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Anderson County TX
Anderson County

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Anderson County, East Texas

31 37' 53" N, 95 27' 44" W (31.631389, -95.462222)
Hwy 294 & FM 2022
12 miles SE of Palestine
East of Elkhart
Population: 283 est. (2010) 250 (2000)

Slocum, Texas Area Hotels > Palestine Hotels
Slocum Tx - Road Sign
Approaching Slocum
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, April 2010


by Sandy Fiedler

The Great Tornado of April 24, 1929
Old-timers still recall Slocum's Great Tornado of April 24, 1929. Ripley's-Believe-It-or-Not oddities occurred, like the mule stuck high in a tree. Rescuers had to cut down the tree to get the startled mule to safety.

"There was a gigantic saw from the sawmill stuck inside a tree as if it had been growing there," remembers Vic Lively, who was eight years old at the time. Vic's cousin's house was picked up and set down to face another direction. A large door was found across the river miles away. A wagon with team still hitched was carried up and away over tall trees and set down in a pasture. The horses, one of whom had a 2X4 sticking out of its back, survived. Believe it...or not!

Almost all of Slocum was destroyed-grocery stores, cotton gin, mechanic's garages, and houses; eight people were killed.

Estelle Mosley was a young woman who lived several miles from town. The terrific noise of the tornado was alarming, but the first indication that a great calamity had occurred was when she saw car after car rushing by her home toward Slocum. "People came from near and far to see the damage," she says.

What did they see? As if decorating the flattened town, bolts of "yard goods" (for young readers, these are bolts of cloth) from the destroyed Davis Store had flown up into the trees, unfurling into long trails of colored fabric flying in the breeze, Estelle remembers. Strips of cloth were then used to wrap up bleeding wounds.

There was the pathos of the little girl who carried the body of her dead younger brother two miles home. That was all she knew to do. Another child who had had a birthday party the previous day saw all her gifts blow away, never to be found.

Hero of the day was Mr. Thomas Gatlin, beloved superintendent of the two-story frame building that was Slocum School. Despite his characteristic limp and use of a cane, he hurried about the school, ordering kids inside from lunch and under their desks. The building blew away around them, but his quick action saved many lives.

Townspeople quickly rebuilt Slocum.
TX - Slocum old school house
The two-story frame school that was blown away by the Great Tornado of 1929 as students huddled under their desks.
Courtesy of Jenny Mays Cunningham
Slocum History

Located 12 miles southeast of Palestine in Anderson County, Slocum was founded by Edgar Threadgill McDaniel of Arkansas, who had established a store at the crossroads of wagon tracks; hence, the spot was called Crossroads. However, application for a U.S. Post Office revealed that the name had already been taken. In 1897 Mr. McDaniel invented the name Slocum, a combination of two words. Reported reasons are varied: "Fortunes will be made here, but they will be slow coming," is one quote from McDaniel. Other reports had him saying that the post office was slow in coming or that town growth would be slow in coming. Who knows? Maybe he said different things at different times.

Because county seats were too far away to travel to and from in one day by horse and wagon, little towns like this were vital for isolated farm families to conduct business. In the early 1900s Slocum sported a famous amateur baseball team whose star was pitcher F. Ernest Day, later a coach and teacher. By 1927 the farming and livestock community of Slocum had a population of 200. Development of Slocum Oilfield in the 1950s brought a noticeable boom.

Slocum Today Presently, the pride of Slocum is its "Exemplary" Class A school with 380 students. The high school track team has competed at state level although the school has no track. Students train by running on pastures.

Slocum has spirit. Hundreds attend the annual community-wide reunion held on Saturday before Mother's Day at the school cafeteria. The Volunteer Fire Department provides BBQ while townswomen contribute homemade cakes and side dishes.

It is hard for us to imagine the vitality and self-containment that small communities like Slocum had before the time of cars and highways. While generations of some families have stayed in the area, many have left for Houston and other commerce centers to seek those fortunes that were too slow in coming. However, today new houses springing up on county roads all around give evidence of a rebirth of interest in villages like Slocum as "re-pioneering" families and retirees from the "big city" rediscover tranquility and independence here.

Sandy Fiedler
July 2001
TX - Slocum School
Present school complex at Slocum
Photo courtesy Sandy Fiedler, 2001
Slocum Tx - Full Gospel Church
Full Gospel Church
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, April 2010
Slocum Tx - First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, April 2010
More Texas Churches
Slocum Tx - Donut Shop
Donut Shop
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, April 2010

Historical Marker:

"Slocum Massacre"

Racial tensions in America in the early 20th century were sometimes punctuated by violent outbursts. One such occasion began near Slocum and Denson Springs and spread across a wide area near the Anderson-Houston county line.

Beginning on the morning of July 29, 1910, groups of armed white men shot and killed African Americans, first firing on a group near Sadler's Creek. Murders in the black community continued during the remainder of that day and night. Accounts in state and national newspapers brought widespread attention to the situation. Judges ordered saloons and gun and ammunition stores to close, and state militia and Texas Rangers were dispatched to the area. The murders of eight men were officially recorded. The victims were Cleveland Larkin, Alex Holley (Hollie), Sam Baker, Dick Wilson, Jeff Wilson, Ben Dancer, John Hays and Will Burly. Many African American families fled the area and did not return. Eleven white men were soon arrested, and district judge Benjamin H. Gardner empaneled a grand jury within a week. When its findings were reported on August 17, seven men were indicted. The cases were moved to Harris County but were never prosecuted.

The events which came to be known as the "Slocum Massacre" largely disappeared from public view in subsequent generations. In 2011, the 82nd Texas Legislature adopted a resolution acknowledging the incident and stating that "only by shining a light on previous injustices can we learn from them and move toward a future of greater healing and reconciliation."

Take a road trip

Slocum, Texas Nearby Towns:
Palestine the county seat
See Anderson County | East Texas

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Palestine Hotels | More Hotels

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