Galveston Hurricane, 1900

2019-09-10T15:36:39+00:00September 10, 2019|HH 2019|

“Behold, the Lord has one who is mighty and strong; like a storm of hail, a destroying tempest, like a storm of mighty, overflowing waters, he casts down to the earth with his hand.” —Isaiah 28:2

Galveston Hurricane, September 9, 1900

The greatest loss of life from a “natural disaster” in the United States occurred on September 9, 1900, when a category 4 hurricane struck the boom town of Galveston, Texas killing at least 8,000 people, destroying about 7,000 buildings and leaving more than 10,000 people homeless. In comparison, Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 which struck the New Orleans area in 2005, killed about 1,800 and displaced about one million people. The city of Galveston as it was, never really recovered from the storm as Houston gradually took her place as the major metropolitan area of South Texas.

Constructed in 1882-83, Galveston’s Beach Hotel exemplified the prosperity of the booming port town

Established in 1847, the Ursuline Academy served as a shelter where over 1,000 people sought refuge from the hurricane

For centuries, the main source of information regarding the formation of tropical storms and hurricanes came from reports via incoming ships. Tragically, in spite of there being a “state-of-the-art” weather station in Havana in 1900, residual political tensions from the Spanish American War resulted in the U.S. Weather Bureau in D.C. blocking these reports. The bureau’s analysts predicted the storm would travel up the east coast of the U.S. However, the hurricane curved into the Gulf of Mexico with increased strength and came ashore on Friday September 9, at about 140 mph. The residents of Galveston were wholly unprepared.

Markers indicating track and intensity of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, remnants of which were recorded as far as Iceland

Galveston had been a prosperous community and so much so that “The Strand,” a strip of majestic iron-front buildings was known as the “Wall Street of the South”. The city was built on a low, flat island and connected to the mainland by multiple bridges. Residents knew full well that it had survived hurricanes in the past.

A mother is seen fleeing with her baby in her arms as flood waters rise in Galveston

View of the hurricane’s aftermath

As the storm made its imminent approach, two brave men ignored the Central Bureau’s official reports and took matters into their own hands: City of Galveston Chief Meteorologist Isaac Cline chose to stay behind and rode along the Galveston beaches on horseback, warning residents to flee to higher ground. John Blagden, a meteorologist on temporary assignment in the area, wrote in a letter the day after the hurricane that he spent all day Thursday phoning people and telling all who would listen to evacuate.

Residents rummage through rubble of destroyed homes in Galveston after the hurricane

When the hurricane came roaring ashore, the storm surge was more than fifteen feet deep on an island whose highest natural point was a little over eight feet. Ten nuns at the St. Mary’s orphanage, in a heroic attempt to save the ninety-three orphans, tied themselves to the children with clothesline to keep the little ones from being swept away as the waters overwhelmed the building. All of the sisters were killed and only three of the children survived.

In the aftermath, the U.S. Army erected tents on the beach for survivors to live in. Others were able to salvage enough debris to build rudimentary huts. Money to assist survivors poured in from generous citizens across the United States, from foreign countries and American philanthropists. Seventy-eight-year-old Clara Barton arrived with the Red Cross and provided tons of needed supplies.

The Sunset Route Sea Wall, Galveston, Texas, c. 1900-1908

1900 film footage of crews searching for bodies in Galveston in the aftermath of the storm

Galveston eventually recovered after many years but never returned to its former wealth or glory and as a constant prompt, many memorials still dot the island and remind us that man does not control either the weather or his own final destiny.

John Calvin Returns to Geneva, 1541

2019-08-30T23:43:55+00:00September 2, 2019|HH 2019|

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” —1 Corinthians 10:31

John Calvin Returns to Geneva, September 7, 1541

The Protestant Reformation was the greatest revival of the Church since Pentecost. As in most acts of history, God raised up particular men to accomplish His purposes. Few men in history since the time of the Apostles, have influenced the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom and advanced the cause of true biblical Christianity more than John Calvin. We celebrated the five hundredth year of his birth in 2009, and witnessed an outpouring of books and articles regarding his impact on world history.

Portrait of John Calvin, (1509-1564) by Tiziano Vecelli (c. 1488-1576)

In The Legacy of John Calvin, by David W. Hall, the author cites “ten ways modern culture is different because of John Calvin.” One author called Calvin “the man of the millennium,” the most important individual in the last thousand years. Douglas Kelly in The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World, argues persuasively that the beliefs articulated and put into practice in Geneva in the 16th Century were eventually “amplified, systematized, and widely diffused in Western Civilization.” Secular historians, the German Leopold von Ranke and George Bancroft of Harvard, both claim John Calvin as the founding Father of the United States, and we might add Scotland, England, the Netherlands, and parts of France, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, and South Africa. Who was this remarkable man?

