Oral History Interview of Louise Hopkins

Accession#: OH – Hopkins, Louise
Title: Oral History of Louise Hopkins
Interviewer: Jane Kenamore
Format: Typescript; 2 tapes
Description: Hopkins (1893-1987) lived at 917 Avenue C at the time of the 1900 Storm. Her interview runs 40 pages. Only the Storm-related pages are available here. An edited version of them appears in Casey Edward Greene and Shelly Henley Kelly, eds., Through a Night of Horrors: Voices from the 1900 Galveston Storm (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, c2000), 170-73.
Date: Jul 8, 1982
Terms: Terms: Houses; Bodies; Dau Family; Grade Raising

Interview with: Louise Hopkins
Date of Interview: July 8, 1982
Interviewer: Jane Kenamore

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Louise Hopkins. The interview consisted of 40 pages. Only those pages that directly concern the 1900 Storm are available here. To view the rest of the oral history, please contact the Galveston and Texas History Center.

Hopkins, page 6

where we did without for so long. My husband .. was going in business and we had everything went into the business and to let the house go. We had partitions in the house, but finishings to the door. No doors. No doors. So you think of the young people, they wouldn't do those things nowadays. I doubt they would.
Kenamore: No, they aren't as used to being without.
Hopkins: They want their own silver now and their owndishes and everything's got to be perfect before they ever think about getting married.
Kenamore: You were seven years old when the 1900 Storm came.
Hopkins: Yes.
Kenamore: I know you have memories during the Storm, butwhat I'm interested in first is do you have any memories of the preparation for the Storm...
Hopkins: My mother getting...
Kenamore: …of do you have any memories of how your, mother felt when the Storm was coming. I Hopkins: Well it's in that story of the Storm. My seeing the water come down the street and being so delighted that we didn't have far to go to go to the beach. It was right there at the front door and then it began to get bigger and wider and was coming into the garden that my mother had. That distressed me to think she had so little time for those things and then to have them ruined that way. And then we went upstairs, I was in upstairs but my mother tried to get -- you see it was on the 8th of September and in another week the medical students would be coming in you see...
Kenamore: Was anyone there to help your mother? Any man?
Hopkins: My sister, she was eight years older than I, and my two brothers had gone. Left early that morning because they didn't anticipate anything like this, on their bicycles. They both had

Hopkins, page 7

jobs like little altar boys or something. They .. came home and they helped my mother. We got as much as we could out of the cabinets. I even helped with the lighter things.
Kenamore: You moved things up.
Hopkins: To get things up to the second story. Our house by that time had been raised maybe two stair heights. We all got upstairs and I looked out of the window and saw I could see that the water was over the ballister of the house next door. I don't think I was frightened until then and I thought, if it's that deep in their house, how deep is it my house? I thought of all the things that had to be left behind --the beds and the heavy pieces of furniture and the other sort of things. Course selfishly my things that I had to leave behind.
Kenamore: Well at age seven that's what you think about.
Hopkins: It was a very harrowing experience to go through. I saw my brothers coming home. They got home, the older one was there early and the other one. I remember seeing him wading in water this high.
Kenamore: Up to his chest.
Hopkins: Holding his arms out like this to walk against the wind and the water. It frightened me too. I didn't know it was that bad. But I wanted to tell you, my mother, when she realized that the water was going to come in the house, that it was coming under the door in the house, the first floor. How she knew this I don't know, I wouldn't known it as old as I am and as long as I've lived. She went out to where she chopped kindling wood for the stove, you know there's no gas, no electricity, and got an axe. She chopped holes into every floor of every room downstairs in the hallway and the kitchen and he dining room --in the two bedrooms that were downstairs. So the water would come up into the house and held the house on the ground...
Kenamore: ...right, and not float it off the foundations.

