Island Of Galveston
Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, or, Yachting in the New World
by Mrs. Houstoun

.....The following is an excerpt from a book published in 1845. This is Chapter Eleven that gives a rather colorful description of Galveston at the time. To see the entire book, click here to go to the book in American Memories Collection by the Library of Congress.

.....CHAPTER XI. The island of Galveston- Curious mode of building, houses - Six-roomed house built in a week--Go-ahead career of the Texans.

An isle I fain would sing, an island fair,
A Place too seldom viewed, yet still in view
Most obvious to all, yet most unknown to most.!

.....I HAVE already remarked that at a distance, the city Galveston -in America every village is called a city-gives one, on a first view, no very high idea of its importance. The houses in general are small, though here and.,there, an overgrown ricketty-looking building speaks of the larger means and higher pretensions of its occupant. The' streets are disposed with not much regard to regularity; and.the, houses, are built of wood, most frequently,of planks -nailed together, clinker-fashion The whole, affair has, I must say, at present rather a fragile appearance, and it will readily be conjectured, that when viewed from the. water, any grandeur of effect must be quite out of the, question.
..... The island lof Galveston is about fifteen miles in length, and seldom exceeds two in breadth. I have before remarked, that on its surface it boasts but three trees, and those are not remarkable for size or beauty. The soil is rich and is covered with the long, thick, and rather rank grass, of the prairie. The island is intersected with several inlets of the, sea, or bayous, as they are called. At present Galveston is the only town in existence on the island, but it is fast rising into size and importance. It is strange that here, where bricks could so easily be made, that the inhabitants should still continue satisfied with their wooden tenements. The only bricks I saw in Galveston were tbose forming one solitary chimney, It is calculated that, on an average, that these wooden houses last ten years; and in the mean time they are very liable to be blown down. It must not be supposed, however, that such an occurrence,--which, by the way, is by no means rare-- materially injures the building capsized, The houses, in fact, and religious edifices at Galveston, are formed to endure shocks of this description. They 'are all raised a foot or two from the ground, by means of small, but solid blocks of wood, one of which is placed at either of the four corners. This is ingenious; it raises the house out of the road, and in the summer keeps out the snakes, to say nothing of the pigs. Were brick edifices to be recommended to the Galveston citizens, I have no doubt that their reply would be, that, in the first place, the wooden houses occupy infinitely less time in their erection. To this I agree, but would it not eventually answer, in the necessity of rebuilding being less frequently required. Another excuse would be, that the foundation of the soil being light, the brick buildings, be more likely to weigh it down than the woodens. This may,be the case; but cannot good foundations be made, and wet and light soil improved, and rendered capable of supporting the weight of an ordinary house ? Another advantage of a wooden tenement;- which, however, I am inclined to think is a questionable one consists in its faculty of locomotion. It is no uncommon thing, to see a, house of considerable size drawn means of a movable windlass to considerable distance.
.....The English church is at present in rather a dilapidated condition. During a recent hurricane, it was in common, with half the town, and the Roman Catholic Chapel among the rest thrown on its beam-ends, where it remained till it was raised up. The city of Galveston fell, as might a pack of cards built into temporary houses by a child at play! The Catholic priest, poor man, whose abode was in the vestry of his little chapel, took refuge, during the hurricane, in the Protestant church, which was the last to fall. He was afterwards gravely and severely rebuked by the righteous among his congregation, for his want of faith, and his taking refuge arnong the heretics. It might naturally be supposed, that Galveston would remain, after this visitation, a heap of ruins; but no-in an incredibly short period of time, both houses and churches were raised from their recumbent position; no one was hurt, either in their persons or their pockets, and business went on the same as before. It is true, that the church windows were all broken, and are not yet repaired; but we were told that the clergyman had gone to Halifax, to obtain funds from the Bishop for that purpose.
.....I was quite surprised at the celerity with which houses are erected here. A very good six-roomed house is raised, from floor to ceiling, and rendered fit for habitation in a week, I do not mean to say that they are remarkably airtight, or particularly well-arranged; but to build any house, in so short a time is worthy of remark. I have: heard, to pursue the subject of houses, of a description of building, which I am sure would tell well here, where mud is at a discount. It is, as nearly as I can recollect, to make, a double wall of planks, each wall being at a distance of some eight or ten inches from the other. The space between, the two should lie'lilled up with mud,well pressed down. After a short time, this becomes as solid as brick; and houses built in this way, would, I am sure, be much more comfortable. The external air Would be effectually excluded; the inmates would have less to suffer, both from cold and heat; and there is no doubt, that the houses themselves would last for a considerable longer period than they do at present. I cannot assert that the process of building would be effected as speedily as it now is: rnuch more time would doubtless expended; and time to these people is money. Perhaps, however, when the population is greater, and labour consequently cheaper, some improvements in these respects may be effected. The Texans are an impatient people; they drive to, and at their end, with greater velocity than any individuals I ever saw or heard of. Nothing stops them in their go-ahead career. The present, and how to make the most of it, is their idŽee fixe, and they are too much occupied by their daily business, to have leisure to think calmly of results.
.....To "go-ahead," is essentially the motto of the Texan People; and let them once get well on their legs, and no people are better calculated to do it faster. I am not going to enter into their politics; but I thought from the first, and I have heard sensible Texans say the same thing, that they ought to lean upon some established power--say the United States,--at least for the present.
.....But to return to Galveston. The city contains about three hundred covered buildings, which a bold person or might call houses. There are also four churches; rather a considerable proportion, I should say to the number inhabitants, which amount only to about two thousand. Then, there are temples, squares, theatres, botanical zoological gardens; but they are only at present on ground-plan. Altogether, Galveston is a rising city ; and no doubt rise in time to be of considerable importance.

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