The nave of St. Pierre cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, where John Calvin taught

John Calvin was born in Noyon, France in 1509

Calvin was born in Noyon, France in 1509. He was eight years old when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door. Calvin attended university in Paris, where he mastered Greek and sat under the mentorship of men like Nicolas Cop, who had read Luther and come to agree concerning salvation by faith alone and other Reformed doctrines that called men back to the biblical views of the Apostles. Although studying for a career in the law, Calvin also supported reform in the Roman Church—a dangerous business—and he had to flee to save his life. In the Providence of God, Calvin ended up in Basel and then Geneva, Switzerland with firebrand preacher William Farel.

1850 engraving of the Collège de Montaigu at the University of Paris where Calvin attended

In 1536 Calvin published the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion in Latin, an apologetic and statement of the key doctrines of the Protestant Reformation. He dedicated it to the King of France in hopes of influencing him favorably toward the Reform. A French edition followed two years later, and further editions in 1539 and 1540. It became the most powerful book to spread the Reformation across Europe, and is still read and admired in some Reformed Churches today. He took up pastoral duties the same year as the publication of the Institutes. Calvin ran afoul of the city fathers of Geneva and was banished, along with Farel, moving to Strasbourg, where he ministered for three years, preached every day of the week, published a catechism, married his dear Idelette, and revised his major theological work.

Title page of a first edition (1536) of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion

Geneva, Switzerland

On September 7, 1541, the city of Geneva convinced Calvin to return and take control of the Church. He remained there the rest of his life, shaping the model of a presbyterian form of church government, publishing many commentaries on books of the Bible, and training young men, many of them exiles, in the Reformed Faith to return to their homes as missionaries. A number of them were martyred when they returned to their home countries. He trained John Knox, who took the Gospel to England and Scotland, with great success.

John Knox (c. 1513-1572)

Pierre Viret (1511-1571)

Calvin preached expository sermons based on careful biblical exegesis. His brilliant mind and formidable scholarship “left his imprint on the whole world.” Calvin maintained close relationships with fellow reformers and worked closely with fellow pastor Pierre Viret, without whom, Calvin claimed he could not have succeeded in the ministry. Never a man of robust health, Calvin died at the age of fifty-four, having suffered through many controversies, debates, and opposition. He was buried in an unmarked grave.

The University of Geneva, founded by John Calvin in 1559 as a theological seminary and law school

John Calvin was a man concerned with the Glory of God in all aspects of his life and teaching. He started schools of every academic level, and trained the men who would teach in them. In centuries following his death, his name was attached to particular doctrines and the Reformed faith in general, a development he likely would have abhorred, considering it demeaning to the Sovereignty and Glory of God and his Word. That does not deter, however, from the huge impact on the Church and the history of the world that came from his preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God, which speaks to all aspects of life and faith and practice.

The Collège Calvin, formerly the Collège de Genève, founded by John Calvin in 1559

John Milton Ducks Charles II, 1660

2019-08-30T23:25:50+00:00August 26, 2019|HH 2019|

“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them I will make darkness into light before them And rugged places into plains These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.” —Isaiah 42:16

John Milton Ducks Charles II, August 27, 1660

Bunhill Fields Cemetery in London contains the earthly remains of many prominent dissenters or “non-conformists” of England’s history. As an almost unknown historic site to most people, among the two thousand or so markers, Bunhill’s tombs include those of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Owen, renowned Puritan theologian and chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, novelist Daniel Defoe, George Fox, who is considered the father of “Quakerism,” Isaac Watts, the father of English hymnody, and Susannah Wesley, the twenty-fifth child in her family and mother of nineteen, including the preachers and hymn-writers John and Charles. Along with Bunyan, perhaps the most universally known denizen of Bunhill is John Milton, the Puritan poet, political polemicist, civil servant, and historian of the 17th century—the author of Paradise Lost.