Hopkins, page 8

Hopklns: Yes.
Kenamore: There are a number of houses in Galveston, I believe, that still have holes in the floor. Small holes.
Hopkins: Yes, she just chopped them in there you know. I tell this story to the school. I go to the schools whenever they ask me.
Kenamore: Yes.
Hopkins: I ask the children if they know why she did this. If you would hear all the funny answers they give you know. But there is always one who knows.
Kenamore: Oh really?
Hopkins: There's always one child that knows the reason for it. I wouldn't have known at that age I'm sure.
Kenamore: Well that was a heavily damaged area, in 917...
Hopkins: ...well the whole place was...
Kenamore: ...well yes, but I mean...
Hopkins: ...the whole city was, it was 6,000 people...
Kenamore: ...but the East End and the south side of Galveston were most heavily damaged because they were closer to the Gulf.
Hopkins: There was nothing there to stop the water from coming. At that time the city was below sea level. It was supposed to be below sea level.
Kenamore: Or very low, right.
Hopkins: So of course, after that is when they built the seawall and raised the grade. I have pictures of that.
Kenamore: Do you have memories of the aftermath of the Storm?

Hopkins, page 9


Hopkins: Not so many, because I wasn't permitted to leave the house. My two brothers did. They helped with the burying of the dead and getting people out that was under the wreckage. As soon as the water went down they left to see about some relatives that lived not too far away. They were conscripted. Is that the word to help?
Kenamore: Yes.
Hopkins: Because people were crying for help. They were caught under that wreckage of different places. Especially at the Hospital - St. Mary's Hospital.
Kenamore: Oh really?
Hopkins: They had to help there. They were told they must help and then they were told they had to dig. There was no identification and no prayers said or anything else, they were just put in the ground. Then there were so many of them, that they couldn't find any more ground to bury them. They took them out to sea and then they washed back in again. So then they had to be burned. It was a terrible time, it really was. But I was saved all that. I heard the stories of women with long hair who had been caught in the trees with their hair and cut to pieces with slates that had been flying off the roofs of houses. It was a bad time.
Kenamore: Yes.
Hopkins: I remember my mother. We went out to the porch to look at our house, because the back end of it had completely collapsed and it was in the yard next door. Everything, cookstove, the two bedrooms upstairs with all the furniture and all the dining room furniture and everything was all in the yard next door. It had collapsed.
Kenamore: Where were you staying in the house when all this?
Hopkins: We were staying in the front part of the house.

Hopkins, page 10

Kenamore: In the front part? And you felt the back part?
Hopkins: We could hear the crash and my mother went to
the porch and looked out and saw everything she had worked for in the yard next door in the mess, and she said, I remember her words so, "Oh God why couldn't we have all gone with it". It had been such a struggle to her up to that time, and she just didn't see how she could face another. So you see that called for a second mortgage in order to fix the house back up again. I can remember too, you know the more you think the more you can remember. My son-in-law is a psychiatrist, he's a doctor, and he claims that nothing that you have ever remembered --it's still there. You've never lost any of it, it's just pressed down and if you think hard enough it'll come back up. I can remember crying the next day. We had plenty to eat, because she'd gotten all the food upstairs. But I was crying because they had gone over next door, we had the floor. The floor was there with a hole in it, because that hadn't gone over. I was crying because it was raining in my beans and I couldn't stop it from raining. I remember that. Just silly little things like that.
Kenamore: Were all of your friends all right or did you lose anyone?
Hopkins: Well, my friends were confined to a family immediately across the street. They were all right. They were all okay. They were a German family that lived over there, Martha. I still hear from these people. Not the older ones, they're all gone. There was Gretchen, Marie, and I didn't know much of the boys. There were two boys, but I don't know what happened to them.
There was Gretchen, Marie, and Martha -and Martha was my friend, and Helen. Well Helen lives in Killeen and I've visited her, but I visit Martha. She was my real true friend near

Hopkins, page 11

my age and she's dead now. Her daughter livesin Coronado California and when I went to visit her, when they were in the Naval Yard in Washington D.C. I went with Helen, the one that lived in Killeen, and I was introduced to this daughter as Louise. Martha had said to me "If I ever have a little girl, I'm going to name her after you", and that was the first time. We'd gotten separated. We hadn't seen each other in years and I realized --Martha was dead long ago --realized that she had named her after me. So we have been close friends now. She visited me here last summer and her husband is a Naval Officer in Coronado.

