Brownsville, Bagdad and Brazos, TX Hurricane Destruction, Nov 1867



The Brownsville Coruier gives full details of the awful hurricane on the Rio Grande, from which we quote the following:
"On the 7th of the present month, the long heated term was put an end to by a refreshing norther, which sprung up about 8 o'clock A. M., and continued with more of less violence, until about 9 o'clock P. M., when it assumed a rotary motion, striding with fearful fury from north-northeast, and momentarily increased to the violence of the most dreadful tornadoes of the tropics. We have seldom had occasion, in all our course of journalism, to describe an occurrence, so vivid in terrors and so porlific in destruction. There is not a habitation which has not felt the terrible force of the storm, while the majority of our business houses are in ruins. The scene on the river was frightful to behold.
All our steamers are partially of totally destroyed. The CAMARGO and SANTIAGO are sunk; the COL. BENEDICT, SAN. ROMAN, TAMAULIPAS NOS. 1 AND 2 have their upper works and cabins destroyed; the MATAMORAS drifted down the river, and isnow lying at the point wrecked; the TAMAULIPAS NO. 1, although badly damaged, is yet able to run.
Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz is almost totally destroyed. Nothing left standing but the house of GARIBALDI, and that building is badly damaged. There were ten persons killed and twenty wounded at Santa Cruz.
The destruction at Matamoras was still greater than at Brownsville. Among the items of damage we select such names as are familiar to our citizens; JOHN GANCHE'S store and warehouse completely destroyed, loss, $100,000. DESOMMES & BROTHERS, with building, $55,000. L. ROCA'S clothing store, $5,000. The cupola of the theatre of La Reforma was blown off. The Plaza de Armas is a complete ruin, and the cathedral badly damaged. TARNAVA'S building, private residence of Vice-Consul AVERY, roof blown off. The palace is badly damaged. On the river the scenery is frightful to behold, everything being in complete ruins. The destruction was caused partly by the tornado and partly by the waters of the Rio Grande.
Whole squares of edifices are mere ruins, and it is estimated that 1,500 houses and jacals have been destroyed. Twenty-six persons were reported killed.
A courier came in from La Burrita, six miles above Bagdad, who reports that the sea rose as high as Burrita, having washed Bagdad entirely away. Seven persons had escaped and succeded in reaching Burrita. Five of these were wounded. A MR. COOPER, who with ninety other had got aboard the steamer ANTONIO, writes as follows:
"We are in the greatest distress; everything is lost; nothing saved, not even provisions. We have ninety persons aboard the ANTONIO, and provisions exhausted. She is high and dry about one hundred and fifty feet from the river, at English GEORGE'S ranch. RIO GRANDE, (steamer,) on the opposite side, I suppose, half a mile from the river. Lighters scattered here and there -- some bottom upward, others a complete wreck. There is not a house left in Bagdad. Come down yourself. Can hear nothing from Brazos. Only three houses left in Clarksville. When we broke adrift, the water was 14 feet high. Many lives lost."
Capt. MANSUR, acting Deputy Collector at Brazos de Santiago, arrived in our city on Thursday evening. He reports that there were four buildings standing yet at Brazos. The Quartermaster's office, a building built and formerly used for the Post office, and two little stores, about 10 by 10, one of them the property of COL. FIELD, Deputy Collector. There are about a dozen persons missing at Brazos; among them the family of MR. BLAKELY, who were residing at Padre Island. Two Mexicans had been buried before Capt. MANSUR left Brazos.
The latest advices from Brazos are contained in a letter received by Judge DOWNEY from MR. WILLIAM KELLEY, notary public, from which we extract the following:
"The people have saved nothing but such clothes as they had on when the hurricane broke out, and absolutely no provisions except such as may have been found among the ruins that have not yet floated off. So far as can be ascertained but nine persons have perished -- JOHN ANDERSON, and two families of four persons each, names unknown, a MR. BLAKELY and his family, (three persons,) and one man, name unknonw. The mate of schooner VOLUMNIA was drowned last evening. Had not the schooner VOLUMNIA been at the wharf it is terrible to contemplate the loss of life which must have occurred. The Captain (RYAN) took on board his vessel, and has yet on board, nearly all the women and children of the island. He has fed them up to the present, but is now entirely out of stores, even for his own crew. He has given up his ship to the inhabitants, placed the cabin and his own room at the disposal of the women and children, put his crewon short provisions to feed the destitute (and nearly all are so,) and exhausted his last biscuit in our support. The island is yet covered with water, and a detail from our citizens is searching the debris for food. Cooking stoves have been erected, and if food is found we shall not starve."
MR. KELLY also states that the negro soldiers who retired to the sand-hills during the storm returned the next day and robbed and pillaged such property as could be carried off. They broke open four safes and shot at two citizens, killing one. The official report received at headquarters states that a guard had been placed over the goods to prevent any pillaging, and that two parties came, and, when ordered to leave by the guard, refused to obey, and that the guard shot and killed one of them. The case will be investigated shortly.
Shortly after dark yesterday the whole population of Brownsville was called to the levee by the shrill whistle of the TAMAULIPAS NO. 2, coming from the rescue of the Bagdad people. It is impossible to describe that scene at the steamer, every one speaking at the same time, inquiring for his own particular relations and friends. There were more people saved that was at first supposed, many having taken refuge on the sand-hills. The following persons are known to be lost, drowned; JOHN VERGNE, ship carpenter; MANUEL and father, warehousemen; the owners of BUENA VISTA, the oldest son of one of the owners, and the cook and his wife; an old woman named ELIZABETH and a man named BOB, living in the icehouse; RAPHAEL, a barkeeper; ENGLISH GEORGE, living four miles from Clarksville, lost his wife and five children; DR. LOWENTEIN, TRIBOUILLE, and a man known as CARABINE; the actress of Bagdad was found drowned in the bushes at about one hundred feet from the steamer ANTONIO.
There are, we learn from a passenger who came up on the TAMAULIPAS, about one hundred persons alive at Bagdad. There are left three of four houses standing, but damaged very badly. A Mexican policeman was found in the bushes alive, after having remained two days in the water without food. The steamer RIO GRANDE and several schooners, boats, lighters, &c., were seen inland, but it is not known how many persons are aboard. The people who remained at Bagdad did so of their own accord, as Capt. BROWN informed the authorities that he would take all persons and property that could be saved on the TAMAULIPAS.
There are, at the least calculation, three thousand families who have lost everything and are completely destitute. We are informed that our authorities, military and civil, will appeal to the cities throughout the States for assistance. The cities along the Gulf have all, more or less, suffered from the yellow fever, and are themselves in very poor circumstances, consequently cannot afford us any assistance. It is for the people of the East, West and North to come to our aid and help.
Nor do the houseless and homeless poor of Matamoras less address themselves to the sympathies of the world. We were in the eleventh hour of our deliverance from the scourge of yellow fever, and owing to a long continuance of a rigid quarantine, business being completely stagnated, the poor people were already much strained by loss of employment, and for that reason this blow falls more grievously upon them. People who have never esperienced a similar misfortune cannot form an adequate idea of this tempest, which blew with fearful force about three hours, when a little before midnight it ceased with an ominous lull of about one-half hour only, to recoil from the opposite direction with increased volume and tenfold fury.

The New York Times New York 1867-11-07