San Augustine, TX Tornado, Mar 1943

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Storm Torn San Augustine Plans Thanksgiving Service

In Midst of Wrecked Homes and Businesses People to Bless God for Sparing Their Lives

By Robert M. Hayes.
East Texas Bureau of the News.

San Augustine, Texas, March 6.-With scores of its homes demolished or damaged and its business area strewn with rubble, storm-battered San Augustine Sunday will offer prayers of thanksgiving for the relatively light death toll in Friday's tornado.

Saturday night rescue workers had accounted for only one fatality, though they were still searching the debris for bodies.

Ten-year-old EZRA BRYANT was instantly killed when he was sucked into the path of the twister and his skull crushed by flying timbers. Early reports of other deaths lacked confirmation of local undertakers and the list of injured is not expected to exceed twelve.

Early reports listed a Mrs. BURNS as dead. Later it was announced that Mrs. BURNS and her husband both were injured, but are expected to recover. They are believed to have been taken to a neighboring town for treatment.

Local authorities also were unable to verify the reported death of an unidentified Negro girl.

Dr. W.D. JONES said he had treated perhaps eight or ten injured, including Mrs. HALLIE MCKINZIE and PAUL SSHEFFIELD. Red Cross nurses treated several slight injuries.

Ministers and laymen alike said that Divine Providence alone prevented an appalling loss of life. Sunday morning church services, they announced, will reflect the solemn gratitude of the towns people.

Military authorities and members of the Texas Defense Guard stood guard over the stricken area Saturday as demolition squads cleared away the rubbish.

Red Cross Give Aid.

The American Red Cross opened the headquarters for destitute victims of the twister and local civic groups, working with the Civilian Defense Council, made a hurried survey to provide shelter for the homeless, numbered at 125 families.

The town Saturday still was without electric power, though emergency telephone lines had been opened to Nacogdoches and Center. Gas lines, ripped up by the storm, had been repaired in some areas. The water system was not yet functioning, though the community is believed to have enough wells to forestall a critical shortage.

Included in the detachment of 135 officers and men from Camp Polk, Leesville, La., were health units, engineers and military police. Downtown streets were barred to traffic and visitors were admitted only by pass.

Army Purifies Water.

Soon after the arrival of the Army sanitation experts Saturday morning, a water purification unit was installed on the banks of a near-by creek. Intended primarily for soldiers, the unit could be used to provide an emergency water supply for the city.

A single fire, which broke out in the edge of town during the storm, was quickly extinguished by the volunteer fire department. When Fire Chief BARNEY SMITH learned that the water system and power plant were both damaged he quickly assembled his firemen who systematically patrolled the entire town.

The heaviest property loss was the destruction of the San Augustine Grocery Company's huge warehouse and a large part of its food stock, valued at $500,000. It is believed, however, that the possibility of a serious food shortage can be averted by bringing supplies from Center, Nacogdoches, Lufkin and other neighboring towns.

Historic Old Homes Saved

San Augustine was thankful that most of its historic homes escaped serious damage. The hundred-year-old residence of Mrs. H.K. POLK, in the western outskirts, was demolished but the Blount, Cartwright and Henderson homes, visited annually by hundreds of tourists, were virtually unscathed.

Old-timers Saturday recalled a strange legend, attributed to Indians who centuries ago established a village on the approximate site of San Augustine. The site was chosen according to the legend, because it was free from the wrath of the storm gods. Here the Red Men lived in smug security, confident the wind never would destroy their teepees. Friday's tornado is said to have been the first in San Augustine's history.

Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 7 Mar 1943