In the September 8, 1900 Hurricane in Galveston, Texas

over 6,000 people died.  It is still our country's deadliest natural disaster.

 In the 1900 federal census, Galveston had a population of over 37,000 people.  The town was growing and people were prosperous.  Galveston is an island off the Texas coast.  Dr. Isaac Cline was the head of the weather bureau at that time.

Isaac M. Cline and his brother Joseph L. were sons of Jacob Leander Cline and Mary Isbell Wilson Cline of Monroe Co.  Jacob 3/16/1833-7/9/1915 and Mary 2/19/1843-3/3/1920 are buried in Rockville/Glenlock Cemetery here in Monroe Co. Tn.  They were married here 12/18/1860.  You can find them listed in the 1870 and 1880 Monroe census as well as others.  Isaac M. was born ca 1861, his brother Joseph L. ca 1870. 

My interest in this started when I watched a two hour documentary "Isaac's Storm" on the History Channel.  The book "Isaac's Storm" was written by Erik Larson in 1999.  Isaac has been known as a hero in Galveston, thought to have saved many lives.  Erik Larson's research tells a different story:

Isaac took an interest in weather as a boy in Monroe Co.  He later went to Hiwassee College in this county.

   He was a scientist and based his decisions strictly on scientific evidence.  The weather bureau knew of the storm that was developing, but based on what information they had, they weren't concerned.  What they failed to learn was that it built strength in the Gulf and by the time it hit Galveston, it was a full-blown hurricane with 150 mile winds. It was a category 4 hurricane.  Isaac's brother Joseph had a premonition that it would be horrific, but Isaac told him he was the scientist and would make the decisions.  They waited too late to put up the hurricane flag.  In fact, some time before this happened, Issac had written an article for the paper and stated that Galveston would never be in danger of a storm this size.  

Galveston was only 8 feet above sea level, and the only connection with the mainland were railroad bridges.  The documentary describes the devastation of the town.  An orphanage built near the beach housed 93 children and 10 nuns.  The nuns tied 6 to 7 children with rope to each nun.  Only three of those children survived.  The island was completely cut off from the world and there was no way to get word out for help.  The bodies were buried under timbers or piled high.  They decided to take the bodies out and dump them in the Gulf only to have them swept ashore days later.  They spent weeks piling and burning them.

Isaac lost his pregnant wife in this horrible hurricane.  In his report to Washington, Isaac, perhaps to save his reputation and career, told how he rode his horse along the beach to warn the people of the storm.  The Washington Weather Bureau held him as a hero and they too, told how they sent out warnings.  What they failed to relate was that the word 'hurricane' was never mentioned in those warnings.

In 1904, a seawall 8 miles in length was built.  They brought in tons of sand and raised the city 13 feet.  A hurricane in 1915 of equal size  had only a few casualties.

Isaac was transferred to New Orleans and his brother Joseph was transferred to Puerto Rico.  Joseph never forgave Isaac for the way he handled the storm.  Isaac retired in 1935 and died in 1955 at the age of 94, he never remarried.

There were two articles in "The Sweetwater Telephone".  One dealt with the early events after the storm.  The other was the story of how Isaac and his family survived the storm.  There is an obituary for Isaac Cline and a biography of Joseph L. Cline in the "Madisonville Democrat".  Click on the text files below to read them

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This page formatted by:  Joy Locke.


Cline Family's Experience
Death and Destruction left in Storm's Wake
Death of Dr. Isaac Cline
Biography of Dr. Joseph L. Cline

Submitted by:  Joy Locke

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