John Milton (1608-1674)

John Milton was born in London in 1608, which makes him a contemporary of Charles II, Samuel Rutherford, John Owen, Oliver Cromwell, and the men of the Westminster Assembly that produced the famous Confession of Faith. His father had abandoned the Roman Catholic religion of the Milton family and had prospered greatly as a scrivener in London. Young John’s education came from a Scottish private tutor who proved his worth and John’s native genius by qualifying him to enter Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1625, to prepare for ministry in the Church of England. He befriended Roger Williams, later of Rhode Island fame, who taught him Dutch in exchange for lessons in Hebrew.

An 1837 view of Cheapside street in London where Milton was born

Christ’s College, Cambridge, founded in 1437

Milton’s first publications date from this period, mostly poetry. Of serious demeanor, he also was unafraid of criticizing the curriculum of the college and would later serve as an educational reformer. From 1635-41 Milton’s autodidactic nature enabled him to conduct intensive study on his own at his father’s home, mastering at least six languages as well as history and philosophy, making him, perhaps, the most knowledgeable poet in history. He spent more than a year travelling across Europe, conversing with and learning from intellectuals, linguists, poets, and artists. He met Galileo, at the time under house arrest in Italy. He studied Roman Catholicism in practice, toured the Vatican library, and spent time in Geneva, Switzerland. The peripatetic genius was now providentially ready for his life’s work and literary immortality during the upheavals of the English Civil Wars, Interregnum and Restoration of the Stuart monarchy.

Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Milton’s Puritan convictions took immediate wings with written tracts against prelacy and Erastianism, and he taught in a school. The thirty-five-year-old poet and pamphleteer married a sixteen-year-old bride, who deserted him within thirty days. They reconciled and had four children together, although Milton published several controversial pamphlets arguing that divorce was biblical, a position for which he was roundly condemned. Among his most admired works was Areopagitica, a treatise on liberty which identified him with the views of Parliament in the ongoing controversy with King Charles I. Milton supported the Commonwealth and republican ideals regarding the King’s accountability to the people. Milton also agreed with and justified the regicide of Charles, in disagreement with his Scottish brethren. Parliament hired him in 1649 as a propagandist and correspondence secretary to foreign powers.

First addition title page of Miltson’s Areopagitica from 1644

Although Milton wrote, often in Latin, polemical defenses of the English revolt against the king and in justification of Parliament’s actions, his eyesight declined until he was totally blind by 1652 (age 44). He nonetheless continued writing poetry and propaganda, with great success, by dictation to an amanuensis. His greatest work, the blank-verse epic poem Paradise Lost and the follow up Paradise Regained were produced over a six-year period through dictation to copyists and to his own daughters.

Having become totally blind by 1652, Milton is shown dictating Paradise Lost to his daughters

The collapse of the Commonwealth did not deter Milton from continued political writing against the monarchy and the new public sentiment that brought about its Restoration under Charles II.

As a supporter of the regicide, Milton would become a target of the new king, whose refusal to pardon anyone who had played any role in the execution of his father placed the blind poet in mortal jeopardy. His friends forced him into hiding when Charles arrived in England. They held a mock funeral for Milton on August 27, 1660. Charles II commented that he “applauded his [Milton’s] policy in escaping the punishment of death by a reasonable show of dying,” but insisted on a public spectacle nonetheless by having Milton’s writings burned by the public hangman.

The coronation of King Charles II of England (1630-1685)

The Puritan poet reemerged after a general pardon, was imprisoned, and released, likely due to political friends in high places. He died, aged sixty-four in 1674. His theological views were sometimes considered heterodox by the best Puritans and his political views came close to getting him executed. His poetry, however, has endured as some of the greatest works in the English language, especially Paradise Lost; much of his greatest work was written during his twenty-two years of blindness.

Title page from Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1667

Leon Trotsky Assassinated, 1940

2019-08-19T18:36:35+00:00August 19, 2019|HH 2019|

“All they that hate me love death.” —Proverbs 8:36b

Leon Trotsky Assassinated, August 20, 1940

The names most commonly associated with the Bolshevik Revolution that overthrew the Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, are the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and the Ukrainian “Iron Man” Joseph Stalin. Very few of their comrades survived both the revolution and its consolidation. Just as well-known at the time, and the man most identified with the creation of the Soviets, an architect of the terrorism of Communist policies, and one of the longest surviving of the revolutionaries was Leon Trotsky. He garnered many followers in the United States and England, and his memory has been kept alive by socialist ideologues ever since his assassination by secret agents of the Soviet Union in 1940.

