Our Motto Rings True
by Brett Butler
Frost High School - 2007
“Mr. Patterson had a drug store
across the street. 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 stores in that section. We lost everything. . .
house, furniture. We found an old quilt box and cedar chest and the back of the
These accounts recorded by Mary Lee Grimes
Truex, and submitted to the Navarro County Historical Society by her cousin
Virginia Crilley, are explaining the natural disaster that occurred May 6, 1930
in Frost. Frostonians refer to it today as the Frost Tornado.
“Everyone was in school. I was fourteen and
in math class. 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 hallway and we crouched against the wall. One girl’s father came and took
her out of school, and they were killed in the their car on the way home.”
It. was 3:26 p.m. as the destructive F4 made
its way through Frost. The sky turned black, almost angry. A few eyewitnesses
said they believed the bitter cyclone split into two twisters just before
crossing over the school, one navigating over a lake, the other butchering Main
Street. After lasting only three minutes, it was hard to believe that the
tempest would leave 23 dead, over 100 injured, and $2,100,000 worth of damages
in this blooming town of 1,000. Frost was once the home of a drugstore, grocery
store, two beauty shops, dress factory, insurance office, feed store, fertilizer
store, lumberyard, two garages, two service stations, railroad station, movie
theater, five churches, and a butcher market. However the tornado swindled all
it deemed worthy in its path of destruction.
Once the people of Frost had enough courage
to peek out of their cellars to view the damage, they discovered that their
beloved town was gone. Houses were in ruins. Churches were destroyed. Model
T’s were mixed in with the filth as they had been blended together. It was as
if a burglar had invaded and was searching for that elusive needle in a
The late Mrs. Faye McCary, was studying in
college in Denton at the time of the tornado and received word from a friend
three days after the disaster. The friend to Mrs. McCary, “I guess you know
your hometown blew away.” She accused him of lying, but accepted the undeniable
truth when he began listing the names of victims. Mrs. McCary’s father owned
the butcher market, and waited out the tornado by hiding with some friends in a
walk-in refrigerator. They were trapped inside. One man managed to break
through two panels of double paned glass to unlock the door. When they emerged
from the locker, they found their store demolished.
Nevertheless, relief was only a few steps
behind the monster. The Red Cross from Corsicana and Hillsboro came to care for
the homeless survivors. Those who were fortunate enough to still have their
homes too in the stray. There was no room for the dead in the cemetery because
it was filled with the debris of houses from the living. However, volunteers
collected the dead and made caskets for a mass funeral, which was held May 8.
After only a year into Great Depression, it was surprising to find that within
the week wooden stalls had been erected and businesses were open. Many people
from Dawson, Hillsboro, Mertens, Italy, Corsicana, and Blooming Grove brought in
food and supplies for the victims and volunteers. Since electricity, gas, and
running water in Frost was scarce, many died from diseases after drinking
unsanitary water. The Rainbow Girls, a non-profit charity, made and distributed
over 100 sandwiches, and the National Guard from Corsicana gave typhoid shots.
Slowly, the callous wounds of May 6 began to heal, as they did, they shaped the
new face of the small but proud city of Frost.
As Frostonians look back on our scars, we
wonder what Frost might have been if the events of May 6, 1930 hadn’t crippled
the town’ economy and inhibited its growth.