HISTORY & HERITAGE
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General Narrative Overview
SETTLEMENT, HISTORY AND HERITAGE
In 1850, Wood County was created from Van Zandt County by an act of the Texas Legislature. The county was named for George T. Wood, a native of Georgia, who became Texas’ second Governor in 1847. Some early settlements in the county were Mineola, Webster, Perryville, and Redland.
Geographic Location and Topography
Wood County is in the central part of northeastern Texas. The total area of the county is 445,402 acres, or about 696 square miles. Of this total, 25,863 acres is areas of water more than 40 acres in size. Elevations range from about 285 feet above mean sea level on the Sabine River flood plain in the southeastern part of the county to about 640 feet in the east-central part. Wood County is in the East Texas Timberlands, which is a part of the Western Coastal Plain Major Land Resource Area. The topography of the county is nearly level to steep.
The drainage pattern is well defined, and many streams dissect the county. Nearly all the streams flow in a southeasterly direction to the Sabine River. All of Wood County is in the Sabine River watershed except for a small area in the extreme northeastern part. Lake Fork Creek and Big Sandy Creek are major drainage-ways. Wood County is joined on the west by Rains County, on the southwest by Van Zandt County, on the east by Camp and Upshur Counties, and on the north by Hopkins and Franklin Counties. The Sabine River forms the southern boundary. The soils of the county formed mostly under forest vegetation. Those on uplands are light colored and sandy or loamy, and in unprotected sloping areas, they are subject to water erosion. The soils on flood plains are loamy or clayey.
Soil is the most important natural resource in Wood County. The livelihood of many people in the county depends on the ability of the soil to produce timber, forage for livestock, and cultivated crops. Oil and gas also are valuable natural resources in the county. The numerous oil and gas wells are sources of income for many landowners. Exploring for oil and gas, drilling, and servicing provide many jobs in the survey area. Sand and gravel are mined in the county.
Sand is mined from thick beds, mainly north of Hawkins in the southeastern part of the county. Gravel is obtained from the surface mining of gravelly soils throughout the county. The sand and gravel are used mainly in construction.
The geographic highest point of the county is in the northeast quadrant near Winnsboro. Forest Hills is a large oil and gas area of about 3000 acres between Winnsboro and Quitman developed by Gaither Petroleum, as well as Exxon facilities near Hawkins in the southern part of the county. Nestle's Ozarka water is also harvested in the Hawkins / Holly Lake area. The Keystone pipeline transverses the eastern edge of Wood County, as well as other pipelines that crisscross underground throughout.
Water, fish, and wildlife are important natural resources in Wood County. Lake Fork Reservoir, Lake Winnsboro, Lake Quitman, Lake Hawkins, Lake Holbrook, and many smaller private lakes and ponds provide abundant water for recreational activities and for domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses. Lake Fork was built in the early 1980s, initially designed as a cooling lake for a nuclear energy plant. The nuclear plant was eventually scrapped, and the reservoir was continued as a future water source for the city of Dallas. Dallas put up a large portion of Lake Fork's development and lays claim to 73% of the lake's surface water. Metered water did not occur from Lake Fork to Dallas until 2013. The underground pipes go from Lake Ford toward Lake Tawakonie. However, Lake Fork water is not mingled with Tawakonie's water for ph balance and environmental concerns. The damn on the southern end of Lake Fork always releases water from the old Sabine River, to provide a constant natural watersource downstream for cities like Longview. Other cities and small developments also tap into the water source with agreements with the Sabine River Authority. The SRAis the government agency tasked with the management and operations of the Lake Fork Reservoir.
CITIES, TOWNS, COMMUNTIES AND UNICORPORATED AREAS
Quitman is the county seat. Located within the county are the incorporated cities of Alba, Hawkins, Mineola, Quitman, Winnsboro, and Yantis. The outlying areas of Wood County include major developments at Holly Lake Ranch in the eastern portion of the county and Lake Fork Reservoir which is home to thousands of Wood County residents. Wood County is located approximately 90 miles east of Dallas, midway between Dallas and Shreveport. Wood County has an estimated population of 41,964 really nice people.
