Galveston Historic Overnights: Hurley's West Wing
Built in 1854.
This 1854 property once abutted the 1868 construction of former Mayor Charles W. Hurley's Greek Revival Southern town house and was incorporated into the property as a west wing. In 1910, the Hurley house was rebuilt and the original west wing was relocated to the rear of the lot and used as a tenant property by the Scrimgeour family, where the property stands today.
Parts of the owner biographies below have been researched and written by Jami Durham, historian at the Galveston Historical Foundation.
About the Original Owners
Charles Hurley was born in New York City in 1837 shortly after his parents emigrated from England. He moved to Texas before the Civil War and married Illinois native Susan Rozell in Houston in 1857. The couple resided there until 1867 when they relocated to Galveston. On the island, Hurley worked as an agent for the commission merchant and cotton factor T.W. House before he established his shipping and commission firm, C.W. Hurley & Company.
In Galveston, Hurley became active with numerous steamship lines. He inaugurated the first direct line of steamships between Galveston and Liverpool and shipped the first full cargo of Texas cattle directly to Liverpool. He was elected mayor in 1872 and advocated for street paving and other public improvements. In 1875, Hurley was involved in the establishment of two Texas railroads: the Galveston, Brazos & Colorado railway and the Corpus Christi, San Diego & Rio Grande railway.
Captain Scrimgeour was born in Galveston in 1866. After receiving his education at the Galveston Military Institute he worked for the Mallory Steamship Lines as an office boy, and eventually served as dock superintendent of Mallory’s Galveston terminal for 22 years before joining the Southern Steamship Company. In 1919, he was elected secretary of the Galveston-Texas City Pilots Association.
Scrimgeour rebuilt the house in 1910 with an addition on the west side. The arched fan lights surrounding the main entry are attributed to the early 20th century remodel. At this time, the original west wing was detached and shifted to the back of the property to be used as a rental. The oak tree that now stands on the corner of the lot was planted shortly after this change, and a stained glass window can be seen where the two houses were once joined.
More to the Story: Tina Robinson
According to the 1880 U.S. Census (top of page), this property wasn't only home to the Hurley family. As was the case in many well-to-do households at the time, the Hurleys employed a live-in domestic servant who was Black.
In 1880, Tina Robinson was just 25 years old when she was employed by the Hurleys. Born in Alabama (as were her mother and father), she was single and could not read or write. The census also indicates that Robinson was sick, evidenced by a hash mark under its corresponding column, though the exact sickness is not provided. As the largest city in Texas at the time and a busy international port (in part thanks to the efforts of businessmen like C.W. Hurley), Galveston was stricken with epidemics of many kinds over the latter half of the 19th century, including cholera, smallpox, dengue fever, measles, influenza, diphtheria, and whooping cough. In less than 30 years, Galveston experienced no less than nine epidemics of yellow fever, also known as the "Yellow Jack."
Tina's employment with Hurley was short-lived. By 1882, her address in the Galveston City Directory was listed as the residence of B.F. Wolfe, a cotton factor and commission merchant and likely her employer after Hurley. Little else could be found on Tina Robinson, but too often a property history will note only the owners when one could argue that Tina spent the most time of anyone inside the Hurley home. What memories would she have of her time in this house? Did she have family nearby? The record may never say.