Oral History Interview of Rosa Tod Hamner

OH – Hamner, Rosa Tod
Title: Oral History Interview of Rosa Tod Hamner
Interviewer: Margaret Henson
Format: Typescript; 1 tape
Description: Her interview runs 33 pages. Only the Storm-related pages are available here.
Date: Feb 13, 1975
Terms: Galveston Bay; Houses

Interview with: Rosa Tod Hamner
Date of Interview: February 13, 1975
Interviewer: Margaret Henson

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Rosa Tod Hamner. The interview consists of 33 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.

Hamner, page 11

Now actually his house itself burned, the ranch house, burned. That's when he lost almost everything he had in that fire. But it's interesting to me that Andrew Briscoe, who had been connected with the railroad and the promotion of the lots in Harrisburg sold out. It really was the Harris' property. It belonged to Mrs. Harris. Andrew Briscoe was her son-in-law. He was the agent for Mrs. Harris. Well, there seemed to have been some sort of disagreement. Anyway, the property was sold, railroad and all to Sidney Sherman and his associates.

Andrew Briscoe went to Mississippi to establish himself over there. While he was gone, his wife and little girls stayed with the Lubbocks on the Lubbock ranch. There evidently was coolness between Mrs. Briscoe and Mrs. Harris made it uncomfortable for Mrs. Briscoe to stay there with her mother. She stayed with the Lubbocks. The Briscoes little girl, Adele, who became Mrs. _____ was named for Mrs. Lubbock.

Mrs. Lubbock was a Barron, Adele Barron of New Orleans. She was from a French family. I don't know what the house looked like. I've seen a picture which I think is just an imaginative drawing.
Henson: When your father was Secretary of State of Texas, did you live in Austin at that time?
Hamner: Yes, that's one of my first recollections. I suppose the first real recollection that I have, that I can be sure I remember, is standing in front of the mirror brushing my hair and saying I'm brushing my hair to go to Austin.
Henson: That's a little girl kind of thing.
Hamner: I say that at the time of the 1900 storm, September 1900, I was present, but not voting.
Henson: That's a nice way to put it.
Hamner: Sometimes I think I remember being snugged up under something and out in the weather, but my mother had to carry me from the house over to the

Hamner, page 12

railroad station in the worst of that storm.
Henson: Why?
Hamner: We had to leave the house. We were down at the bay.
Henson: Oh you were down at Tod Hill Road.
Hamner: Yes, we were there in that storm.
Henson: You had no advance warning up there I don't guess.
Hamner: It was stormy weather, but we didn't have the...
Henson: It wasn't like the little man going up and down the beach saying you'd better leave.
Hamner: No, nobody to tell us. My father and the men who lived all along the Bay shore rode the train to town every day. They began seeing how stormy and bad the weather was. They went to Southern Pacific and told them they wanted to get the train out and take them down there, not to wait till five o'clock. I don't know what time they started, about noon I think, but the storm was so terrific. They had to stop it and get trees off the track and stations, railroad stations that had blown across.

So as we got within--across the prairie, the ladies saw a little light glimmering and that was the train coming from Houston. They had long since lost their headlight, but they had a lantern put on front of it. So the women and children were taken aboard the train and spent the rest of the night there. It was a terrible experience.

I wish we'd have had a tape recorder then, while I was little. Before my mother died, she could give the most wonderful description of that storm, about the rising of the wind and the water. She could describe the weather like millions of demons overhead she'd say. Then she had to get out with all these little children. I think there were two men in the whole party.

Hamner, page 13

Henson: Had they gotten word to you all to go to the railroad or did you. ..
Hamner: No, you just had to get away from water. Henson: You just knew. ..
Hamner: You see the Milby's house was next to ours, but it's not as high as ours. Mama, being alone there with just--they persuaded her. She went over to the Milby's. The next door neighbors down the road. They all congregated there at the Milby's. There were young ladies in the Milby family. I was only two. My sister was seven. Then we had a little boy cousin with us, Frank Ives. His mother was with us. She was pregnant. She had a baby just two months later.

