SAVOY, Texas – A few of the elder citizens remember that Sunday, May 28, is the fifty-ninth anniversary of the Savoy cyclone. Being the first such disaster to visit this section of the country, it attracted attention all over the state.

Thirteen persons were killed and many more were wounded and taken to the store building where they received medical treatment from visiting physicians. Supplies and medicine were rushed to the aid of the wounded and homeless and the few remaining homes in the town were thrown open to the less fortunate neighbor. The Methodist Church was used as a commisary from which food and clothing were distributed to the needy.
There is not a citizen living in Savoy today who lived in the town at that time but there are a few who lived near enough to see the twister as it sped in its wake.

The little town of Savoy is in its sixty-seventh year being founded in 1872 by Colonel William Savoy.
Colonel Savoy was with the number that made the trip to California in the 1849 gold rush. When he came back he bought the land on which Savoy now stands with the gold nuggets he dug with pick and shovel.

In the year 1872 he offered the Texas & Pacific Railroad Company the land for a right-of-way and forty acres on which to build a depot if they would build a railroad through and give the town the name of Savoy. This the company agreed to do.
The land was surveyed by the company, lots marked off and sold for building purposes. The Main street ran south from the depot to what was the home of M. Garrett. The first business house was erected on the corner of First street and Main facing north where the depot was built. The building was erected and occupied by Hodges and Beard who handled the stock of general marchandise. The next buildin was on Front out on the east side of Main in which R. T. Best opened a saloon. These were Savoy’s first merchants.

Until now the only means of securing supplies for the community was to freight them from Bonham and Denison and often from more distant places. This was done by wagon and team. At the end of the year Savoy was a thriving little village, the center of a large trading district.

Tornado Recalled

The peace, happiness and prosperity continued until May 28, 1880 when a terrible cyclone struck, wiping almost the entire town away. Many remember the exact date and time it struck by the following verse of the song written about it:

“Twas in the spring of ’80
The 28th of May
At 10 o’clock that evening
Savoy was blown away.”

The business district was completely destroyed. Merchandise was scattered for miles. Almost all the dwellings were blown down or badly demolished. It was 10 o’clock next day before the last of the thirteen killed was found and the many injured cared for. The Halsell School building was turned into a hospital and the Methodist Church into a commissary. Help was sent from Bonham and other places.

The citizens began reconstruction at once. The business district was moved back west two streets on Water street running north and south, and is the main highway out of town in these directions now. As the town progressed new businesses were established. In later years new business houses were needed and the first bricks were built on Hays street facing the north then later bricks were built on the north side of Hays, and the old wood buildings were torn down one by one. The last to be torn down was the old coffin house owned by W. L. Teague. After his death P. O. Ruthven had the lot cleared. The old house stood just north of the Arterberry’s store.

Oldest Business

H. H. Arterberry’s dry goods store is the oldest business here. He established it in 1892 and has operated it since that time. His son, Max, is connected with it now.

First Paper

The first weekly newspaper was the Savoy Tribune, later known as the Savoy Banner and continued under that name until 1902 when it was purchased by T. E. Arterberry, who changed the name to the Savoy Star. H. L. King, who was associated with him, ramined only a few months then Mrs. Arterberry became his assistant. They worked together for twenty-three years, when death claims Mr. Arterberry. Mrs. Arterberry still owner and editor assisted by her present husband, J. B. May.

The old wood depot was destroyed by fire more than thirty years ago, being replaced by a brick building which is still in use with the T. & P. still serving also. Savoy, unlike so many places of its size, still has an agent and telegraph operator, although not as many trains operate as in the earlier days.

A man known as “Parson Smith” was serving as postmaster in 1884. It is said there were postmasters before him and many between him and the present one, W. P. Carter, who has served twenty-one years. After serving several years, H. M. Amlin was appointed. Mr. Amlin held the office several years and Mr. Carter was re-appointed. The parcel post system, postal saving and air mail have all been established while he has been serving.

Joe Noah is said to be the first rural carrier out of Savoy. R. C. Frank, now a carrier out of Denison, E. A. McMahon, now of Dallas, and Will McSpadden, now of Denison, were the three who worked together until the consolidation of the routes began. McSpadden’s route was the first to be consolidated. McMahon moved away, S. M. Owens was sent to take the route while Frank and J. M. Miller exchanged routes; Owens and Miller worked together until the two routes were combined. Owens was sent to Sherman; Lester Hensley is the present and only carrier out of Savoy. The Star routes were discontinued many years ago.

In the early years of 1900 there was a flour mill here which operated for many years. In 1902 a new elevator was built. The mill and elevator stood north of the present school building. It had not been in operation for some time before being torn down and moved away.

