The Unique History, Places, & People of Mineola Texas - celebrating 150 years in 2023
Author: Carol Fall

Author: Carol Fall

I own Fall Farm Country Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast in East Texas. I love sharing my recommendations to exploring this wonderful area!

The Unique History, Places, & People of Mineola Texas

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    Mineola Texas isn’t the typical resort destination that attracts vacationers. While this quaint city has plenty of things to do, it’s full of small-town charm and an interesting history that you can’t overlook. That’s why I’ve put together everything that you need to know about Mineola Texas.

    The Unique History, Places, & People of Mineola Texas

    History of Mineola Texas

    The first settlers came to Mineola Texas — known then as Sodom — in the 1840s, and the traders used the “Mineral Well” at the center of the community — the intersection of Johnson and Broad Streets — for many years. In 1873, a local government was established.

    Trains Come to Town

    Also in 1873, the International-Great Northern Railroad and the Texas and Pacific Railway raced to build lines to the town first — the I-GN won by just 15 minutes. The railroads provided a vital commerce link for the city, and trains stopped long enough for the crew and passengers to drink from the Mineral Well.

    A Fire Sparks Expansion

    After a post office was opened in 1875, Mineola became an incorporated town in 1877. In the 1880s, a fire destroyed 18 buildings, but the town was able to bounce back in a matter of years — seven churches, hotels, banks, and schools were built, and the population grew to 2,000 people by 1890.

    Agriculture & Lumber Industries Thrive

    Since Mineola was located along the state’s timber belt, it became a producer of lumber and railroad ties. It also grew berries, fruit, and cotton, as well as raised livestock and traded farm products. In 1886, a chair factory opened and later became a basket and crate factory in 1900 — which didn’t close until 1952.

    Infrastructure Expands

    During the 1920s, improvements were made to the highway, a gas pipeline was installed, and a railroad terminal was built. During the 1940s, the local economy was spurred by the addition of a railroad shop and the discovery of oil around Wood County.

    Farming & Lumber Industries Diversify

    Farmers began to branch out by 1950, introducing watermelon crops and cattle raising. Sweet potato farming was added to the list too. This was followed with the establishment of a nursery, a creamery, and a company that provides poles to the telephone company.

    Tourism Boosts the Economy

    Throughout the mid to late 1900s, Mineola Texas became a tourism destination. In 1989, it earned the National Main Street City designation, and in 2005, it was made a Preserve America Community.

    Over the years, the city spent more than $6 million to renovate central business district buildings. Today, Mineola remains a flourishing commercial center and a weekend getaway destination for visitors looking for a charming, quiet respite. But, you can still see the history reflected in the historical places and people of the city.

    Mineola Train Depot
    Mineola Train Depot

    Unique & Historical Places Around Mineola

    Depot Museum

    This Historic Depot had an important role in the shipment of lumber and other goods for decades. In 1951, its facade was destroyed during a modernization project. So, Amtrak trains didn’t stop here between 1974 and 1996.

    A renovation was completed in the early 2000s, recapturing the depot’s original 1906 facade. Now, Amtrak operates a Quik-Trak service. The depot is also home to interactive train models and other railroad memorabilia.

    Mineola Iron Horse Festival

    The Mineola Iron Horse Festival is a longstanding annual event that celebrates Mineola’s railway history. It’s typically held in late September.

    Mineola Historical Museum

    The building that houses the Mineola Historical Museum was built in 1937 as a post office with Depression Era architecture. In 1938, Bernard Zakheim, a California artist, painted a mural in the post office, and his son and grandson restored it years later.

    The post office was turned into a museum in 1998 and received a Texas Historical Marker the following year. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Mineola Area Chamber of Commerce Building

    The Mineola Area Chamber of Commerce is located in the building that was once the First National Bank of Mineola. The bank found its home here in 1912 after the Mineola Mercantile was damaged during a fire.

    The building has a blend of architecture with arched windows, elaborate detail above the entrance, and decorative brackets under the eaves. It was awarded a historical designation in 2001, and you can read more about that on the building’s plaque.

    The Lake Country Playhouse and The Historic Select Theater

    Featuring old-fashioned charm, The Lake Country Playhouse and The Historic Select Theater is the oldest continuously running theater in the state. It was opened in 1920, and over time, it has undergone a face-lift. It stayed a family-owned theater until the 1960s, when it was purchased by longtime employees. Then, The Lake Country Playhouse took over operations in 1989.