It was such a horrible thing. While we were there, it seemed as if the house was just going to blow down. They decided they'd better leave the house instead of staying there and being killed. So they got out and the only thing they could do was walk away from the water. They got over on the prairie and walked toward the town of Seabrook. That's where they got on the train. We did the same in 1915.

Henson: Did you in that storm? You were at the Bay then?
Hamner: That was a terrible storm too, but we were grown people. I was young college girl. I had girls visiting me and of course we thought it was a lark. I thought it was the most exciting thing that ever happened.
Henson: What kind of damage resulted at the Bay property there. You were right on the Bay and backed up to the Todville Road. It was bigger than it is now. Is it washed away?
Hamner: Oh we lost a great deal of land in the front. You see my mother's people settled there in. .. Let's see that was Ritson Morris. That's my grandfather.
Henson: Oh! I didn't realize that.

Hamner, page 14

Hamner: We talked about the Edwards.
Henson: Jawbone Morris.
Hamner: That's right.
Henson: So that's the original land grant.
Hamner: Yes, and we still have our home there. Of course acres have gone into the water. Even when I was a little child I used to hear them tell about how our grandparents house, where it used to stand was really out in the water even then. Because the grandparent's home, Mr. Morris built a nice big columned house. It must have been shortly before the Civil War. The Bay encroached on that until after she had mother. The porch went into the water. That was on a bluff and you know erosion is bad.

Our particular piece of property where our house is, has always been a nice slope and we've had no erosion there until maybe around the 1940s. We had a very bad storm that came in and a barge came in and dug into the bank. It eroded badly there.

Now of course we have the subsidence and we were having it then, but we didn't realize it. Now it's just really very bad. The storms have never damaged our house.

Henson: Are you living in the same house now that was there in 1900?
Hamner: It was built in 1890.
Henson: That's fantastic. You have pictures and things that you're going to preserve, because that's really historic.
Hamner: My father just had some, I suppose he drew the plan and had two colored men build it. It's four rooms with a big hall down the center and a porch all the way around. Oh it was delightful. Of course now we've added to it. We've closed in the porch and all that. It's more livable. In 1900 the porch roof across the front and half of each side was lifted off and just tossed behind the house, like a can opener. That very same thing

Hamner, page 15

happened in 1915. I remember--of course I don't remember in 1900, they say they stepped over it. That's where my aunt, the Mrs. Ives who was pregnant, stepped on a board with a nail in it. My mother had to reach down and get it out of her foot. In 1915 we had to walk over that roof too. After the roof goes off you're so shaken up. You think the house is gone so then you decide to leave. If we had stayed in the house we would have been saved, because nothing else happened.
Henson: < But wet.
Hamner: > Yes it was raining. That desk down there was there in 1915 and it was just swimming in water. Everything was just. ..
Henson: It survived.
Hamner: Grandfather's, I guess he had it shipped in at Galveston and used it at his place on Dickinson Bayou.
Henson: Oh fantastic. That's really old. It's nice to have something of the family. Let's talk about Harrisburg as the town. Seemingly so little has been written about it and it was a town and it wasn't absorbed into Houston until what about the 1920s?
Hamner: In the twenties.
Henson: I'd like to know about the history of Harrisburg and how it developed and the people that lived there. Did it have any problems or whatever with its big neighbor to its west.
Hamner: The big problem was always trying to get ahead of Houston. That was the railroad, the controversy all the time. The railroad started Harrisburg and then at the time _____ Harrisburg, [makes a loud noise and claps]. That's where John Richardson Harris, and the town was laid out in 1826. He had received a land grant and he chose the confluence of Braes and Buffalo Bayous and that's where the town of Harrisburg is.

Oral History Interview of Rosa Tod Hamner