cemetery after a funeral is bad luck and could bring you death.
The person who walks out in front of the coffin as it is being taken from the house will be the next to die.
If the body of the deceased is limp for some time after death, another member of the family will soon follow.
A corpse should leave any home or building feet-first, or else the corpse would be looking back at the building and calling for someone within to follow him in death.
Locking the door of your home after a funeral procession has left the house is bad luck.
It is also bad luck to meet a funeral procession head on. If you see one approaching, turn around or hold on to a button until the cortege passes.
If a funeral procession passes your home, draw the curtains or close the blinds to prevent the dead from entering your home.
Never count the number of cars in a funeral procession, as it is considered counting the days until the your own death
The corpse should not pass over any part of the same road twice or the spirit will lose its way.
If the funeral procession stops on its way to the cemetery, another death will soon follow.
It used to be believed that carrying a baby in a funeral procession would ensure that it would die before its first birthday.
A black cat crossing in front of a funeral procession means another death in that family.
It is a sign of bad luck, if a horse in a funeral procession becomes frisky.
Never look backward while in a funeral procession, or you will soon go to another funeral.
After a funeral, if two carriages from the same funeral meet at the intersection of two streets then go in opposite directions, expect another death.
If the deceased lived a good life flowers will bloom on his grave, but if he has been evil only weeds will grow.
Having only red and white flowers together in a vase (especially in a hospital) means death will soon follow.
Never take flowers from a grave or that spirit will haunt you.
A living flower taken from a gravesite will not grow.
If you smell roses when none are around, someone is going to die.
A single snowdrop growing in the garden foretells a death
Do not put the clothes of a living person on a corpse. That person will die once the clothes decay.
A witch must be buried face down to prevent the community further supernatural spells. If this doesn’t work, unbury them and turn their clothes inside out, then re-bury them face down.
Removing the bed sheets from the home before the corpse leaves ensures another member of the family will soon die.
The Irish believe in wearing black to appear to be a shadow, so that the dead person won’t enter your body.
It is bad luck to wear anything new to a funeral, especially shoes.
If you bury someone with a veil over their face and the veil gets in their mouth, they will call the family away.
Family photographs should be placed face down to prevent any of the close relatives and friends of the deceased from being possessed by the spirit of the dead.
If you hear three knocks and no one is there, it usually means someone close to you has died. The superstitious call this the three knocks of death.
A knife falling to the floor means a loved one has died.
If a picture suddenly falls off the wall, someone has died.
Stop the clocks at the time of death to show the departed that “time was over” for him or her.
On the night after November 1, a candle should be lit for each deceased relative and placed in a window.
If coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup form a straight line, you can expect a funeral
Dropping an umbrella on the floor or opening one in the house means that there will be a murder in the house.
A hat on the bed means death in the family.
If you spill salt, throw a pinch of the spilt salt over your shoulder to prevent death.
If an undertaker leaves anything of his trade at the house and it remains there after the funeral, someone in that family will soon die.
If a broom is rested against a bed, the person who sleeps there will die soon.
Taking ashes out of a stove after sundown will bring a death in the family.
It’s Black & White
A white moth inside the house or trying to get in means death.
If several deaths occur in the same family, tie a black ribbon to everything left alive that enters the house, even chickens and dogs. This will protect against deaths spreading further.
A diamond-shaped fold in clean linen foreshadows death.
If you bury a woman in all black with no color on her dress, she will always come back and haunt the family.
Meeting a white chicken on your way to a funeral is an omen of bad luck.
Fending Off Spirits
A corpse should be carried out feet first to prevent the spirit from looking back into the house and beckoning another member of the family to follow.
You should always cover your mouth while yawning so your spirit doesn’t leave you and the devil enter your body.
Hold your breath when passing a graveyard so evil or the spirit of someone who has recently died can’t enter.
As soon as the person is dead and in the clothes in which they are to be buried, a dish of salt should be put on their chest to keep evil spirits away.
Never cry on a dead person because if the tears fall on them, it makes it harder for the spirit to leave this world.
If for some reason you find yourself needing to bury a body, bury them at a crossroads and their spirit won’t be able to leave.
Make sure windows and doors are open after a person dies to ensure their spirit a speedy journey to the other side.
Turning over a shoe under the bed when the dogs howl at night to prevent death from possessing you.
Pallbearers must wear white gloves so the spirit can’t enter their bodies.
East or West
Graves should be oriented so that the bodies lie with their heads to the West and their feet to the East. This old custom appears to originate with the Pagan sun worshippers, but is primarily attributed to Christians who believe that the final summons to Judgment will come from the East.
The bed of a gravely ill person should never be placed north and south, and always east and west with the head toward the west. This will speed the process of dying and reduce suffering.
In the Cemetery
Tuck your thumbs into your fists when passing a cemetery to protect your parents.
The spirit of the last person buried in a cemetery must stand watch over all the others.
Never whistle inside the cemetery walls, or you will summon the devil.
A pregnant woman should not go to a cemetery or her infant may be possessed.
Visiting a cemetery after dark will bring you bad luck.
Go to a cemetery, get some black dirt off a grave and put that dirt under steps you have to walk over, and you will always have luck.
The person who takes something from a cemetery will return more than he took.
Graves & Burials
Being near an open grave will cure a toothache.
Being buried on the north side of the church is considered unlucky because of the lack of sun. That area is usually reserved for criminals and suicides.
The shovels and other tools used to dig a grave used to be left at the gravesite for a day or more after the burial, as moving them too soon would bring bad luck.
Graves should never be left open overnight. It will lead to another death.
If the casket slips while it is being lowered into the grave, another death will soon follow.
Leaving the grave before it is filled will welcome another death to follow.