Until recent years there were two gins which operated full time during the fall, and at night in the busiest part of the season. As improvement in machinery was made only one is needed and gins more per day than the two old-type gins could.

The first telephone switchboard was owned by Tom Frank, with Miss Etta King, now Mrs. Etta Praneuf, business manager of the bookstore of Mary-Hardin Baylor College as operator. The board was sold and moved to the Savoy Star office, and a new board replaced the old one. Miss Etta with her sister, Miss Almeda King were operators for several years.. Miss Anna Ownby took their place. Mrs Carl Orndorff is the present manager, and the system is owned by the Soutwestern Bell Telephone Company.

First Light Plant

The first electric light plant was owned and operated by D. G. Porter. This was not very successful and was discontinued before the Texas Power and Light line came through. Most of the homes have lights, and all the business houses. Some of the rural districts have electricity, and there is a prospect of more in the future.

The first city well was owned and operated by S. H. Baker until he sold out to move to Nevada. The well changed owners several times and in the dry season did not furnish enough water for those who had it piped into their homes. The lack of a sufficient amount of water became a serious problem, but was solved by the WPA project. Savoy now has a fine water system and water supply is unlimited.

Savoy is no longer in a mudhole either, as in the days gone by. It was a common sight to see a wagon bogged down and if loaded it would take two or more teams to pull it out. First the gravel highway was put through east and west; then the road north and south was graveled. This was better than the old road. Several years later there was talk of a concrete highway, and now Federal Highway 82 runs through east and west with the north road sanded and the south being rocked with white rock. The work is progressing rapidly. The streets have been graded and sanded making it possible to travel over them in the muddiest of weather.

Savoy College

The Savoy College was organized in 1876 by Prof. Robert R. Halsell. This served as a local school for the community. In 1880 he decided to enlarge the school, so made a formal application to the state for a charter. The charter was granted Jan. 22, 1880 to R. R. Halsell, J. T. Chenoweth, Jas. Paxton and J. L. German with the name to be “Savoy Male and Female College.” It is spoken of now as the Old Halsell College. The college burned in July 1890 and was not rebuilt. Prof. Halsell died at the age of 81, at Durant, Okla., in the year 1924. A reunion of the ex-students was held here Aug. 6-7, 1938 when the new gym was finished and dedicated. It is Halsell Memorial Gym. There is little known of the school work for the next few years. There was found a record that showed in 1895, there were four teachers employed in the school, L. C. Gee, E. L. Trotter, W. E. McMahon and Miss Martha Buford, now Mrs. J. M. May.

Site Is Changed

The site of the school building was changed after the college was located on the lots where T. M. Garrett’s home is, the two story frame building that replaced the college building was just north of the present school buildings. In 1912 a brick building was built and was some farther south than the present one. As the school grew and the brick was condemned as not safe another brick was built with all on the ground. Now there is a modern rock gym just on the west of the school building. There are ten teachers and a piano teacher, and librarian. It is an accredited high school. The building is equipped with all modern equipment, modern laboratory, and library and has three busses.

Methodist Oldest Church

There are four churches here. The Methodist being the oldest and the Pentecostal the newest. The First Methodist Church building was built before the cyclone and was used by all denominations unti the Baptist church was built. Later the Church of Christ was built. The old Methodist building was torn down and rebuilt several years ago, but on the same lot. The original Baptist church buildin is still being used, but considerable repair and remodeling has been done. The original Church of Christ building was blown from the blocks in a storm in 1913 and had to be rebuilt about six years ago. All the churches have pastors. Rev. Holifield is pastor of the Methodist church, Rev. Hold of Paris, Baptist pastor, Minister Tom Broadfoot of Honey Grove Church of Christ pastor, and Roy Graves of Sherman, pastor of the Pentecostal church.

One of the oldest men of Fannin county lived in Savoy and he is A. Deatherage. He was born March 22, 1848 in Tennessee, came to Texas in 1853 with his parents and has resided within a radius of five miles of Savoy the entire time. He is able to come to town almost every day, health unusually good for his age, eye sight and hearing are not so good.

The young men and women are out into almost all walks of life from Savoy, some to make ministers, lawyers, doctors, teachers and many other professions.

The little town has changed from the pioneer to the modern town in looks and conveniences but hearts of the people changed little. Let trouble come to one in the community – let them be poor or rich – all are ready to do anything to help. A remark was made at a shower that was given for a family who had lost their home by fire. It was “Savoy is a might good place to live.” That is the sentiment of many.


  1. Bonham Daily Favorite, Bonham, Texas, Thursday, June 1, 1939, Page 2