Frost Tornado - First Hand Accounts
Frost, Navarro County, Texas


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 Frost Community || 1930 Frost Tornado || Tornado Damage Photos


 

Recollection of Mary Lee Grimes Truex

Everyone was in school. I was 14 years old and in Math Class. and when it got so dark most of us hid under our desks.  The superintendent, Mr. Harrison, told everyone to go down to the first floor in the big hall way and we crouched against the wall.

When it hit the railroad it split and half went over the schoolhouse and destroyed most everything and tore down the Methodist Church and the Baptist Church.  The Baptists rebuilt on the same lot but the Methodist went over by the funeral home where it is now.

The other half of the tornado dipped water and mud out of the lake, so it didn't do too much damage.

Mr. Patterson had a drug store across the street from where the more recent one was.  A gas line was ruptured and caught fire and he burned to death before anyone could get to him.

Most of the real bad damage was north of the park. It took most of the sores in that section. Where the cafe is now, that area wasn't as torn up. Grandma Grimes had roof damage and mud in her wood work that is still there I imagine! She wasn't home. I think she was in Dallas or Ft. Worth visiting.

We  (Iva and F. M. Grimes family) lost everything...house, furniture. We found one quilt box and cedar chest and the back half of the piano. Baird's house lost their roof and their house was moved out in the street and part of the siding was ripped off.

Mr. Lattimore lived next door to us. Their house was mashed down but not blown away. He was home with a broken leg and couldn't get to the storm cellar. He wasn't hurt though. He was the first person I met when I got home and he told me where everyone was. 

One girl's father came and took her out of school, and they were killed in their car on the way home.

My mother, Iva and brother went with 43 neighbors into the storm cellar next to Baird's house.  My sister, Jean, came home from school with a Wilma Ruth Stockard and stayed there too.

Within the week, wooden stalls were erected on the street where businesses were blown away and they started business again as soon as possible. The Red Cross came and gave shots for typhoid and some died anyway.  Iva Lee Scott, Aunt Maude's girl, Lora Ann's little sister, died with meningitis caused from the drinking water they thought.  I think she was 4 years old.

One woman expecting a baby (down the street from our house) was found under the roof of another house, but wasn't hurt very much.

The Patterson boys kept pictures at the drug store.

Written by Mary Lee Grimes Truex
Submitted by her cousin, Virginia Crilley


Recollection of Carl Matthews
I remember the tornado at Frost. My sister, Jean, born March 1929, was being weaned at the time.  Rains was heavy in Dawson and I could not get out of the house to escape my sister's screaming for her bottle.

When my Father came home from the meat market, he reported that he had just heard that a tornado had hit Frost and that he was concerned for many friends and relatives who lived there.

On Sunday, we drove from Dawson to Frost.   The Richland Creek Bridge was under water and most roads in the area were near impassable.  We had a long blue Cadillac in the garage, but we made the trip to Frost in a two seat Model T that was used for a delivery car.   It had a higher center.

I remember that we drove to Hubbard.. to Mertens ...and then to Frost. The day was sunny and bright.  My Father drove, I sat in the middle, and my Mother held my baby Sister.

There was talk of a black man who jumped from a front porch to escape the storm and who did not hit the ground for some distance away.  Some told of a woman who took refuge in her "pea patch," and remained safe there while her house disappeared.

My Father pointed to a piece of metal barn roofing that had been blown through a telephone pole.

My most vivid recollection was of a residence with walls and roof completely gone.   The floor was bare except for an upright piano. On its top sat a bowl of fresh flowers that rested on a cloth doily ..all completely undisturbed.  I was impressed.

My Father had brought fresh meat, cured ham, etc. and delivered it to a center where food was being prepared for victims and volunteers.   We drove around the town that was almost in ruins.   Some houses were standing without damage while other were completely gone.

My father found many relatives and friends and their meetings brought embraces...and tears.  Some tears were of joy...some of sorrow.

Submitted Nov 6, 2000 by Carl Matthews


Excerpt from "As I Remember It..."  by Joe Hambrick

The Frost Tornado came on May 6, 1930.  Mr. Morrison had a T-Model whoopie, as we called it.  It was a truck with a homemade flatbed on it.  When word of the tornado came, dad and my brothers, Cabe and Roy, and every able bodied man around piled on the whoopie and went to Frost to help out.  It had rained all day and the roads were muddy.  They had enough men along to push.  They spent the entire night, returning before noon the next day with all the bad news.  There were 22 people dead and much of downtown destroyed.  My maternal grandparents, John Berry Honea and Margaret Catherine Perry Honea, lived there. They were okay and their home was not damaged.  The next day we went back to town.  Uncle Clarence came over from Tyler to check on the grandparents.  After he found out all was well, he had to driver over to Blooming Grove to call home.  He let me ride with him in his 1929 Chevrolet.  We made a drive through Frost and I was impressed by the National Guard soldiers as we passed.  People came from everywhere, a solid stream of Model-As and Model-Ts going through town.  It was a sad sight.  Only a few buildings stood downtown.  We had spent part of that afternoon in the storm cellar.  The Sky was black, but we never saw the actual funnel.  Many storm cellars were built after that event and many stories came out of it.  I don't have the space or time to recount them here.