    Beckham Hotel and Ballroom

    The historic Beckham Hotel and Ballroom was originally built in 1885 with a European design. It was used as a boarding house and temporary home for railroad workers, cattlemen, and loggers. The hotel was expanded and remodeled in 1928 and reopened as the “New” Beckham Hotel.

    In 1989, music teacher John DeFoore bought the hotel, where famous students Miranda Lambert, Michelle Shocked, and Kacey Musgraves studied. After another major renovation, the building reopened as a hotel.

    Wood County Airport Collins Field

    Located between Mineola and Quitman, Wood County Airport Collins Field was built in 1983 with a 3,400-foot runway, maintenance hangar, and terminal building. It was upgraded in 2001 with a 4,000-foot runway, a PAPI lighting system, and two taxiways. It has undergone further upgrades as well and continues to welcome flights from across the country.

    The Unique History, Places, & People of Mineola TexasThe Unique History, Places, & People of Mineola Texas

    Mineola Country Club & Golf Course

    The Mineola Country Club & Golf Course was established in the 1920s when golf was a largely unfamiliar sport in the area. Before that, the land was a dairy farm run by the Jennings family. Scrapbooks of original documents and photos tell the property’s story.

    Mineola Civic Center and RV Park

    A nonprofit organization, Mineola Civic Center and RV Park was incorporated 1972, providing a meeting place for community and other area residents and visitors. It continues to do so today.

    The Pecan House Country Store

    Frankie and Skeets Turbeville started selling pecans in 1978 — they were already selling watermelons in the summer and sweet potatoes in the fall. A few years later, they set up a pecan sheller in the sweet potato barn. Since then, The Pecan House Country Store has expanded its inventory to homemade nut butters and other sweet and savory snacks.

    Pine Mills Pottery

    Since 1979, Daphne and Gary Hatcher have been creating amazing handmade pottery, which you can view at Pine Mills Pottery. From everyday dinnerware to fine contemporary ceramics, the couple has extraordinary talents.

    Les Mitchell at The Towne Potter

    Les Mitchell has been creating and selling pottery at The Towne Potter in Mineola Texas since 1982. He became interested in pottery at the age of 10 and is well known for using the ancient Japanese Raku Flash method.

    Horsefeathers Gallery

    First cousins Cathy Pegues and Karen Musgraves — singer Kacey Musgraves’ mother — grew up in the Golden community near Mineola. Now, they have opened the Horsefeathers Gallery, where you can purchase art made by true natives.

    Mineola Restaurants

    Long-Established Restaurants in Mineola Texas

    East Texas Burger Company

    Home of the Lunker Burger, the East Texas Burger Company has been established since 1896. At the time, though, it was called Carl’s Little Restaurant. It’s believed that Clyde Barrow and one of his gang members had breakfast here in the 1930s. And, according to the menu, Bonnie and Clyde had a shootout in the alley behind the eatery.

    Kitchens Hardware & Deli

    Since 1899, Kitchens Hardware has been a Wood County landmark, and it’s easy to spot the red brick in downtown Mineola. W.D. Kitchens — the man who started the store — was the first cafe operator and eventually got into the hardware business by selling buggies and wagons. Today, both of these businesses are blended.

    The Unique History, Places, & People of Mineola Texas

    Famous & Notable Mineola Texas Natives & Visitors

    Jim Hogg

    Jim Hogg was born in 1851 in nearby Cherokee County. He practiced law in Mineola and became the 20th governor of Texas.

    Ima Hogg

    Ima Hogg — the aforementioned Jim’s daughter — was born in Mineola in 1882. She was a society leader, advocate for mental health, philanthropist, and collector and patron of the arts. Plus, she was known as The First Lady of Texas.

    Jim Tarver

    Born in 1885 near Golden Texas just west of Mineola, Jim Tarver was the world’s tallest man at 8 foot, 4 inches and 460 pounds (at the time). He worked for the Barnum and Bailey Circus and was fondly known by several names — Big Jim, The World’s Largest Man, and The Texas Giant.

    Lillian Richard

    Lillian Richard was born in nearby Hawkins Texas in 1891. Quaker Oats Company contracted her in 1925 to portray Aunt Jemima, as well as demonstrate pancakes and other products. A Texas Historical Marker was placed in Hawkins in her name in 2012.

