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Save Our Stories Provides a Window Into the Past
By: Robert Stanton
Saturday, February 22, 2014

Galveston’s colorful history is coming alive through a new Facebook site – Save Our Stories Galveston, Tx.

The treasure trove of archives provides a rarely seen view of life on the island during its early years, from the mid-1800s to roughly the 1950s.

Consider the wedding of Oberia Lenora Banks to Bethel Julius Strode, owner of the original Strode Mortuary in Galveston.

Galveston native Monica Banks Netherly explains the significance of the high-society wedding in commonts on Save Our History - https://www.facebook.com/SOSGalvestonTx. The headline of the article in the Galveston Daily News reads: "Reedy Chapel Church in Splendor; B.J. Strode Leads Miss Banks to Alter; Capacity House See Ceremony."

The wedding picture includes many of Galveston's most prominent African American citizens, including L.A. Morgan, Thomas Green, Rose Virginia Clark and Prof. Thomas Warren. The groom, Bethel Julius (B.J. ) Strode was an entrepreneur who moved to Galveston from Louisiana. He was well known as the owner of the original Strode Mortuary located in Galveston. He also owned a hotel in Chicago and several other businesses. The beautiful bride, Oberia Lenora Banks, was born in Galveston at the dawn of the 20th century. The bride's parents, Shelton Banks, Sr. and Carolyn Peachy Banks were the contributor's great grandparents. The full text of the newspaper article contains detailed descriptions of the wedding, decorations and gowns.

“It was a significant wedding,” said Sharon Gillins, a family history researcher and professor of electronic media at Riverside Community College in Riverside, Calif. “Here you had a wealthy black man when there was no wealthy black man (in Galveston). He (Bethel Julius Strode) died in a plane crash while returning from a Chicago trip, in his own plane. Back in the day, he was certainly in that group of influential people in Galveston.”

The Save Our History Galveston Tx. website launched on Jan. 5 as a part of the lead-in to Galveston’s 175th Anniversary - http://www.cityofgalveston.org/415/175th-Anniversary. Gillins’ co-chair on the on the project is Sam Collins III, a Board Member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, representing Texas.

Another interesting find on the site is an 1885 Bible contributed by Galvestonians Joyce Staton Lacy and her sister, Rosalie Staton Tottenham. The family puts it like this:

This 1885 Bible belonged to the sisters' great grandparents, Lawrence and Betty Clitherall. The births of their 7 children are listed in the front, including the sisters' grandmother, Emily Clitherall Poston, b. 1886, and great aunt, Druscilla Clitherall, b. 1889.. Mr. and Mrs. Clitherall lived at 1608 - 35th Street and rode out the 1900 storm there with their children. Pictured in the photograph are the sisters' grandparents, Emily and John Poston, and their aunts, Eugenia Dykes and Emily Johnson.

Other fascinating finds on Save Our History Galveston Tx. include a 1941 library card from the Colored Branch of the Rosenberg Library; and a photo of three African American survivors of the 1900 Storm – Ophelia Marshall, Libbie Ashe and Hortense Anderson.

“We wanted to find a way for anyone who is a descendent of a resident of Galveston over those 175 years, to give them an opportunity to share their own history,” Gillins said. “Anybody here during those 175 years made the history of Galveston what it is. Galveston has a great history, but the city can’t make history by itself.”

Be sure to hop online to check out the intriguing site. Embracing the past is indeed the key to what is to come. In the words of Confucious, “Study the past if you would define the future.”

Article written by Robert Stanton

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