In 1880, Savoy Nearly Destroyed in Storm
The most western town in Fannin County is located 12 miles west of Bonham along the Grayson County line. The community was named for William Savoy who settled in the area in the late 1850s. Colonel Savoy, as he was often called, bought more land than anyone at that time in the Savoy vicinity.
Another family in the area at the time were the Coonrod family that owned property just east of Savoy’s. They created a community called Coonrod just South of the Savoy community. The William Savoy home was just north of Fort Warren.
Like many of the areas in Fannin County, Savoy also had a large influx of settlers escaping from the Southern states after the Civil War. Hundreds of refugees from the South started settling in the area. So many, a college was established in the community.
Robert R. Halsell of Ladonia founded Savoy College and for 14 years the college sent out educated young men and women including Flavious Gibson, a state senator. The Savoy College was chartered 10 years after the Carlton College in Bonham and was the 2nd oldest chartered and incorporated instituion in Fannin County.
Carter’s “History of Fannin County” (1885) described the college in the late 1800s. “The annual matriculation numbers from two-hundred and fifty to three hundred and fifty. The present faculty consists of R. R. Halsell, Prest., Lewis Holland, Vice Prest., J. T. Ashcraft, and L. W. Pierce. This college has turned out about three-hundred young men and young ladies, with finished education, since it was founded. If a young man or woman is anxious for an education, and without means, the president never turns them away, but admits them, and takes his chances for remuneration when the applications have completed their course.”
The college was in existence for 14 years at the location of the present high school1 before it burned in 1890. Savoy’s loss was Durant’s gain as Halsell moved the college there and it eventually became the state college of Southeastern.
The town was described by Carter in the late 1800s as being “the largest town to Honey Grove, in point of size and commerce. This town has built up largely since the completion of the Texas and Pacific railroad, on which it is situated, about ten miles west of Bonham. The population is 500, and well provided with school facilities. . . Facilities for worship in the matter of church building are meager. One building still serves four different denominations. Savoy is noted for the large amount of country produce it ships annually, outside cotton, corn and other grains. The number of chickens and eggs and the amount of butter and fruit, shipped east every year from this town is probably larger than that of any other town of its size in north Texas. Six dry goods houses and as many groceries, a drugstore, saddlery and harness, blacksmith and wood shops, a livery stable and two mills and gins constitute the business portion of the town. The town is regularly laid off, but without the inevitable ‘square’ in the centre. The inhabitants of Savoy, and the country surrounding it are intelligent, industrious and quiet people. It is a rare thing to see any of them in the courts on account of a civil or a criminal activity.”
On May 28, 1880, Savoy was struck by a tornado that hit without warning and almost destroyed the town. The college building was left standing and was converted into a temporary refuge for the injured and dead. In the half-hour the storm raged over the town 15 people were killed and 60 other were injured. Debris from the storm was found 40 miles away and a child’s belt was found 15 miles away in the community of Mulberry. “The busy happy people were converted into a throng of mourners for the dead and wounded among them, and the smiling thrifty town became a mass of ruins and destruction, and trade was completely suspended,” according to Carter’s history.
The Texas Gazeteer of 1884 described Savoy as a village of 300 residents with a post office, and M. F. Smith as postmaster. There are 4 churches, a school, steam grist mill and a cotton gin.
Business men included E. M. Baker, painter; Chaney and Foster, ginners; A. P. Duckworth, grocer; W. L. Fuqua, hotel owner, Gordon and Burns, grocers; Mrs. S. E. Harde, milliner; Harle and Thomas, drugs; S. A. Harper, grocer; Hood and McMahon, furniture; A. G. Moore, railroad agent; J. M. and H. Naylor, hardware; B. F. Pio, grocer; A. T. Ragsdale, grocer; Russell and Bradford, general store;, J. J. Ryan, blacksmith; M. F. Smith, harness maker; Stringer Pace & Co., general store; A. F. Vestal, general store; F. S. Williams, express agent; William Youree, merchant, and Youree and Patton, livery stable.
During the 1900s the Savoy Star was established and one of 8 newspapers in the county. Savoy had 5 grocery stores, a constable, blacksmith, barber, dry goods store and P. O. Ruthban had a furniture store and was depot agent and undertaker.
Oil was unsuccessfully drilled for outside the city in 1924, but it was the establishment and purchase of several hundred acres north of Savoy and development of a power generating lake that added most to the town’s economy Not only has TP&L became Savoy’s largest employer but one of the largest in the county.
- The author makes a small common mistake in this. The college was located at the corner of Main and Edwards. In 1938, the commemorative Halsell Gymnasium was built at the location the author is referring to. This causes many to think the college was there as well. ↩
- John Frair, Bonham Daily Favorite – October 18, 1992 ↩