    Barney M. Giles

    Born in 1892 on a farm near Mineola Texas, Barney Giles was a decorated military officer who helped create strategic bombing theory and practice. He’s also known for being one of three B-29 pilots to make a record-breaking, nonstop military flight from Japan over Alaska and Canada to Chicago.

    Jack Rhodes

    An influential country singer and songwriter, Jack Rhodes was born in nearby Martin’s Mill Texas in 1907. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame posthumously in 1972, and in 2009, he was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. You can see some Jack Rhodes memorabilia in the Mineola Historical Museum.

    Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow

    The infamous Bonnie and Clyde — born in 1910 and 1909 respectively — passed through several towns in Texas , including Mineola, while on a killing and burglary spree in the early 1930s. Although they didn’t rob the Mineola bank like it was depicted in the film, it’s believed that they considered it.

    The story goes that Clyde and Floyd discussed robbing the First National Bank of Mineola while having breakfast at the then Clark’s Little Restaurant. After Floyd scoped out the building, though, they decided that they couldn’t do it because there were just too many people inside.

    It’s believed that since the gang needed money to free comrade Raymond from jail, they attacked the deaf and dumb owner of Jenning’s Shoe Store on Broad Street. The community doctor, Robert Coleman, stumbled across the bleeding man while returning to Coleman’s Drug Store and Hospital, which is now the home of Moon’s Harvest Bath & Body Shop.

    Noble Willingham

    Born in 1931 in Mineola Texas, Noble Willingham, Jr. appeared in dozens of films and television shows. He’s remembered for his work in “The Last Picture Show” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

    Bobby Ray Inman

    A retired U.S. Navy admiral, Bobby Ray Inman was born in the nearby community of Rhonesboro in 1931 and graduated from Mineola High School at the age of 15. He’s known for being the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency and was nominated for U.S. secretary of defense by President Clinton.

    Willie Brown

    Born in 1934 in Mineola Texas, Willie Brown was the first African American mayor of San Francisco between 1996 and 2004. Before his stint as mayor, he became popular as a city legislator in support of gay and lesbian civil rights.

    Sissy Spacek

    Mary Elizabeth Spacek — better known as Sissy Spacek — is an American singer and actress who was born in Quitman Texas in 1949. She has won numerous awards, including an Academy Award, a Grammy, three Golden Globes, and four British Academy Film Awards. In 2011, she got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    Stanley Richard

    Also known as the Sheriff, Stanley Richard was born in Mineola Texas in 1967. He is known for being a safety for the University of Texas, where he earned All-American safety in 1990. In the NFL, he played for the San Diego Chargers and Washington Commanders (formerly Redskins).

    Jonathan Brent

    Born in 1971 in Mineola Texas, Jonathan Brent is an actor and producer. He is best known for playing Dr. Ashland in “Catch Me If You Can,” Danny Cohen in “Scriptfellas,” and Jim in an episode of “The West Wing” — he was in a second episode as a White House photographer too.

    Miranda Lambert

    Miranda Lambert is an American country singer and guitarist born in nearby Longview in 1983 and raised in Lindale Texas. She took third place on “Nashville Star” in 2003 and has been honored by several awards organizations. Also, she has won the most Academy of Country Music Awards of any artist.

    Adam Moore

    Former professional baseball player Adam Moore was born in Longview Texas in 1984. He played baseball and football while attending Mineola High School. Then, he went on to play in the MLB for the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays.

    Kacey Musgraves

    American country singer and songwriter Kacey Musgraves was born in 1988 in Golden Texas. She has won three Academy of Country Music Awards, six Grammy Awards, and seven Country Music Association Awards.

    Fall Farm County Inn - historic Mineola Texas bed and breakfast

    More Mineola Texas History at Fall Farm Country Inn

    Established in 1945, Fall Farm Country Inn was built on family land that my — current owner Carol Fall — paternal grandparents purchased. For many years, the farm grew cotton, peanuts, ribbon cane, sweet potatoes, and watermelon. My grandfather made syrup with the ribbon cane.

    When the property was passed to my father Gary Patrick, he built the current house here. My husband Mike and I continued working on the house and eventually turned it into a country inn. Some things that haven’t changed, though, are the crepe myrtles, daffodils, and lilies that my grandmother planted.

    When you’re ready to experience the history of Mineola Texas, consider staying in one of my rooms or the Red Oak Cottage. Check my availability to start planning your visit.

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