Forgotten Trails : Storms of by-gone days remembered in diary
Published 11:07 am Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Ernesto has moved on and we wait and hope another hurricane will not come our way.
I told you about meeting Mrs. Gillis at the Escambia County Historical Society meeting a couple of weeks ago. I had already talked to her several weeks, if not months, back and she told me her husband's ancestor had written a diary and she wondered if I would want to use anything from it. She is transcribing it a little along because the writing is a 100 years old and fading.
Mr. Gillis (the writer) was a railroad man, building all in the southern part of Alabama. He did not record every day's events but was pretty consistent in keeping records.
The first entry given to me began with July 15, 1906.
The awful West Indie hurricane has struck us her on Dog River, which is an arm of the bay. It was awful. The wind began to blow about 8 p.m. on the 21st and increased continuously for 14 hours. I had three RR camps and it blew their tents and houses all away, also every tree and everything. We had to hold to stumps to keep from being blown away. What an awful thing. No one can describe it without seeing it. I can't hear from Brewton if my folks are safe.
I had cut off RR 132 trees and I got out to Mobile and Ohio and L&N RR and will walk to Mobile. Will have to swim rivers as the roads are all washed away.
I got to Mobile some better than I thought. Walked some and rode horseback some. The water was eight feet deep in L&N depot in Mobile. I heard from Brewton through RR hands. All wires are down, but my people are safe. Storm was not so bad inland as along the coast. There are hundreds of ships wrecked and one set up on L&N RR track four miles from Mobile. It will be 10 days before trains can go to Brewton. I saw 55 dead people on one train today killed in storm.”
Later on, after Christmas of 1906, Gillis got another look at damage at Bayou LaBatre, which he spelled Balabatra.
It is most interesting to see how people reacted to this hurricane. It would be even more interesting to look up the old copy of The Brewton Standard, which would have covered this storm. When and if I have the time I plan to do just that.