By Lou Mallory, Chairperson of the Wood County Historical Commission
When residents of Wood County, after a hard day’s work, retired to their beds on the night of Tuesday, April 8, 1919, little did they know that by early Wednesday morning April 9, 1919 many lives would be lost or changed forever.
The cyclone on that morning took the lives of many of them and many others were injured. It should be noted that many of the farmers and others had white and black tenants who lived in small “shotgun” houses and were not built to withstand high wind or a storm as deadly as this one.
This cyclone (tornado) was the greatest catastrophe to ever hit Wood County. In a small rural county whose population was slightly less then 2,300 in the 1920 census the loss of life and injuries plus the destruction of many houses, schoolhouses and outbuildings this storm” had a profound effect. The damages and loss was estimated at nearly a half million dollars but worst yet was the 23 county residents whose lives were lost, and the 56 others who were injured. The damages covered the 71 homes completely wrecked and the 55 others damaged along with two schoolhouses.
The lives lost in this catastrophe were more than the county lost in the First World War just ended.
As bad as the storm and the deaths, injuries and property damages that occurred If not for the residents who heard the wind and rain and went to their storm cellars from the reports gathered about 50 residents had escaped physical harm while their dwelling places were completely destroyed.
The storm entered Wood County about a mile and a half southeast of Mineola and was said to have cut a path a mile wide through the entire county.
Some of the areas documented to have sustained heavy damage were Mineola, the Lake Fork area, and the communities of Oak Grove, Stout, Vernon, Westbrook, Musgrove and Spring Hill. After the devastation caused in these small communities, they began to decline and are today gone and virtually forgotten.
Based on both oral and written reports, the storm is believed to have first hit Canton this morning and that is documented by a Dallas Morning News article dated April 10, 1919. Other Dallas Morning News reports of April 10 described the damage done in the Winnsboro area, and another tells of the storm that hit Bonham the same morning.
The storm in the Bonham area causes extensive damages, and it was reported that the storm first struck near Trenton and extended in spots to the Red River.
The citizens of Wood County weathered this catastrophe and through the years have worked hard to bring back the beauty and splendor or this beautiful area of East Texas.