She amazed one of my friends that lives here -- took us around in her car. She wanted to go to the Galleria. She'd heard a lot about the Galleria and she wanted to see what it was like. It amazed Myrtle and I because she'd go and she'd say "I'll take that and I'll take that and I'll take two of this and this". (laugh) Where does all that money come from.
Kenamore: What was their last name?
Hopkins: Dau, D. .A. .U.
Kenamore: D. .A. .U.. And your maiden name was Bristol.
Hopkins: Bristol, yes.
Kenamore: I'll go back to the Archives and look that up in the city directory.
Hopkins: You know when my mother told me, growing up, she didn't like the Dau girls too much. They were rough and she tried to make a quiet sweet little lady out of me. I just never was that kind. I was rough. She would always remind me, "You have nothing. You have none of this now, but your great-great grandfather was Richard Henry Lee and he was the signer of the Declaration of Independence." I was never permitted to forget that. (laugh)
Kenamore: Well he was rather well-known.

Hopkins, page 12

Hopkins: Yes. I've never been a~le to trace that down III and I've often thought It's too bad that I haven't been able to.
Kenamore: It probably wouldn't be very hard to do.
Hopkins: That's what they tell me, but I don't know where to start.
Kenamore: If you're interested. I'll put a pause on the tape.

[tape stopped]

Hopkins: Her name was Stump and there was a Herman Stump that was a Congressman at one time. Then she was a Birdsell before that so as far as that is, I don't know when they married and I'm sure you have to know all these things.
Kenamore: There are ways you can look in the census...
Hopkins: ...We had a book very much like this as near lyas I can remember and my mother loaned it to my older brother after he married. His wife wasn't particularly interested in it and it got lost. It got thrown out and lost. And it would have told that they did. In other words, it told, including my sister, who was eight years older than I, it didn't include me. That would have been fine. I have written to people I thought in Maryland that might have a copy of this book, but I haven't been able to find any. I haven't done it recently. But I know my brother, my younger brother, would have liked this. My older brother had no children, but my older brother had this one daughter, who by the way lives here in the apartment with me now. My niece. You're not getting all this on the thing.
Kenamore: Yes, that's all right.
Hopkins: You ask me and I'll tell you.
Kenamore: Okay.
Hopkins: I ramble. I talk too much anyway.

Hopkins, page 13

Kenamore: After the 1900 Storm there was the grade II raising. Do you remember all the mess that was involved with it?
Hopkins: Yes.
Kenamore: Was it fun for you as a child or was it...
Hopkins: I wasn't permitted to have fun.
Kenamore:Oh really. You were not permitted to get dirty. Hopkins: But the Dau girls could. But I couldn't. I never could go barefooted, because my father said that he didn't think little ladies, even children, that he might just as well show other naked parts of your body. So I had to wear my shoes and stockings. When the grade raising came, of course I had to go barefooted, because it was muddy everywhere. I got pictures of this if youwant to see them.
Kenamore: Oh yes I would.
Hopkins: Well turn off your thing and we'll find them.

[tape stopped]

Kenamore: When they raised your house, did they retain the two stories? Did they raise it up?
Hopkins: They raise it up so that the filling came underneath the first story.
Kenamore: Underneath the first story, so you were left with a two story house.
Hopkins: Two stories, oh yeah.
Kenamore: I imagine that was quite expensive for your mother too, because
Hopkins: ...That's what I say. That took a third borrowin'.
Kenamore: Because each individual property owner had to pay to have the houses raised.

Hopkins, page 14

Hopkins: Yes, and do you know great buildings were II raised?
Kenamore: Yes, did you ever witness any of those being raised?
Hopkins: No, I was still just a child. Played in that mud you know.
Kenamore: But we do have photographs of the churches being raised.
Hopkins: If they weren't raised, then the first floor of the buildings were basements. They were the underground basements, because the water -mud was just pumped in. That's their progress. This is pretty much some more of the same. [looking at photos] These are some old things that might be of some interest.