Leon Trotsky, born Lev Devidovich Bronstein (1879-1940)

Born Lev Devidovich Bronstein in 1879, on a remote farm of a well-to-do Jewish family in the Ukraine, Trotsky attended school in the port city of Odessa, where he excelled in his pursuit of a mathematics degree. He got involved in political opposition to the Russian monarchy, and dropped his studies to support agrarian socialist populism. He converted to Marxism through the influence of the woman who become his first wife. His writing and agitation to organize radical students and industrial workers landed him in prison in 1898. He and his wife were exiled together to Siberia, and there had two children.

They all escaped from their Siberian captivity and Lev immigrated to London, changed his name to Leon Trotsky and joined with Lenin as a writer and theoretician of Russian Marxism. He also remarried. Eventually the Russian cell in London divided into two major factions, the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. The latter group believed in violent revolution and close-knit, revolutionary cells. The Mensheviks tended to be more moderate and many of them thought revolution could be brought about by peaceful means. Trotsky supported the huge labor strikes in St. Petersburg and joined the local Soviet under an assumed name. Before long, he became the director. Arrested again and exiled to Siberia, Trotsky again escaped and made his way to London to continue support of revolution. He wrote for and supported Socialist parties in Switzerland and Germany while agitating for radical change in Russia.

Lev Devidovich Bronstein at age 8

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, best known by his alias Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) in 1897

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (1878-1953) in 1902

Although living in New York City when the Czar was overthrown in 1917, Trotsky returned to Russia (after arrest by the British in Canada). Joining the Bolsheviks, Trotsky became the “People’s Commissar” and took a strong hand in the new Communist state’s foreign policy. There was great opposition to the Bolshevik takeover by Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, Czarists, and Western countries. Trotsky built up the “Red Army,” from 800,000 to 3,000,000, turning them into a well-disciplined and efficient fighting force, which fought and won a protracted civil war against the more numerous, but totally non-unified, sixteen factions and foreign troops of the “White Army,” including the United States.

The Communists “translated their revolutionary faith into practical instruments of power.” They nationalized banks and industry, requisitioned the food sources from the peasants, and used terror to annihilate resistance and consolidate centralized government. The Central Committee of the “Soviet Union” fought among themselves over strategies of control and expansion.

Trotsky in 1918 in military garb, including the budenovka hat, symbol of the Red Army

“Trotsky bears a great deal of responsibility both for the victory of the Red Army in the civil war, and for the establishment of a one-party authoritarian state with its apparatus for ruthlessly suppressing dissent… He was an ideologist and practitioner of the Red Terror. He despised ‘bourgeois democracy’; he believed that spinelessness and soft-heartedness would destroy the revolution, and that the suppression of the propertied classes and political opponents would clear the historical arena for socialism. He was the initiator of concentration camps, compulsory ‘labour camps,’ and the militarization of labour, and the state takeover of trade unions. Trotsky was implicated in many practices which would become standard in the Stalin era, including summary executions.” —Historian Vladimir Chernyaev

Leon Trotsky addresses soldiers of the Red Army during the Polish-Soviet War

With the deteriorating health of Lenin, he and Trotsky sought to devise a strategy that would make Trotsky the General Secretary of the Party. Stalin formed a “troika” to insure his own control of the Party when Lenin died. After the death of Lenin, Trotsky remained the most popular and powerful leader of the Communist party, though Stalin’s factions never stopped plotting his downfall. A veneer of solidarity kept the peace until 1927 when Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Union, first into exile in Kazakhstan, then to Turkey. His followers all publicly admitted their mistaken allegiance to Trotsky, and most of them were murdered during the purges of 1936-38.

Trotsky lived in a number of different countries who offered him asylum, finally settling in Mexico, where he met with American and Chinese Communists to carry the Revolution to their respective nations. After several failed attempts, Stalin’s assassins finally caught up to Trotsky. The NKVD hitman Ramon Mercader mortally wounded him with an ice axe at his Mexico City home.

A wheelchair-bound Vladimir Lenin in 1923

NKVD hitman Ramón Mercader (1913-1978) is arrested in Mexico City following his assassination of Leon Trostky, August 20, 1940

Leon Trotskys’s writings and legacy did not die with him and his admirers continued to advance his ideas in the United States and other countries. His home in Mexico is now a museum run by his grandson, but his memory lives in the deep shadows of the grave with those of his comrades and opponents who await Judgement Day for their atheism, their revolutionary crimes, and their rejection of Christ.

The Birth of David Crockett, 1786

2019-08-17T20:22:18+00:00August 12, 2019|HH 2019|

“I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, [which] shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence…” —Isaiah 62:6

The Birth of David Crockett, August 17, 1786

“Be sure you are right, then go ahead!”

