Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Schmidt's Garden" and a Boy Named "Quarantine"

"He was so-named by his father, according to family legend, because he was born In 1867 during the yellow fever epidemic here and the ensuing quarantine."

I've said this many times before: one of the great joys of an author comes after the research, writing, and publication of a book, magazine article, or even a blog post.  That joy is hearing from people with a personal connection to the places and personalities in the book.  These are people I would never have had the privilege to meet were it not for writing.Here are a few previous examples:

Relatives of the Corby family, who had read my book, Notre Dame and the Civil War: Marching Onward to Victory (which, of course, features the famous Civil War chaplain, Fr. William Corby), wrote me and shared some wonderful period letters (story here)

Descendants of the Converse family, who wrote after seeing my series on the Converse epileptic remedies (story here).  Although I didn't turn it into a blog post, I also had the great pleasure of hearing from a descedant of Dr. Asher Atkinson, whose remedies were featured in a recent post (here).

I'm sure my other friends who are writers have great stories to tell!

Anyway, it's not surprising that it has happened again!  This time it is associated with my new book, Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom.

In the past few days, I received a kind note from Mr. James E. Hudson III, who became aware of my book after seeing a note on the terrific Bayou History Blog on the Houston Chronicle website about this weekend's Houston History Book Fair & Symposium.

Mr. Hudson wrote to tell me of some fascinating family connections with Galveston's Civil War history, a few of which I share below:

Mr. Hudson's maternal g-g-g grandfather was F. W. Schmidt, who owned land near 20th and P Streets on Galveston Island.  The area became known as "Schmidt's Garden." [no relation to me].  According to period newspaper reports and published Galveston histories it was a popular gathering spot on the island:

From the Galveston Daily News, Feberaury 24, 1980:

"Schmidt's Garden, located on five acres of ground between Avenue 0 and P and 20th and 21st Streets, was the rendezvous of pleasure seekers in Galveston a century ago. In the 1870s and 1880s parties, picnics and festivals were held within the confines of the garden, dotted with beautiful trees, flowers and shrubbery. The garden was developed and owned by F.W. Schmidt, pioneer settler in Texas...Schmidt's Garden was one of the most popular places on Galveston Island for outdoor recreation between 1873 and 1887. Dances, athletic events, and beer-drinking contests also were held at the Garden, which boasted an octagon shaped dance hall, a saloon and a refreshment stand."

The paper also noted:

"Fist fights to settle grudges were occasionally staged on the quiet behind a screen of bushes. The principals, with their attending gallery, would mix it up until one or the other was pronounced the winner by a referee chosen for the occasion."

Galveston Weekly News - March 23, 1858
While the property might have seen the peak of its popularity later in the century (before being sold and parceled), it was known as "Schmidt's Garden" as early as the 1850s, according to other period newspaper reports I found.

The property has a number of interesting Civil War connections!

After Union forced occupied Galveston in early October 1862 (see my post here), Confederate forces made regular trips into the city to scout the Union positions.  Where do you think they gathered?  That's right! Schmidt's Garden!!  Both the army and navy Official Records of the war carry this report:

"Parties of rebel cavalry used to come into town at night. They generally came along the beach, where they were concealed by the range of sand hills along the Gulf shore, and on reaching the suburbs would separate and go through the city in squads of two or three. Before daylight they would rendezvous at a place called Schmidt's Garden, and return to Eagle Grove the same way they came."

(Official Records - Navay - Series 1, Vol. 19, p459)
(Official Records - Army - Series 1, Vol. 15, p. 208)

The property was very close to what was known as the "South Battery" of the Confederate works protecting the island and the city; as the battery attracted attention from Union gunboats and ships surrounding the island, so too did Schmidt's Garden!

A report in the January 30, 1863, Galveston Weekly News declared:

"The chief topic of the day has been the bombardment of yesterday.  Friends meet each other with an extra squeeze of the hand, inquiring with smiling face and becoming gravity what houses were struck in their neighborhood?  how many goats were killed or wounded?  and whether the Brooklyn would be a fair match for one of  our powerful rams?  A greater number of shot and shell entered the town than was at first supposed; four fell within a half a block of Capt. Lufkin's, two into a house at the east end of the town, another into Schmidt's garden, one into a mule yard the other side of the Cotton Press, one into the bayou in front of De Young's on Tremont street, one into the yard of the German Catholic Church, another in front of the Convent, and probably many others which have not come under my observation."

Civil War Map of Confederate Works on Galveston - See inset below
Map inset - showing Schmidt's Garden relative to "South Battery"

[Many thanks to my good friend, Andy Hall, for the maps]

One of the best stories that Mr. Hudson told me has a connection with the yellow fever epidemics that ravaged Galveston in the 1800s (see my posts here and here).  There is a full chapter about yellow fever and Galveston in my new book, Galveston and the Civil War. I only wish I could have included this story:

F. W. Schmidt named one of his sons "Quarantine"!

"He was so-named by his father, according to family legend, because he was born In 1867 during the yellow fever epidemic here and the ensuing quarantine." (GDN, Feb. 28, 1980).

Thanks, Mr. Hudson, for sharing these amazing stories about your family!