It is bad luck to point at a grave, because the dead will see you.
Naturally, the post of guardian was to be avoided if possible, so, when two bodies arrive for interment at the same time, a rush was made by the friends of the deceased in order to prevent their friend from being “last man in.”
If the coffin does not go into the hole easily, it is because the devil does not want the deceased.
If you have an involuntary shiver, someone has just walked over your grave
Never bury anyone on Thursday or Saturday, as it will result in bad luck.
Never bury anything, such as toys with a child, or other family members will soon die.
If a firefly or lightening bug gets into a house someone will soon die.
If a bird pecks at or crashes into your window, there has been a death.
If a sparrow lands on a piano, someone in the home will die.
The cry of a curlew foretells a death.
If a red-breasted robin flies into a house, death will shortly follow.
When the head of the household dies, one must go out and whisper the news of the death to the bees, or all in the home will meet the same fate. Bees were believed in past to be the messengers of the gods, so when informed, bees would take the news to them.
If the deceased cared for an orchard or any fruit trees, the trees must be informed of the passing.
If a turtle dove flies upward after a death, the soul of the deceased will go to heaven.
A person cannot die on a mattress with feathers of wild fowl, so when someone is dying a slow death, the person must be carried to a different mattress to ease the suffering.
If a cow moos after midnight, it is an evil omen.
If you are going to a funeral and meet a mad dog, it will cause you bad luck.
The cry of an owl symbolizes death. Where it builds a nest, ghosts will haunt for as long as the bird stays.
The crowing of a rooster signals wandering ghosts that it is time for them to disappear until nightfall.
It’s in the Numbers
Death comes in threes.
If thirteen people sit down at a table to eat, one of them will die before the year is over.
If three people are photographed together, the one in the middle will die first.
If two people in the same house are sick and one dies, the other will improve in health.
The first person that leaves the graveyard after a funeral will bring a death to his family.
A person who walks over three graves will die before the year is out.
Perchance to Dream
One who sees themself die in a dream, will die in reality.
If a person dreams about a birth, someone they know will die.
To dream of a deceased person in an agitated state means that they are in hell. To dream of them in a pleasant state means they have gone to heaven.
Touching a corpse on the forehead assures you will not dream of the dead.
On the Money
Leave a coin at the gate of the deceased family’s home for good luck.
Coins placed over the eyes of the deceased kept them from coming open. If the eyes of the corpse remained open, he was said to be looking for a follower and another death would soon happen
Finding a four-leaf clover on a grave foretells a friend coming to visit to give you some money.
As long as the funeral bill remains unpaid, the corpse will not rest in its grave.
A final word to the wise: shaving with a dead man’s razor will turn a beard prematurely gray. Consider yourself warned.
Today is the 115th Anniversary of the tragic 1900 hurricane in Galveston, that took thousands of lives. I thought it was only proper for today’s post to pay tribute to a veteran who lost his life in that storm.
Johann “John” Karl “Charles” Seidenstricker was an immigrant who proved his allegiance and dedication to his new country soon after his arrival.
Born on September 7, 1842 in Bad Duerkeim, Pfalz, Bayern, Germany, Johann immigrated to America by himself when he was only 18 years old. He arrived in New Orleans aboard the ship Kate Dyer on February 4, 1861, just two months before the Civil War began.
He served as a private in Company F of the 31st Massachusetts Infantry, while they were stationed in Donaldsonville, Louisiana south of Baton Rouge. In December, joined by companies from nearby Fort Pike, the unit was armed and equipped as cavalry and stationed at Carrollton.
From there, Johann took part in the Red River campaign and was engaged with loss at Sabine Cross Road on April 4, 1864. He re-enlisted during the winter and left on July 21 for furlough in Massachusetts, returning to Donaldsonville in November.
The regiment took part in the operations against Mobile, Alabama and occupied the city after the surrender. Johann remained on duty there until he mustered out on July 31, 1865.
Johann was naturalized in New Orleans on April 30, 1866, no doubt largely in thanks to his service to the country during the war.
While in New Orleans he met NOLA native Married Elenora Johanna Phillippi (1842-1906). They married on September 10, 1866 at St. Matthew’s Evangelical Church in Carrollton, Louisiana.
Johann, now known by his Anglicized name John, and his wife moved to Galveston, and raised a large family, which included Charles Louis “Carl Ludwig” (1868-1925), Elenora Johanna (1869-1962), Emma (1872-1958), Anna Elizabeth (1874-1945), Bertha (1876-1946), Frederick Godfred (1878-1946), Henry William (1881-1952), and Maude Louise (1883-1953).
He became an active member of the community, and was eventually elected a trustee of Knights of Honor’s Goethe Lodge No. 2976, one of two lodges of this fraternal beneficiary society in the city.
From 1888-1891, John worked as a porter for Rosenfield and Co.
The building where he worked is now part of the historic Strand shopping district, on the second floor above Head to Footsies, The Admiralty and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
In 1900, the couple and four of their children (Bertha, Frederick, Henry and Maude) lived together at 1209 Avenue N, very close to what is now Stewart’s Beach.
On September 8, 1900 a hurricane which is still the nation’s worst natural disaster struck the city, smashing buildings and killing thousands of people. John was one of those lost in the tragedy. It was the day after his birthday.
Because of the debris, bodies were found for months, and even years, after the storm. With John missing, I can only imagine his family checking the listings of identified bodies found each day in the local newspaper…praying for an answer.
John’s body was eventually discovered and identified by his son Charles. He was buried on Oct. 20, 1900 in Galveston’s Lakeview Cemetery.
Johanna died November 10, 1906 at her home at 1202 Church Street at the age of 54. She is buried at Lakeview as well.