Ernest Babb – From Cornwall to Galveston

Ernest Babb (a descendant of Cornwall Pedigree 02 living in Bristol) left his family behind in England and came to Galveston several years after the deadly hurricane of 1900 and worked as a House Carpenter. There was a giant project underway in the city at this time to raise the the entire city by 17 feet and build the seawall to keep such a disaster from ever happening again. His family joined him in late 1910.

The Great Galveston Hurricane was a Category 4 storm, with winds of up to 145 mph (233 km/h), which made landfall on September 8, 1900, in Galveston, Texas, in the United States, leaving about 6,000 to 12,000 dead. It remains to the present day the deadliest single day event in US history.

Ernest undertook his epic voyage to America on 24 Oct 1908, along with 979 other brave souls, aboard the RMS Lusitania. The Lusitania was a member of the Cunard Line of ships whose maiden voyage was just a shy of year earlier on 07 Sep 1907. He appears to have been a 3rd class passenger (aka Steerage).

RMS_Lusitania_coming_into_port,_possibly_in_New_York,_1907-13-crop.jpg
Lusitania

In 1902 White Star (Cunard’s main competitor) joined the American-owned International Mercantile Marine Co. and the British Government provided Cunard with substantial loans and a subsidy to build two superliners needed to retain its competitive position. those two ships would come to be known as the Mauretania & the Lusitania. the Mauretania held the Blue Riband from 1909 to 1929 for the fastest Trans-Atlantic voyage. Meanwhile, White Star developed 3 ocean liners of their own, the Olympic (1911), Titanic (1912) and Britannic, all 3 designed to be the largest and most luxurious passenger ships in the world.

It was in this fiercely competitive environment that Ernest Babb made his journey and arrived at Ellis Island, having first laid eyes on the Statue of Liberty on 10 Nov 1908. The Lusitania was too large to actually dock at Ellis Island, so he would have been shuttled by a smaller boat to the island.

His first brush with the US didn’t go well. He was detained for review by a Board of Special Inquiry. There was a concern that due to his advanced age (39) he was a “Likely Public Charge”, which means that they thought he might not be able to support himself and thus become a liability to the public. He was detained at 5:10 pm, received Dinner and Breakfast. Then he was certified by a Doctor as fit to work before being released and admitted to the United States about 1:35 PM on what appears to be the following day. There is a typo on the record that shows he was admitted on 31 Oct, but it was written in later and appears to be lumped in with a large group that had come in the week before. He appears to be the ONLY passenger, from the 980 Adults aboard his ship, that was detained.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 - Ernest Babb
Ellis Island Special Inquiry Record

He seems to have immediately traveled to Galveston and is hard at work in 1910 when he sends for the rest of his family.

In 1912, the Titanic was launched and sank on its maiden voyage traveling along the same icy route that he had. Just 3 years later the Lusitania was torpedoed by German U-Boats and sank in the English Channel off the coast of Ireland. The sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 was one of the causes of the United States’ entering the First World War.

Cunard is still the major player in today’s cruise ship industry and it’s parent company hosts such brands as Carnival, Holland America, Costa, AIDA, Princess and of course, Cunard. In 1933 due to the effects of the Great Depression, Cunard and White Star merged into a single company.

Ernest brought over the rest of his family in short order and lived and worked there as a Carpenter until his death in 1940.

However, his story doesn’t end there. He and his wife Rosa Blanche Englestaff Bishop bore one child Stanley Ernest Babb. Stanley was born in Bristol in 1899 and his talents became evident early in his life. He was naturalized in 1915, Attended the University of Texas (The real UT) in 1918 and continued to live and work in Galveston as a Literary Critic, Court Reporter until his death in 1976. He won many awards for Poetry and his star was already on the rise by 1921. He was also able to travel internationally on two occasions to Havana, Cuba and Cristobal to see the Panama Canal.

Most importantly, and the reason I first began to research him is because in 1927 he published a book of Poetry titled The Death of a Buccaneer and Other Poems. I came across this book while browsing books by Babb authors on one of my favorite sites http://www.abebooks.com and purchased it immediately. I know not how many copies were published, but mine is #18 and is signed by him.

Moving a book to print is quite the task and it is rare to see something so intimate as a person’s poems. So, this book offers an unprecedented look at his life. There is a copy of this book currently for sale on Amazon for $952, so I feel priviledged to have picked it up for about $30.

The Galveston Daily news is filled with 2000+ articles that mention his name. Many are his Literary Review column, some are articles he wrote and others are about him and his son by the same name that went on to a distinguished career as the Head of Physics at the University of Texas. There is so much information that I get bogged down just trying to consume it all. So, I’ve copied in a highlight reel of newspaper articles about them both.

I hope you have enjoyed this adventure. I’ve started and stopped writing it so many times because it is so vast and compelling that I didn’t want to leave things out.

Cheers!
Dan

Sources:
Galveston Daily News
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1900_Galveston_hurricane#cite_note-1, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Lusitania, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cunard_Line

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