Forgotten Trails: Diary tells of long-ago storm

Published 10:37 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

By Staff
Lydia Grimes – Features writer
This week I want to take a break from the downtown stores and cover another subject.
It seems that maybe we have dodged another hurricane, as Ernesto seems to be turning (at least that is the way it is on Monday as I write this).
At least in the technology of today we have some warning if a hurricane is headed our way. A hundred years ago, nobody had any idea a storm was headed toward them. They just knew that they surely did have a big storm.
Sometime back I told you the story of the hurricane to hit Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 8, 1900. The people had no warning and there were around 800 people killed.
A week or so ago, a lady called me aside at the Escambia County Historical Society meeting. She had transcribed a few notes that were taken from her husband's ancestor's diary.
I also have another story told about a hurricane from a little book by the name of &#8220Emma's Diary.” When I looked at the date on each entry, I realized they were talking about the same storm.
In &#8220Emma's Diary” by Dorothy Pendarvis, the following account was given.
The last few days have been horrible, we have witnessed a hurricane that will go down in history. In the beginning the tide was so low, a person could with a little effort, jump across the Bayou. The heat was terrific, and the sky was cluttered with cloud formation. These symptoms were the only warning to precede the storm. As preparation was being made for a summer squall we discovered in dismay, the water coming toward our house. Papa ran to the oyster barge that was on scaffolds. By the time he had the boat upright, it was floating in waist deep water. He pulled a big canvas from the gallery and at the same time ordered everyone to get their coats. As we settled in our seats, on the barge, I looked down, as the boat was passing over the back fence. Papa, with an oar and Walter with a long pole, were steering the tossing vessel toward the Indian mound. Our destination was only 100 feet away, but seemed like miles. To make matters worse, cattle were trying to get in the boat.
When we reached the Indian mound, everyone grabbed a pine sapling and held on for dear life. Papa and Walter guarded the shore protecting the family from stray cattle, snakes and wild animals. The wild wind howled and the rain peppered down, drenching everyone. These circumstances made communication almost impossible. But, at that moment, when things seemed impossible, a big pine treetop landed in the center of the mound. Right away Papa guided the family under and amongst the limbs, throwing the canvas over the fallen treetop. He then turned the oyster barge on its side and against the limbs, creating a shelter from this ferocious freak of nature. There, we huddled, with prayers on our lips and faith in our hearts. Every minute seemed like hours. At dawn the storm began to subside. We then ventured out of the haven of canvas. While walking to the waterline, our eyes fell on the body of a little baby. We soon discovered that it was someone's precious little boy.”
This was followed by conversations with other family members about how they survived the storm.
Next week I will get to the other diary that was written by Mr. Gillis about the same storm.

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