The Crocketts were primarily of French Huguenot descent. They eventually made their way to western Carolina and, like thousands of others of their countrymen, settled in the mountainous frontier in times of bitter conflicts. Most of Crockett’s family were massacred by Indians, but David’s father, John, was away on militia duty and missed out on the raid. During the War for Independence, John Crockett joined his fellow over the mountain men at the Battle of King’s Mountain and returned home only to move further west into the area that became part of the state of Tennessee. David grew up in the rough and tumble world of economic difficulty, hard work, and manhood by the age of twelve.

David Crockett (1786-1836)

David held jobs that forced him to travel extensively, primarily in Virginia and Tennessee. He helped his father pay off debts and, on the day before his birthday in 1806, he married Polly Finley, with whom he sired two boys and a girl. After the death of his wife, he married a widow with two children, and had three more of his own, thus eventually becoming the father of eight, a typical frontier family.

A replica of John Crockett’s family cabin where Davy Crockett was born at the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park

War came to Tennessee in 1812 with the Fort Mims massacre in Alabama, followed by General Andrew Jackson’s call for volunteers to avenge the victims and protect Tennessee. As the saying went at the time, “you don’t tell a Tennessean what the fight is about, just where it is” and, true to form, the frontiersmen gathered to settle scores with the Creek Indians, a war that would greatly advance the fortunes of General Jackson. David Crocket joined in and became a respected leader himself, so much so that he was appointed as a justice of the peace and Lieutenant Colonel of militia after the war. In 1821 Crockett was elected to the state General Assembly. Three principles seem to have been at the center of his political philosophy: opposition to Andrew Jackson and candidates supported by him, advocacy for the interests of the poor on the frontier, and rejection of proposals contrary to the Constitution, whether state or federal.

Fort Mims Massacre (August 30, 1813) about 35 miles North of present-day Mobile, Alabama

Crockett had moved so often and lived in so many different counties, he was known throughout his region. Never particularly successful in business or farming, he had well-honed skills at hunting, telling stories, and effective frontier oratory, the latter which he employed in his legislative positions in Tennessee and in the United States House of Representatives. He was elected to serve in Washington, D.C. for two terms, 1827-1831. Crockett was the only Tennessee delegate to vote against Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, which cost him his seat in the U.S. House but earned a letter of thanks from Cherokee Chief John Ross. He was returned to the House for one more term in 1833. He published an autobiography in 1834.

The Texas Revolution inspired men young and old across the South, especially in Tennessee. Hundreds of families headed west, leaving the letters GTT scrawled on the walls of their cabins—Gone To Texas. Ex-Congressman David Crockett, fed up with politics and attracted to the cause of Texas Independence, and eager for a fresh start for his family in the seemingly limitless vista west of the Mississippi, left his family to await his call, and travelled to the scene of the action, with thirty fellow Tennesseans, “armed to the teeth.”

Davy Crockett, by William Henry Huddle, 1889

On January 14, 1836, David Crockett signed an oath in Nachedoches, Texas, swearing allegiance to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Texas, and with five other men, made his way to San Antonio de Bexar, where a handful of Texians had seized an old Spanish mission called the Alamo, to await reinforcements or a Mexican army of retaliation. Crockett arrived on February 8, and the army of General Antonio de Santa Ana on the 23rd, sealing the doomed garrison inside their adobe walls. A siege ensued which lasted until March 6, when the Mexican General decided to force the issue and attacked with overwhelming force. There are many books and speculative accounts concerning the fall of the Alamo and the role played by David Crockett. Popular movies and songs have dramatized the ninety-minute fight, creating in the mind of the American public an image of what might have occurred. David Crockett’s role in the battle and last moments in combat are the subject of much speculation and disagreement. What is certain is the willingness of the defenders, or most of them, to die for Texas independence, a goal achieved in the months ahead by the efforts of General Samuel Houston.

Antonio López de Santa Anna (1794-1876)

The Fall of the Alamo or Crockett’s Last Stand, by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk

While the current interpreters of the Alamo are interested in continuing accuracy, if not for storytellers and parents that know the duty to keep our history, with all its tales of courage and heroism and providence, David Crockett could disappear from our collective memories, or be at risk of becoming one of our greatest villains. This is why we exist, to tell the tales and equip you to do the same.

  1. The Autobiography of David Crockett, by David Crockett
  2. Three Roads to the Alamo, by William C. Davis