[tape stopped]

Hopkins: ...about what we did to survive after we --my brother was in the room out over the kitchen and dining room.
Kenamore: This is in the 1900 Storm.
Hopkins: 1900 Storm we're going back. He said he didn't believe it was shaking as badly there as it was in the front part of the house, and that we should go out there to see. So we all held hands, because the wind was blowing just terribly and went across an open porch to back there. We were no sooner back there and my mother said, "It's worse out here than it was in the main part of the house". So we went back to the main part of the house. Now she said we should have a light in case somebody was out in the Storm and could see a light. They would know somebody was there and alive. You couldn't put a lamp on because the house was shaking so badly that we were afraid it would falloff and set the house on fire. We didn't need that surely. Now there was no Crisco in those days, no pan Crisco. She bought lard in drums like about this big and my sister

Hopkins, page 15

had a little carnival stick, with a flag on the II end of it. She put that across the top of the open can of lard. She took a piece of material I she tore off of something and she saturated that down in this Crisco and on one end of it over the little stick and lighted that as a wick. That's the light we had through the night. That weird little light burning there.
All of a sudden, my sister screamed and pointed into the door into the room next door and that wall was leaving that ceiling. It was going out each time the gust of wind would come. It would go out and then come back in again. My mother was the only that wasn't surprised and I feel like she had seen it before my sister did.
Making up her mind what's the best thing to do. She realized that the house was going to pieces around us. She knew that the back end had already gone off, because we heard the crash of that. So we was just waiting for the part we were in to go to pieces. All four of us. We had to make some provisions to get out.
We knew that the people across the street, the Dau family, was still there. They had a cow. Their house was a high raised house and they had a cow they kept under the house. For that purpose they had a lantern, and they could keep the lantern. So we knew that they were still there. They hadn't left. It don't seem so now, but there was such a consolation to know that somebody.. .
Kenamore: ...at least somebody was still there...
Hopkins: ...somebody was still alive. My mother said "Well we'll try to make it over to the Dau's". They're still over there, just across the street. Now, my brothers, both of them, are good swimmers. You can see they were nearly grown. They were much older than I. She improvised this thing. She took the mattress off the bed and my sister and she and I were going to hold on to the mattress and my brothers were going to try to pull the mattress. Swim and pull the mattress with us clinging to it or on it. We couldn't have been on it, it would

Hopkins, page 16

have sunk.
Kenamore: Your mother, however, did not swim.
Hopkins: No, and I didn't either and neither did my sister. So we were, I guess paddle, I don't know what she'd planned for us to do, but we were going to try to make it over. Then she realized that the wind was blowing so terribly enough to do that damage that we were liable to be blown away. Then she took strips off the bed --I mean the sheets --and tied us to her. But as we watched this going out and coming back in again, my sister kept saying, "Wait now" and my mother'd say "Let's go, each time I go out we'd better go now" I remember her saying. My sister'd say "Wait" and if we hadn't waited I'm sure we never would have made it across. The storm began to go down and we saw Mr. Dau come out of his house with the lantern and we called to him. I remember my brother saying "My God, you're not leaving us now!" and he said "I'm going down to see about my cow." That the water has gone down. It came in and went out rather quickly. I mean not that quickly, but fairly. They claim it was tidal wave...
Kenamore:...I know that the tide was something like seventeen feet above normal.
Hopkins: Yes. Anyway, we were survived. I remember my mother saying, when she saw the house, the back part of the house. And the front, that part all had to be redone too. "Here goes more mortgage". So it was sad for her. She had a sad life and she was a very smart woman.
Kenamore: She must have been.
Hopkins: To have known to do these things. You asked if there was any help. Then came the commissary, you know people in the North send things down, old clothes. They were new, but they were out of style. I remember my sister and I both got a little suit alike. It was a little Scottish suit and cap that went with it. She didn't want to wear hers. I think mostly because I had one like it. (laugh)

Oral History Interview of Louise Hopkins