In God We Trust
THE CHURCHES OF TEXAS CITY
We live in a God-fearing nation. The Texas Senate and House both gave prayerful attention to Texas City. Practically all of the best-known denominations are locally represented, with several Baptist and Methodist churches, both for whites and colored.
Mrs. F. J. White, active in local church circles as well as throughout the state, contributed an article, “The Texas City Story’’ to The New Life Magazine of June 14. An excerpt follows: *
“Our ministers, in time of need, are indispensable. In spite of injuries, two of our leading Protestant pastors have carried on their duties. Another labored with the rescuers until late evening and then assisted many hours at the morgue, attending those seeking their dead. The Catholic priest had gone to see the fire and was killed. At least three well-known leaders of locally represented church denominations counseled with local and visiting ministers the first day.
The Ministerial Alliance met each morning at eight o’clock for prayer and guidance. They found many ways to meet the needs of distressed people. They visited homes and hospitals, helped the bereaved, conducted funeral services and carried on their respective church programs as far as possible.
A most comforting message (put out in the form of a handbill) brought new hope.
A minister from a neighboring town brought some laymen and made temporary repairs to all churches where windows were blown out, thus saving further loss by rain. A fine spirit of cooperation prevailed among Negro, Mexican and white pastors, each working for the betterment of all.
“The Catholic and First Methodist the two largest and newest churches, are condemned. Doors of the churches and Central High School have been opened to these congregations. Negro Methodists have welcomed their Baptist friends.”
* Reprinted by permission of The new Life Magazine, Copyright 1947, by the General Board of Evangelism of the Methodist Church.
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The Rev. Henry Quinius outlines the basic problems of all churches as applied to his own church:
“Our church was fully covered by insurance, but payments on the indebtedness must continue. Many members were lost, thus decreasing both the income and the working personnel. Even though the attendance has been on the increase since the disaster, it will take a long while to fit new members into the work of the church, replacing those lost.
From a membership of 141, 10 were killed, 7 critically injured. One retired elder was severely injured. The Sunday School Superintendent was forced to change residence. Five secretaries and officers from the Auxiliary are leaving town. The budget for the year will be reduced by half, as these were all people who supported the church.
“On the other hand, with the new construction, the church picture does not materially improve, for construction workers are not often interested in taking part in the life of a community in which they are ordinarily transients.
“Dr. P. D. Miller, Moderator of the Synod of Texas, issued an appeal for aid to the stricken church and people on Friday, two days after the explosion. Under the leadership of Dr. Miller, Dr. C. L. King and Rev. R. Matthew Lynn of the First Church, Houston this fund passed the $28,000 mark. A committee composed of Dr. King, Mr. Lynn, John Bagby, an elder in the Texas City church, and the local pastor, was formed for guidance. This group is offering help for immediate needs, continuing aid in the way of hospital bills and family support, then applying the balance on the church indebtedness. Some money will be kept in reserve for unexpected contingencies.
“Morning worship was held each Sunday; the Sunday School missed one Sunday. The Men’s Club had its regular monthly meeting. The Auxiliary program has continued.
“The children in the kindergarten were not cut by flying glass, although in the next room splinters of glass were imbedded in the opposite wall. The kindergarten reopened 2 weeks after the explosion.
“Without the prayers and spiritual support of our fellow Christians, we could not have accomplished a fraction of what has been done. Yet, despite our tragic losses, the future is bright before us.”
At the time of the explosion, the Rev. Mr. Quinius and J. R. Bagby, Clerk of the Session, were in Houston attending a Presbytery meeting. Within 24 hours after the explosion, 30 ministers were in Texas City, some coming from as far as Austin. David I. Stitt, President of Austin Theological Seminary; Professor James I. McCord, of the Seminary; Rev. Harry Moffett University Presbyterian Church, Austin; Rev. Jack Lewis, student worker at the University Church; and Tony Richardson, drove from Austin. Ministers from Houston and surrounding Communities gave a Continuing personal ministry.
THE TEXAS CITY LUTHERAN Church
By REV. MARTIN PEMPEIT, Pastor
Organized in 1944 by Rev. E. A. Heye. In May, 1945, Rev. R. Trojan was called. The Rev. Mr. Pempeit came in January, 1947.
The church building, located at 514 Fourth Avenue North, was condemned. Within three hours of the disaster, the Salvation Army was in the building preparing to set up a canteen. It was used by them until the end of the week.
Adequate repairs have been made, but the congregation has decided to relocate and build a new church, the name of which will probably be “Memorial Lutheran Church.” Damage to the old building was not entirely covered, by insurance.
No members of the congregation were killed or seriously injured. Paul Jacobs and Victor Wehmeyer, who worshipped with us, were both killed.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE SOCIETY OF TEXAS CITY*
Until the explosion of April 16, the Christian Science Society of Texas City held its services in the I. O. O. F. Hall. This hall was damaged to such an extent that services are being held in Central High School.
By morning of April 18, Mr. Walter S. Symonds, Committee on Publication for the State of Texas, had arrived from San Antonio with funds from the Mother Church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, Mass., to be used wherever relief was necessary. At the same time, Mr. P. H. Cowherd brought cash from the Christian Science Churches of Houston.
Mr. Symonds requested the appointment of a relief committee to administer these funds and distribute clothing. The Board of Trustees of the Society, accordingly, appointed Mr. James Ross Simpson, Mrs. Maude Lemen and Mrs. Golda Simpson on this committee, Mrs. Simpson to act as chairman.
On April 20, the Christian Science Churches of Houston supplied the committee with sufficient clothing to care for the immediate needs of many people. Later other churches and individuals from all over the United States sent other contributions.
Third Avenue Villa Corporation donated the use of an empty apartment for distributing the clothing. The women of the Society, with the help of several Houston women, did the work of distribution.
