Mineola is a thriving city in the heart of East Texas. It lies at the junction of U.S. highways 69 and 80, about 80 minutes east of Dallas in southwestern Wood County. The population is about 4,700.
Mineola was incorporated as the railroads arrived in the late 1800s. It is commonly believed that a railroad official combined the names of two prominent locals’ daughters Minnie and Olla to create the city name Mineola. While these two girls did exist, the more likely story is that the city was named after the railroad official’s hometown of Mineola, New York because of the area’s beauty.
The town’s oldest newspaper, the Mineola Monitor (now the Wood County Monitor), was founded in 1876. By 1890, the town had seven churches, several schools, hotels, banks, and a population of 2,000. In 1895 Mineola became the site of the Wood County Fair.
Since Mineola was in the heart of the East Texas timber belt, timber was plentiful for railroad tiemaking and lumber. During the community’s first 60 years, farm products included cotton, livestock, fruit, and berries. A chair factory opened in 1886, became a crate and basket factory in 1900, and operated until 1952. Highway improvement, the Magnolia Pipeline Company gas line, and the establishment of a railroad terminal caused growth during the 1920s, and the discovery of oil in parts of Wood County and construction of a Texas & Pacific railroad shop spurred the economy during the 1940s. Diversified farming eventually gave way to cattle raising and watermelon crops by 1950. The Mineola Watermelon Festival began in 1948. Subsequently, sweet potato farming, a creamery, a nursery, and a company that supplies poles and pulpwood to the telephone company helped the economy.
The town remains a shipping center. Nearby Lake Holbrook, completed in 1962, attracts residents and visitors. The Meredith Foundation has provided large sums for educational and cultural purposes since 1962. Meredith Hall Civic Center, completed in 1977, is used by large and small groups for varied events. The manufacture of women’s clothing, sporting goods, electronic connectors, fertilizer, and cattle feed and the packaging of dry beans and meat provide employment for many people. The Wood County Airport, five miles north of Mineola, was completed in 1984. A new city hall complex was completed in 1986, and a two-school facility was completed in 1987.
Notable people from Mineola include:
- Texas Governor Jim Hogg, who lived in Mineola
- Bryan Hughes, a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives
- One of the four best-known captains of the Texas Rangers, William Jesse McDonald, who was a storekeeper and then Wood County Deputy Sheriff in Mineola in the late 19th century
- Adam Moore, a professional baseball catcher for the Cleveland Indians, who previously played for the Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, and San Diego Padres
- Up-and-coming country music singer and songwriter Kacey Musgraves
- Jack Rhodes, an influential country music songwriter and inductee in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
- Actor Noble Willingham, who played retired Texas Ranger C.D. Parker in the television series “Walker, Texas Ranger” and appeared in more than 30 feature films
In 1989, Mineola became a designated Texas Main Street City and in 2000 was chosen as a National Main Street City by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since its designation the program has produced the development of a strong, focused historic downtown district, with more than $11 million of investment made by private and public funds in the central business district.
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