Wood County, Texas
SEE ALSO: EARLY SETTLERS OF MINEOLA
1903 MINEOLA BUSINESS DIRECTORY
A History of Texas and Texans, Volume 2 By Francis White Johnson (Published by American Historical Society, 1914) -
Transcribed by Veneta McKinney
Originally one of the heavily forested areas of Northeast Texas, and still with sufficient quantities of yellow pine and hard wood to supply material for lumber milling and various hard wood industries, Wood County is now one of the leading stock farming, agricultural and fruit growing districts of the state. In the statistics of orchard fruits it ranks as one of the leading counties. The breeding of high grade live stock, more particularly hogs, is an important industry on many farms, and while cotton and corn are the staple crops, an increasing acreage is being devoted to the forage crop, peanuts, potatoes and other vegetables, and for a number of years Wood County has sent carloads of Elberta peaches to market. The county has some fine strata of lignite coal, and several mines are in operation, particularly in the vicinity of Alba. The county also deserves mention among Northeast Texas counties for the beginning of improvement of its roads, bonds having been voted in the precinct Mineola for the building of a number of miles of improved highway.
Wood County was originally part of Van Zandt County, from which it was detached in 1850 and organized in the same year. There was no Federal census in that year, but in 1860 its population was 4,968 (1,005 slaves). In that year the amount of improved land was 15,144 acres, but agriculture was still limited, and it was many years before any large amount of the soil had been cleared. In 1870 Wood County had a population of 6,894; in 1880, 11,212; 1890, 13,932; in 1900, 21,048; and in 1910, 23,417 (3,926 negroes). Wood County has two important towns, Mineola and Winnsboro. Winnsboro was one of the earliest centers of settlement, and was a postoffice as early as 1856. Other postoffices in the county at that time were Big Dollar, Holly Springs and Quitman. Quitman has been the county seat since the organization of the county, but has never been fortunate in securing a railway, and is still an unincorporated town. Winnsboro in 1890 had a population of 388, in 1900 of 899 and in 1910 of 1,741. A portion of Winnsboro lies in Franklin County. Mineola's population in 1890 was 1,333; in 1900, 1,725; and in 1910, 1,706.
Wood County lay in the route of several early railways of Northeast Texas. The main line of the Texas & Pacific was constructed from Longview, beginning about 1870, through the southern edge of the county, and one of its stations developed into the present thriving little City of Mineola. Other early stations along the line were Hawkins, Graham, Lake Fork and Macks. When the East Line & Red River, now a part of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, was built in 1876 west from Jefferson, its route touched the northern line of this county, with a station at old Winnsboro. Thus the development of the two chief towns was largely due to their early railroad facilities. In April, 1874, the branch of the International & Great Northern was opened between Troupe and Mineola, thus giving the latter two railways. Also by 1882 the Missouri, Kansas & Texas had extended its line from Greenville to Mineola. A number of years later the Marshall & East Texas, originally known as the Texas Southern, was extended to Winnsboro, and within the last decade the Texas Short Line has entered the county.
The eastern part of the county was originally covered chiefly with pine timber, and the county had in 1880 a stand estimated at 1,600,000,000 feet of pine. In 1882 it was said that only about ten per cent of the total area of 420,480 acres was in cultivation. In the past thirty years the county has become well settled in the rural districts, and the area of its improved farms has steadily increased. In 1910, 274,476 acres were included in farms, and about 146,000 acres were classified as "improved land" as compared with about 120,000 acres in 1900. The number of farms increased from 2,094 in 1900 to 3,600 in 1910. In earlier years the raising of hogs was an especially profitable and easy vocation owing to the abundance of range and mast in the forests. The last census enumerated 17,673 cattle; 7,200 horses and mules; 12,489 hogs; and 102,059 poultry. The acreage planted in cotton in 1909 was 44,912; in corn, 42,826; in oats, 1,543; in hay and forage crops, 1,181; peanuts was also an important crop, and about 1,400 acres were devoted to potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables. About 262,000 orchard fruit trees were enumerated, chiefly peaches, and the growing of grapes, tropical fruits and berries is also an important item in the county's economy.
In 1870 the value of taxable property was $1,062,028; in 1882, $2,089,298; in 1903, $4,213,710; and in 1913, $8,720,246.
Contains 702 square miles or 449.,280 acres of as good land as is to be found in any timbered section of the United States of America. In the county there are about 50,000 acres of land In cultivation, leaving about. 400,000 acres waiting for and inviting the man with the axe. plow, spade and hoe. Our lands produce in abundance corn, cotton, oats, wheat, barley, rye, peas of all kinds. potatocs(both sweet and Irish), melons of all descriptions, grasses in endless variety, sugar cane and sorghum. We are situated in the center of the great fruit belt, hero grapes and berries grow spontaneously and the improved varieties cannot be surpassed either In quantity or quality, Our special productions in the fruit line are: apples, peaches, pears, plums ftrapes and berries. All foreign varieties so far as tested are a success. Our soil is peculiarly adapted to garden vegetables, not only in variety, but in quality, and numbers of our most progressive farmers are making a specialty of raising the watermelon, cantaloupe. Irish potato, tomato, cabbage, etc.. and they are making money at it.
The county is well supplied with water. The Sabine river on our southwestern boundary, with Lake Fork, one of its principal tributaries, running through its center from north to south with numbers of bold running creeks, branches and brooklets, many of them furnishing power to run machinery the year round. There are numerous lakes on our water courses teeming with the finny tribe, from the sun perch to the 100-pound catfish. The water is soft or pure freestone as a rule, though we have a few mineral springs and wells, furnishing a great health resort for the afflicted. The soil is grey sandy or grey loam as a rule, although there are large bodies of red gravity sandy land. The timbers are white, black, red and post oak. overcup, ash, walnut, mulberry, sweet and black gum, white and black hickory, black jack, cotton wood, hackberry, pine, etc. A large area of the south end of the county's covered with a magnificent growth of as fine yet low pines as can be found in the south, from which are furnished cd millions of feet or mmncr and shingles annually. Unimproved lands in the county sell at from $1.50 to $8 00 an acre, according to location, quality and quantity. Improved lands range in price from $3.00 to $25.00 per acre. Land can be purchased on easy terms. Health of the county is good, schools are first-class, and: churches of nearly every name and order exist and society is splendid. The Jury script is always worth 100 cents on the dollar. [Source unknown]