Tornados Strike Summers Family

In 1914, Easter Sunday night, the C. G. Summers family home was completely demolished by a tornado, at that time called cyclone.  The one thing that saved the family was an upright piano in the living room; it was so heavy that it held down that portion of the floor where the family were at the time.  They did not have time to get to their storm cellar.  The only casualty was Louise, who suffered a severe head injury, from which she recovered.

In May 1930, a tornado destroyed almost all of Frost, Texas.  The summers home was again severely damaged, but there were no injuries or casualties.  Cecil Summers was injured in the tornado, but he was not at home.  He was at the home of his uncle and aunt.  Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Bowman in Frost.  Cecil suffered two broken legs and his aunt and uncle were both killed.

Mildred Summers


John Thomas Fiew, Jr.

 

ARTICLE SUBMITTED BY DORIS F. RODRIGUEZ

 
Frost, Texas was hit by a tornado at 3:26 pm on Tuesday, May 6, 1930, and in three minutes the small thriving town of nearly 1,000 residents was almost completely demolished.  The business district was completely destroyed and so was everything north of the railroad.  The school building was damaged and several area churches were destroyed.  The newspaper office was also destroyed.  Some eye-witnesses say the tornado split into two separate twisters just before it passed over the schoolhouse.
 
My great-uncles, John Thomas Fiew, Jr. (age 15) and James Prentiss Fiew (age 19), were just leaving a movie theatre when the cyclone hit and they ran into the nearby Patterson Drugstore for shelter.  The drugstore collapsed and caught fire and John and James were both trapped inside.  The owner of the drugstore, E. A. Patterson, and John burned to death that day and James was severely injured.  Babe Readnour, sister-in-law to John and James, rode the train to Corsicana with their bodies.  James died the next day at 7:00 pm.
 
Mr. A. J. McKnight, who is a conductor on the Cotton Belt Railroad stated that he was in Frost around 3:20 pm, just a few minutes before the cyclone hit, and that men at the depot told him to go carefully because a storm was brewing.  His train was ready to leave Corsicana when word reached there of the disaster and his train brought out all of the nurses and doctors who tended to the injured and the dead.
 
All telephone and telegraph communication to Frost had been cut off while stoic survivors burrowed into the ruins of their homes and businesses in search of friends and loved ones, and the town was without electricity, gas, or water.  They worked throughout the night with the assistance of National Guardsmen from Corsicana and other volunteers from neighboring towns.  The Rainbow Girls made and distributed over one-hundred sandwiches to the storm victims and volunteers
 
A mass funeral was held at the residence of Mr. L. A. Morgan on Thursday, May 8th, which was one of the few houses unharmed by the storm.  While the caskets rested in the house, the sorrowful families were seated on the front porch where the sermon was conducted.  The guests stood in the yard and spilled out into the street in all directions.  Rev. W. W. Richison, pastor of the First Methodist Church, served as presiding chaplain. Eleven hearses carried the twelve caskets to the Frost cemetery where they were buried in their respective family lots.  It is believed that 22 died as a result of the tornado.
 
**  Note that the ages and names of many of the victims in local area newspapers are incorrect.


Notes:


Phillip L. Mitchell Account

My mother was in the 4th or 5th grade at the time of the storm. She was out on the porch of the school dusting erasers when the storm hit. She was the youngest of nine children and would have graduated from Frost High School around 1935/6. While I don’t remember that either of my grandparents ever recounted anything about the Frost storm (they were both in medical school in Galveston when the hurricane came---never talked about that, either; and plain unlucky to have been in the two greatest natural disasters to strike Texas). From my aunts, I remember that my uncle John Matlock was in Patterson’s store. My granddaddy was at his office in the bank and had been called several times to get in the vault. He did. The storm struck and leveled the bank except for the vault. A picture of his twin daughters, Phyllis and Clifford, was later found by someone in Mertens and returned to him. The Matlock home was on the easternmost edge of Frost right off the railroad right of way and across from the water tower and pump house. They had no damage except for a few windows.

... Mary Kathryn may be the only living member of that Frost class.  She has very definite memories of the storm.  They lived about three miles west of Frost.  It had rained all day and her father had just arrived, with mud chains, to pick them up from school.  All the kids were in the downstairs hall with Mr. Jones holding the door.  

Submitted by: Phillip L. Mitchell


My grandparents” [Joseph E. Hobbs & Elizabeth Willard Hobbs] house was destroyed by the tornado. They moved to Corsicana after that. The Red Cross gave my mother a chance to attend nursing school and she graduated from Baylor School of Nursing in 1934 and worked as a full time nurse until her retirement in 1975.

Submitted by Jane Ann Shipp


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