Beef cattle, dairy cattle, timber, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, peaches, watermelons, and poultry are the major agricultural products in the county. About 53 percent of the county is pasture and hay-land, 31 percent woodland, 8 percent cropland, 6 percent water areas, and 2 percent urban and built-up areas.
Agriculture has always been significant to the economy of Wood County. It has changed drastically over the years. The early economy of the county was based mainly on cotton production. Before the coming of the railroad, cotton was hauled by wagon to Jefferson. Other early agricultural crops were corn and other grains, ribbon cane, and timber.
Over the years syrup mills, gristmills, sawmills, and cotton gins have operated in the county.
Many areas that previously were used as cropland have been converted to pasture or have been planted to pine. Most livestock are raised in cow-calf operations or in dairy herds. The livestock are pastured in summer and fed hay and feed supplements in winter. The main pasture plants are coastal Bermuda grass, bahia grass, and common Bermuda grass. Large amounts of hay are produced. Many pastures are over-seeded with cool-season legumes to improve the fertility of the soils and provide additional forage. The main crops grown in Wood County are corn, sweet potatoes, peas, watermelons, and peaches. Most farms are small. Most commercial timber production in the county is on small, locally owned tracts. Pines and hardwoods are harvested for pulpwood, saw logs, crossties, posts, and poles
MANUFACTURING, PRODUCTION, LOGISTICS
Several industries call Wood County “home” including Keller’s Creamery and Team Worldwide of Winnsboro. Nestle Waters of North America (Ozarka) is located near Hawkins. Texas Wall Systems, a worldwide manufacturer of window systems, is located in Alba and the East Texas Oil Fields of Wood County continue to produce significant output for EXXON-MOBIL, a major industrial presence in the area. Mineola is home to Trinidad-Benham, Danaplex and Southeastern Lumber (Georgia Pacific). All of these businesses benefit from the rich labor force that exists in Wood County and the surrounding area. A labor force of more than 250,000 resides within an easy commute. [DATA SUBJECT TO UPDATE].
Thousands of people each year are attracted to Wood County by its history, lakes and annual events. Many are building retirement homes and second homes here, lured by the gently rolling hills and the pine, oak and hickory forests. Here they find friendly people, a mild climate, a favorable tax rate and convenient location with excellent access to major metropolitan centers.
Wood County includes Lake Fork, one of the top Largemouth Bass lakes in the nation. It is also Wood County’s largest lake at 27,690 acres. It produced the record largemouth bass caught in the state, weighing in at 18.18 pounds! Lake Winnsboro, Lake Quitman, Lake Hawkins, Lake Holbrook, and Holly Lake are excellent for recreation and make Wood County a water recreation paradise.
Wood County has over 40 locations designated by official Texas Historical Markers. Governor Hogg Shrine Park in Quitman honors the first native-born governor of Texas who served from 1891 to 1895. Jarvis Christian College, established in 1912, is located in the piney woods of East Texas near Hawkins.
The Old Settlers Reunion in Quitman was started in 1899 and continues annually on the first weekend of August. Winnsboro’s Autumn Trails has the largest trail ride in the country the third weekend of October, drawing thousands of horses and riders for a tour of the fall foliage around Winnsboro. Other important annual festivals MAY include Mineola May Days Festival; Alba Country Fair, Quitman Dogwood Fiesta, Hawkins’ Oil Festival, Golden Sweet Potato Festival, and the Yantis Catfish Day. Mineola and Winnsboro are both Texas Main Street Cities striving to preserve their rural small-town heritage and ambiance. The outstanding golfing facilities throughout Wood County continue to draw interest to the area.
HEALTH CARE, SOCIAL ASSISTANCE
An area of growing importance has been the health care industry of Wood County. with the new facility of the East Texas Medical Center of Quitman and Christus Trinity Mother Frances of Winnsboro meeting the growing with the needs of the area. Elder care facilities are located in Winnsboro, Mineola, Quitman and Hawkins providing a continuing asset for families in Wood County.
