Ten years after Munse Hitchcock’s death, a local newspaperman named Charles Waldo Hayes set out to write an exhaustive history of Galveston. Through a series of misfortunes, his book wasn’t published for almost a century, in the 1970s. It’s a wonderful source not only because it includes detailed stories that would have been otherwise forgotten in the ensuing decades, it gives a hint as to what Galvestonians thought was important back in Hayes’ day.
Clearly, Munse Hitchcock’s reputation continued to loom large in the public mind years after he passed on. In the last part of Hays’ two-volume work, the author devotes four full pages to Hitchcock’s life, and in it he includes this amusing story about the harbor pilot’s encounter with the master of a British merchant ship:
Captain Hitchcock was a man of great versatility, combining with it the happy faculty of carrying on many avocations, and what is still more rare, doing all of them well, as the following amusing and reliable story demonstrates:
An English ship, destined for Mexico, was caught in a terrific gale, blown out of her course, and cast anchor in a badly crippled condition off the bar of Galveston, and hoisted the signal of distress. Captain Hitchcock immediately put off to her for the purpose of bringing her in. On boarding the vessel he was confronted by the Captain, a bluff, hearty “old John Bull” who said: “Well, pilot, you see I have been in a pretty stiff gale, and am badly in need of repairs, but I am loathe to enter your port until I know something of its people, and their ability to supply my wants and furnish me the needed repair. You must therefore pardon me for interrogating you before I permit you to take the helm and your replies to my questions will decide my entering or not entering your port for the much needed repairs and supplies.” To this. Captain Hitchcock readily acquiesced, when the old Captain began his interrogatories.
Captain: Tell me something about Texas. I know but little about it. Are the people civilized?
Pilot: “Yes, sir, the people are civilized, and will receive and treat you in a hospitable manner.”
Captain. “Is your harbor perfectly safe and secure?”
Pilot: “Yes,· sir, the safest on the coast.”
Captain: “I am about out of ship stores, are they any ship chandlers on that sand bar?”
Pilot: “I am a ship chandler, and will be happy to furnish you with anything you may need in my line.”
Captain: “But you see some of my yards and spars are broken, and sails torn to shreds. Can I get rigged out with new sails, spars and yards in your place?”
Pilot: “Captain, I can supply you with all needed repairs in that line.”
Captain: “I am out of fresh meat, are they any cattle which I can secure?”
Pilot: “I am a butcher and can supply you with all you may want.”
Captain: “What! Well, I am about out of fresh water, I suppose you drink well water, and there are persons that can furnish me with what I may want?”
Pilot: “Captain, we. have nothing but cistern, and that is first class. As I am also engaged in supplying the shipping with fresh water will cheerfully sell you all you want.”
Captain: “Well, pilot, you astonish me. How about churches, I am an Episcopalian, and as I shall be detained in your port for some time, would like to know if there is such a denomination in your·town?”
Pilot: “Captain, I can set your mind at rest on that score, as I am a. member of the Episcopal Church and leader of its choir, and we have quite a flourishing society in Galveston.”
Captain: “Not knowing anything of Galveston, in fact, never having heard of it before, I am in some doubt about entering your port far the necessary supplies and repairs, but being a Mason, and if I was assured that there was a Masonic Lodge there I would not hesitate about going in.”
Pilot: “We have a Masonic Lodge in Galveston composed of the best citizens, and I am Master of the Lodge.”
Captain: “My wife is aboard, and while the vessel is undergoing repairs I want her ashore. What kind of lodging houses have you?”
Pilot: The Tremont is first class, I am part owner, and can safely recommend it as being everything I represent.”
The rugged old Captain looked upon Pilot Hitchcock in wonderment, as he musingly repeated to himself, pilot, ship chandler, butcher, water dealer, member of the Episcopal Church, leader of the choir, Master of the Masonic Lodge and part owner of a hotel, when he abruptly broke forth: “Zounds, you Americans can beat the world. What more can you do?” Pilot Hitchcock instantly replied:
“Hold our own in a fight, teach you how to navigate, and run a tombstone manufactory.”
This was a clincher. The old Captain with “pilot take the wheel,” turned abruptly and walked away. After the vessel was safely anchored in the stream the Captain approached Mr. Hitchcock and took him down into the cabin and introduced him to his wife, as a specimen of the enterprising American nation.
Join the Texas Navy Association on Saturday, October 21, at 10 a.m. at Old Episcopal Cemetery in Galveston, for a medallion ceremony recognizing Lent Munson Hitchcock, Jr. (right), who served as an officer in the Texian Navy during the Revolution in 1836-37. The Texas Navy Association is a private, 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to preserving and promoting the historical legacy of the naval forces of the Republic of Texas, 1835-45. Membership in the Texas Navy Association is open to all persons age 16 and over who have an interest in Texas history and want to help support the goals of the organization.