Editor’s note: This is the second part in a series of columns by Dusty Williams detailing the history of the city of Canaan.
The following was taken from an undated newspaper article written by staff writer, Peter Wittenberg:
“Site of Old Canaan — If you take Farm Road 898 north from Whitewright today, you’ll presently reach a wit gravel road which cuts off and winds northwest between open fields of grass and furrowed earth. Eventually it connects with Highway 69, which takes you back into Whitewright or north into Bells.
A few farm buildings are strung out along the way, but of old Canaan Community there is no trace. Two small, recently built farms near the railroad crossing east of Highway 69 are all that stand in the fields from which Canaan disappeared one night 44 years ago.
Yellowed newspaper clippings and the memories of old-timers living in the area recall the circumstances of the community’s violent death shortly after midnight Wednesday, April 9, 1919, just five months after the great World War I holocaust ended.
The tornado which moved toward the Canaan railroad crossing followed what an old Texas Almanac called a “southeast-northwest weather diving line,” according to Doss. Although almost all tornadoes come from the southwest, all those in Whitewright-native Doss’ memory originated from the southeast.
The wind ripped down telephone poles and lines, drove heavy timbers into the earth and overtaking the Katy, overturned the cars and injured the crew members.
When it reached the box car homes of a Mexican section crew, it plucked them from the west side of the track and dropped them upside down on the east side. In such a manner the winds sucked in their prey from positions not directly touched by the funnel.
Moved to Whitewright
Bill White was soon to move his gin to Whitewright. All that was left standing in Canaan was part of the office. When the storm passed, the office safe was laying in a field, as the photo attached shows. His son Bill now owns the company.
Jim Ayres set up a new general store in Whitewright, now owned by his nephew, Charlie, who turned the investment into a dry goods store.
The tornado which first touched ground six miles south of Trenton spent its force somewhere between the ruins of Canaan and the fortunate town of Bells, which stood in the path of possible catastrophe. The storms which blanketed Texas and Oklahoma during the tornado were responsible for more than 100 deaths and the loss of millions of dollars.”
Other articles of the time state that a train of the MK&T was blown from its tracks, injuring a brakeman and a conductor.
Dusty Williams is a ninth generation Grayson County resident, author and local historian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org