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Lake Fork 27, 690 acres
Lake Winnsboro 806 acres
Lake Quitman 814 acres
Lake Hawkins 776 acres
Lake Holbrook 653 acres
Wood County is in the top 10% of all Texas Counties with a high water to land ratio.
Wood County is located in the East Texas Timberlands, part of the Western Coastal Plain Major Land Resource Area.
The total Wood County land area is 445,402 acres, or about 696 square miles. Of that, 25,863 acres is areas of water more than 40 acres in size;
Amount of Water to :Land: 27th in acreage of 254 Texas counties
Amount of Water to Land: 25th in percentage or 7.26% is water
LAKE FORK, TROPHY WATERS OF TEXAS.
Lake Fork is the hottest bass fishing lake in Texas. Lake Fork Reservoir, known around the world as the "Big Bass Capital of Texas", is located in the northwestern portion of Wood County, only 5 miles west of Quitman, 2.5 miles east of Alba, 2.3 miles from Yantis, 4.2 miles from Emory, 12 miles from Mineola, 12 miles from Winnsboro, 15 miles from Sulphur Springs/I.H. 20, 31 miles from Greenville, 63 miles from McKinney, 71 miles from Dallas, 91 miles from Lake Texoma/Oklahoma border, about 107 miles from Louisiana (via Interstate Hwy. 20), and about 112 miles from Arkansas border (via Interstate Hwy. 30 and Texas Hwy. 37).
The Reservoir, owned and operated by The Sabine River Authority (SRA), has an estimated surface area of 27,690 acres and extends up Lake Fork Creek about 15 miles. Lake Fork Reservoir is enjoyed by thousands of water sports enthusiasts each year.
Lake Fork has produced 34 of Texas’ Top "50" Largemouth Bass. Barry St. Clair caught the current State of Texas record for largemouth bass from Lake Fork Reservoir in January 1992, weighing 18.18 pounds. More bass over 8 pounds are caught from Lake Fork than from any other lake in Texas, and perhaps in the country. Large numbers of channel and blue catfish are also taken each year. Naturally occurring populations of black and white crappie, bluegill, and red-ear sunfish have flourished sufficiently to create significant angler interest in these species, too.
The success of Lake Fork is in part due to the perfect fishing habitat created by underwater structures such as timber, flooded dams, farm ponds and the vegetation that includes Hydrilla, milfoil, lily pads, and duckweed. The climate of the Lake Fork Reservoir area is classified as subtropical humid and is characterized by warm summers and mild winters, which make Lake Fork a year-round fishing mecca.
One of the best-kept secrets of Lake Fork is that it offers some of the best duck hunting in East Texas. Standing timber and wetlands are the two biggest keys for holding so many ducks. Wood Ducks make Lake Fork their year-round home. Mallards and Gadwalls are the most common ducks that make their way to East Texas. Full time guides and lodging are available for the duck season that starts in November and ends in late January.
Guides are also available for wild hog hunts.
For the nature lovers, Lake Fork is the place to be in the winter. American Bald Eagles make their home at Lake Fork. Eagle lovers from all over Texas come for the official eagle count, held on Lake Fork each January.
Tours are available for your family’s enjoyment during this time. Lake Fork encourages a family atmosphere. For your comfort, the area offers motel cabins, mobile homes, RV hook-up, tent camping, boat storage, excellent restaurants, 2 golf courses, a driving range, boat rentals and professional guides for bass, crappie and catfish.
Accommodations are available for family reunions, corporate meetings and large groups of any kind. Lake Fork is significant to the growing communities of Yantis and Alba. These two communities may appear to be small, but provide excellent schools and services. Many newcomers to Lake Fork are making their homes in these areas surrounding the Lake.
Lake Fork public boat ramps are located on:
- Hwy 515 East and at the west end of the FM 515 bridge on the east arm of Coney Creek.
- Hwy 17 on Lake Fork Creek’s west arm of the lake, just off Hwy 515
- Hwy 154 located at the east end of the Hwy 154 Bridge on Caney Creek’s east arm of the lake.
- FM 2946 bridge on Lake Fork Creek on the west arm of the lake.