In 1900, Galveston was the wealthiest city, per capita, in the United States. Ninety-five percent of all goods flowing into Texas came through the Port of Galveston. The city had more millionaires per city block than any other city in the United States.
Dr. Isaac Cline (science and medical degrees) was an eleven-year resident of Galveston and was the chief of the Weather Bureau. He was married to Cora May, had three children, and Cora May was pregnant with their fourth child.
Joseph Cline was Isaac’s brother. He lived with in the Cline home, and he was also interested in the Weather Service.
On September 7th, Dr. Cline noticed the red-brick sunset, which indicated an approaching storm, however no alarm was given because he didn’t want to frighten the people.
On September 8 th, Joseph Cline, Isaac Cline’s brother awoke at 4:00 A.M. with a foreboding that a storm was brewing.
At daylight the Isaac and Joseph saw great waves crashing on the beach. Isaac then hitched horse to a cart and went up and down the beach imploring residents to seek higher ground. During the day, the winds and rain increased, and the tide rose, flooding residential areas.
St. Mary’s Orphanage, staffed by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, which was located West of Galveston, on the beach, protected by sand dunes. The sisters also operated St. Mary’s infirmary in Galveston.
The angry Gulf waters were soon eroding the sand dunes, so the sisters moved the boys to the second story of the girls’ dormitory, which was newer and stronger. To calm the children, the sisters had them sing “Queen of the Waves”.
By 6:00 P.M. the wind was gusting over100 mph, and much of Galveston was flooded. At the orphanage the sisters asked Henry Esquior, a worker, to collect clothesline, which they used to tie the children to the cinctures that they wore around their waste. The boys’ dormitory collapsed and was carried away by the waves.
At 7:30 P.M. the main tidal surge struck The first floor of the infirmary was flooded. From the second-story balcony the sisters pulled victims from the water as they floated by.
The girls’ dormitory was lifted from its foundation. The bottom came out and the roof crashed down, trapping all inside. Only three boys from the orphanage survived, William Murney, Frank Madera, and Albert Campbell. All three ended up together in a tree in the water.
The sisters were buried wherever they were found, with the children still attached to them. One sister was found holding a small child in her arms, fulfilling the promise “not to let go”.
After the storm, the sisters repaired the infirmary and one year later opened a new orphanage.