St. Joseph's Infirmary
15 September 1910: The Sisters of the Incarnate Word founded St. Joseph Parish in 1880 to serve the German community in the 6th Ward. In 1895 they built the Saint Joseph Infirmary in a residential neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Houston. Crawford, Pierce, LaBranch and Calhoun (now St. Joseph Parkway) streets encompassed the site, which included the convent (left), private rooms (center), male wards (right), and behind these buildings, female wards and, remarkable for the time, a negro ward in an otherwise white hospital.
9 August 2013: Taken from the shadow of the Pierce Elevated, this shot from Crawford and Pierce toward the northwest hints at the many construction projects over the years that have made St. Joseph Hospital one of the most active centers outside the complex near Hermann Park. Before the city-sized Houston Medical Center, St. Joseph was the biggest hospital in Houston, and was once called "The Birthplace of Houston" for the number of births happening there.
Postmarked: 15 September 1910; Galveston, Texas
Stamp: 2c Carmine George Washington #406
To: Mr J. H. Lovejoy
915 Evans Street.
Message: Dear Daddy. We are all very well we are getting over the storm. Linnie and all of the Children are still out at Miss Su Sirs [?] I dont know when they will go home they have no water yet and it just is so bad they cant live there hardly live there They are sure worried about staying there I hope you are well Best love to you Mattie
Martha “Mattie” Didiot was the 46-year old daughter of James Harmon Lovejoy and Malinda Isom Goodman. The children she was worried about were her nieces and nephews, children of her younger sister Malinda “Linnie” (39) Murphy, who had been dislocated by the devastating 1915 hurricane that had come ashore a month earlier on August 17. As the storm approached, the citizens of the city evacuated by the thousands, jamming railroads, interurban Galveston-Houston lines, and automobiles. Although the seawall had been erected since the death of 6000 people in the 1900 storm, it had not been tested in a major event. No doubt this exodus included Linnie and her children: Madge Adele, 15; Margaret, 12; twin boys, James Harmon and Joseph Elmer, 9; and baby John Hulen, 2. Mattie’s letter suggests Linnie’s husband, Joseph (Joshua) Murphy remained behind, perhaps because his work for the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad required it. Their house at 1211 Avenue H (Ball Avenue) would not likely have flooded during the storm, but of course this would not be known before the storm approached landfall.
The 1915 storm followed roughly the same trajectory as the 1900 hurricane, arriving at San Luis Pass southwest of Galveston with a 16-foot storm surge and winds of 130 miles per hour, a strength very comparable to the 1900 storm. This time there were 122 casualties in southeast Texas, including 66 on ships and boats, but only 11 in the city of Galveston, so the seawall proved effective in saving lives. Evacuees straggled back as best they could across damaged roadways and rail lines, and it seems likely Linnie and her children were back home soon after the postcard was sent.
Mattie was relatively safe in her home at 1806 Drew street in Houston, although the city did sustain quite a bit of damage. Plate glass windows shattered, destroying significant inventory with rain, and most of the street front signage was blown away. Slate roof tiles from the Baptist Church on Fannin at McKinney was blown into Stowers Furniture Store across the street, destroying windows up to the 7th floor [LINK?]. Mattie had two adopted daughters at the time of the storm: Frances Bernice, 9; and Ruth Elizabeth, 4, so she no doubt related to her sister’s troubles. Mattie had married rather late in life, living with her parents until just a week before her 33rd birthday when she married Joseph Didiot. Joseph’s father was a French immigrant from Lorraine, coming to America in 1847. He settled in Nashville, where he was a teacher at Edgefield Male Academy, moving to Hillsboro, Hill County, Texas after 1880 where he continued his professorial life.
In 1900 Hillsboro was the home of the Lovejoy Family, and the in-law families, the Didiots and the Murphys. The Lovejoy family came to Texas in 1832 and settled in Clarksville, Red River County, TX before coming to Hillsboro. James L. Lovejoy was a Methodist circuit-riding preacher who served in the Civil War, and was chaplain in both houses of the Texas Legislature. The Murphy family came from Missouri, and when he came of age, Joseph E. Murphy worked for the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railroad linking Hillsboro and Mexia. This rail line soon expanded to Southeast Texas so the Murphy family moved to Houston by 1910 where they lived at 303 Bishop Street just a block from the Southern Pacific Hospital in 5th Ward.
Joseph Didiot worked at the Hillsboro lumberyard managed by Jesse Jones, later to become Houston’s most capable banker and developer. Jones moved to Houston, bringing Joseph along to manage his lumber concerns there. Mattie and Joseph brought her parents along, settling into a home at 1806 Drew Street, only about 5 miles from where her sister Linnie lived. Joe Didiot’s job was secure, a valuable employee of one of the most influential citizens of Texas. When Jesse Jones liquidated his numerous lumber businesses after 1911, he kept only one lumberyard, that managed by his friend, Joe. The yard occupied the north half of the block between Travis and Main at McKinney, where one could find “lumber, lath, shingles, sash, doors, blinds, builders hardware and roofing paper.” Mattie and Linnie No doubt had many good times together in Houston, but in 1913 Joseph and Linnie moved to Galveston, where the storm caused their lives to be disrupted.
The Murphy family moved to Waco by 1920, back to Galveston by 1930 where they stayed through 1940. Joseph abandoned railroad work in Waco, earning a living as an insurance agent, and in Galveston as a clerk in a flour mill. Further north in Houston land values skyrocketed, and eventually the lumberyard was closed and Jones erected the Lamar Hotel on that half block where he maintained a residence and office frequented by the powerful figures of commerce and government from Houston and Washington.
Perhaps the most profound effect of anyone described here was the lifelong impact felt by Linnie’s daughter Margaret, just 12 when the Murphy family fled from the 1915 storm. She grew up to marry Asa Murray Ezell, a lifelong employee of the Texas Oil Company, another of Jesse Jones’ enterprises. She followed in her mother’s footsteps and joined the Daughters of the American Revolution and became a scholar of history. She obtained a BA from Wellesley and a PhD from Cambridge University with interests in 17th and 18th century literary culture and authorship, especially women authors. As professor at Texas A&M University she published many scholarly articles and books under the name Margaret J. M. Ezell, many still available. She took on various offices in the DAR, and the Daughters of the Confederacy, in 1961 becoming president general of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. From 1961 until 1976 she was a member of the Battleship Texas Commission, and in 1975 president of the Historical Navy Ships of North America, its first female president. In her various capacities she assisted in the publication of many books on Texas and American history, and assembled a massive collection of Texana, contributing expertise and materials to area museums.
Mattie remained in Houston, but sadly both of her daughters died in their 30’s of Leukemia, Francis Bernice in 1937 and Ruth Elizabeth in 1942 after marrying John Thomas Baebel in 1936. Mattie died in 1948 and Joseph Didiot in 1958, both, somewhat ironically, in Saint Joseph's Hospital; Joseph (Joshua) Murphy died in 1950 and Linnie in 1961. All are buried in Forest Park, Lawndale.