Although the Society was small in number, all work was done in the spirit of the Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians: “And the Lord made you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you.”
* Report signed by Mrs. Golda Simpson
BARBOUR’S CHAPEL BABTIST CHURCH (COLORED)
By REV. J. H. SCOTT, Pastor
We were in a grand revival; it was two days old. The Rev. S. Shepherd of Port Arthur, Texas, and I planned to go to Houston. He was staying in the 600 block on Second Avenue, South. He came by a little early for me. I hadn’t finished my breakfast. I ate and then we shined the car, bade the folks goodbye, and started on our journey.
About half a block away, seemingly all four tires blew out. We jumped out of the car to inspect the tires, and lo! and behold! I heard something fall. I yelled,
“Get in the car, man! Let’s go!”
Rev. Shepherd shuddered and trembled and fumbled, feeling for the starter. We went one block before I thought of my family. Then I asked him to turn around and go back to the parsonage, but he answered,
“You’ll go by yourself.”
I returned to the parsonage, picked up my family and left town.
As we stood on the outskirts of town, I watched the black, dreadful smoke as it whirled and lost itself in the faraway horizon. Then I said,
“Goodbye to the chairman of my Deacon Board.” Along with him fourteen members were lost. They are: Brothers George Williams, Ernest Rassaw, Robert French, Henry Comouch, Mason Cunningham, Truman Gillis, Stelly Balque, Jobie Scott, Louis Hogan, Manor Randle, Kulin Jones, Joe Richardson. Johnnie Garrett, Willie Washington.
ST. GEORGE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
By REV. FRANK DOREMUS, Rector
The church looked as though some great giant had attacked it with war clubs, then waded through the nave trying to scramble the pews as one would eggs. But strangely enough, when the figures were all in, the total damage was around $1,500, and covered by insurance.
It was a real thrill to see the whole parish rally around to help in any way that was needed. Men and women worked in shifts day and night, taking messages, going where needed, keeping watch over bodies that were brought to the church for burial services to be held the next day.
All of us will be everlastingly grateful for the thoughtful sympathetic and generous response of the other parishes in the Diocese and over the whole church.
Our hearts were burdened with heaviness that only faith in a Creator and loving God could sustain when the word began to come in of those members of the parish, or loved ones of members of the parish, who were killed, In this list, the following are included: William Howard Fraser, Joseph Edward Gollberg, Mitchell Gregory Ellis, Thomas Kleber Moore Sr., Louis George Hoff, Joseph Clarence Luhning Jr., and Henry Sterry.
The following who were killed were husbands, brothers, or fathers of parishioners: Thomas Cooper Dent III. George Chadwick LeGendre, Earl Niles Prosser, Kenneth Eugene Webb, Bernard Gollberg.
May these our people find the joy which God alone can give.
NOTE. (The Rev. Doremus had come to Texas City just 15 days previously.)
ST. MARY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH*
Father William Roach, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, was mortally wounded in the explosion.
Father Carl J. Kermiet, lecturer at the La Porte Seminary, was in Texas City shortly after the explosion. He was appointed to lead the parish pending the naming of a permanent resident pastor.
Within a short time, priests from the surrounding parishes were in Texas City. While administering the last sacraments of the church, some sustained injuries.
Under the capable direction of the combined efforts of St. Mary’s Holy Name Society, the Ladies of the Altar Society, the Seminarians (Paul Takacs, Larry Lee, Richard Meskill, C. F. Quinn and Kenneth Mikulik), the Spanish speaking parishioners of Our Lady of the Snow and St. Mary’s, and the colored people were directed in aiding, consoling and rehabilitating those people who suffered.
An effort was made to contact all parishioners. No discrimination was made when needy cases arose, however.
The splendid cooperation of all groups, both civic and material, was sufficient evidence of the recognition each paid the other and the great service rendered to a suffering city.
The parish suffered a heavy loss, with 40 dead, 11 missing from St. Mary’s; 15 missing, 76 dead, from Our Lady of the Snows.
Pontifical Requiem Mass was offered Thursday, April 17, at St. Mary’s Cathedral by Most Rev. C. E. Byrne, Bishop of Galveston, for Rev. William Roach, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Texas City.
Father Roach died in the Marine Hospital. Galveston, after having received the Last Sacraments at the hands of Rev. George Rhein, with Bishop Byrne at the bedside.
His Excellency, celebrant of the Mass, was assisted by Rt. Rev. Daniel P. O’Connell, rector of the Cathedral, an assistant priest; Rev. George Beck was deacon and Rev. John Perusina subdeacon. Rev. Joseph Dazio served as master of ceremonies.
The responses of the Mass were sung by the choir of St. Mary’s Seminary, La Porte,
About fifty priests were in attendance and all religious orders in Galveston and vicinity were present.
During the Communion of the Mass, a large number of Father Roach’s parishioners approached the altar rail and received Holy Communion for the repose of the soul of their beloved pastor.
His Excellency pronounced the final absolution.
The body of Father Roach, accompanied by his twin brother, Rev. John Roach. Houston. director of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Galveston; and Rev. John F. Lane, Galveston, was sent to Media, a suburb of Philadelphia, for final rites and burial.
*Information given in the article approved by Rev. J. C. Kermiet.
In the language of the Rt. Rev. Clinton S. Quin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas:
“God had nothing to do with causing the disaster. But He has already done something about it. He has caused help, in the form of men and money, to come to rescue, rebuild and rehabilitate. God is always ready to answer when you call. Be sure you recognize the means He uses.”
What the People Said and Did
For the People, by the People
By the Community, State and Nation Part One
By the Community, State and Nation Part Two
By the Community, State and Nation Part Three
Lest We Forget
United We Stand
In God We Trust
Annals of Texas City