Long before hurricanes carried human names, the Great Charleston Hurricane of 1893 brought terror and death to the handful of people living along the coast in Horry and Georgetown counties.
An eyewitness to the storm, Mary-Anna Ashe Ford recalled the storm’s ferocity in the Vol. 13, No. 4 editon of the Independent Republic Quarterly.
Mrs. Ford was the niece of Anna and Charlotte Alston.
According to Mrs. Ford, she and one of her aunts traveled in Oct. 12, 1893 from South Island in a small boat to Debordieu, a coastal community east of Brookgreen Gardens.
The weather continued to worsen the next day. The tide covered the marshes surrounding their home and breakers began crashing over the sand dunes.
The ocean began lapping at the door to the home. Two goats butted their heads against the front door. “I wanted to let them in, but Aunt Anna said, ‘If you open that front door, we are gone.’ I was frantic and prayed that I would drown quickly,” recalled Mrs. Ford.
As winds for the hurricane, thought to have been at Category 3 strength, intensified a fallen cedar tree burst through the front door and water rushed into the home.
All those ran to the safety of the “storm room,” an 18-square foot room that had been elevated about 10 feet above the main floor by Mrs. Ford’s father years earlier.
Water from the ocean rose quickly and soon entered the storm room where the household and servants had sought shelter.
A log cabin floated away in the flood.
“We could hear the waves of the Atlantic breaking on the roof, for the ocean and creek had united,” said Mrs. Ford. “For hours we stood there to talk. Aunt Anna said, “Let us all sing the hymn Jesus, Savior of My Soul’ and we did from our hearts, for the nearer waters were rolling all around us. Twice we heard the room crack as though it were leaving the house and one of my aunts said, ‘If it cracks again, we will be gone!.’
Then the wind shifted to the southwest and the waters started to recede. But the storm and tidal surge had taken away all of the family’s possessions.
“There was nothing to pack, as all we owned were the same storm clothes that we had on,” said Mrs. Ford.
As it turns out, those in Mrs. Ford’s household were fortunate. The year brought four devastating hurricanes to the area.
The Great Storm of 1893, which hit Savananah, Georgia two weeks earlier, was the seventh most deadly storm in recorded weather history. It is estimated 2,000 people died, mostly from a storm surge in excess of 16 feet.
The Independent Republic Quarterly can be read online by visiting www.digitalcommons.coastal.edu