They Sang And Prayed In The Storm
( Originally Published 1902 )
I ASKED a gentleman who rode with me in the car from Baltimore to Philadelphia, and who had told me of the struggle of a mother to save her babe and herself from the Galveston storm, to relate to me another incident connected with the great disaster. He said : " Our Chief of Police, Captain Edwin M. Ketchum, was a splendid man in every way, brave and true. He and I have long been warm personal friends, although he was an officer in the Union, and I in the Confederate army. When the storm came two duties seemed to demand his attention and energy—the members of his family were at home, a mile and a half away, and he desired to go and rescue them ; he was a public officer, and hundreds were being drowned about him, and he felt it his duty to save as many lives as possible. He said to himself, ` My house is an old-time mansion, built very solidly, and likely to resist the flood ; besides, my two sons will be wise and brave enough to do everything possible to save the rest of the family. I will do the duty next to me, and save all that I can.' He collected almost a thousand people in the City Hall and in the safest part of the building. As the storm raged more fiercely, and building after building was thrown down, and as hundreds were being lost a portion of the roof of the City Hall fell in, and the wildest panic seized the people who had taken refuge within the walls. Women wrung their hands and screamed with terror. Captain Ketchum, seeing the desperation of the situation, in a loud, clear voice, said : ` Let us- all sing " Nearer, My God, to Thee."' They did so, and the tumult was hushed into a heavenly calm, and earnest, united prayers for their safety were offered. Not a single person that took refuge in the building was lost, and most of them acknowledged that it was through the wisdom and bravery of the Chief of Police that they were rescued. Fortunately, the captain's own house stood secure, and his family was spared. My nephew took refuge in it and escaped death."
After the gentleman had related this incident, I asked him where he was during the storm. He said, " I was at home. The water came into our house and drove us into the upper story. As I helped my wife, who was in poor health, up the stairs, I felt there was a strong likelihood that we would be lost, and, though I am not a professed Christian, I stopped on those stairsteps as the water continued to rise and earnestly asked God to stop the storm and save us, and I told my brother-in-law, who is a prominent Sunday School worker and church member in one of the cities of the North, that as I had asked so little of the Lord during my lifetime, he had perhaps concluded to answer me."
There are times of danger when scepticism leaves the soul and belief takes its place. There are times of peril when the prayerless man will pray; the instinct of the soul at such times is to cry out, " O God help me! O God save me!" Minds that are unmoved to the appreciation and adoration of the Divine Being in the ordinary events of nature are often stirred into activity and devotion by his unusual and terrible manifestations of power. The danger element included in the method of the Divine government has in it the important lessons of caution, prudence, wisdom, self-help, mutual assistance, and reliance upon the Supreme Being.
Some policemen are so busy with the sale of law that they have no time to do their duty to the public, but most of them, like the Chief at Galveston, are loyal, unselfish, heroic men. It is a safe thing to do the duty just at hand and leave the result with God. It is likely that God will save from spiritual death the family of the man who is true to duty and who works for the salvation of others.