Zandt County, North
32°31'34"N 95°38'11"W (32.526029, -95.636493)
I-20, State Highway 110, and FM 314
14 Miles E of Canton the
75 miles E of Dallas
12 Miles S of Grand
25 Miles SW of Mineola
26 miles NW of Tyler
Population: 2,741 Est. (2019)
2,632 (2010) 2,362 (2000) 1,854 (1990)
Van, Texas Area Hotels Canton
a Pecan Shell
First settled in
the mid 1860s, the town was originally known as Ratty Town
after a man with that unfortunate name (Ratty Towns) who opened the
first store. Other sources say that it also went under the name Who'd-a-Thought-It,
But it is pretty much agreed that the later name of Swindall, Texas
was legitimate. It was named to honor George Swindall, who donated
land for a church and school.
Still, the present name didn’t comer about until the mid 1890s when
it was named for not one, but two citizens. (Henry Vance, first post
master and citizen Vannie Tunnell.)
In 1927 the Pure Oil company made a survey just outside of town which
pointed the way to the discovery of oil on land owned by W. T. Jarman.
This October 1929 discovery led to a boom – just as the Great Depression
was getting underway.
Virtually overnight, the sleepy community exploded with construction.
Pure Oil remained the dominant company, but soon Sun Oil Company,
Texas Oil Company (Texaco) and Humble entered the fray, becoming co-owners
with Pure. This boom led to extending the railroad (the Texas Short
Line Railway) from Grand
Saline in 1930.
The population remained at just under 1,000 residents throughout the
1930s, but declined to just over 600 during the Second
World War when men were drawn from the population to fill critical
In the 1940s, the oilfield was mechanized. Pure merged with Union
Oil in the mid 1960s when the population of Van was 1,103. By the
mid 1970s it had increased to 1,820. Proximity to Canton
curtailed further growth, but Van crossed the 2,000 mark with 2,362
residents for the 2000 census.
549 E. Texas St.
In 1916, Swindall
and Spring Hill Schools were consolidated to form Van Common School.
Money raised with a bond election and state aid enabled the district
to build a new school on five acres less than one mile east of Van.
In order to reduce costs, community members agreed to haul at no expense
114 wagon loads of construction materials to the building site from
the railhead at Grand
Saline, 13 miles away.
The school opened with 95 students and four teachers: Prof. E.C. Tunnell,
Prof. E.R. Tunnell, Miss Eula Fowler and Miss Lucy Brawner. The school
served the needs of the community until a May 1928 fire destroyed
A June ballot measure approved the issuance of bonds in the amount
of $3,000. This amount and the $3,500 insurance payment enabled the
district to rebuild a school that was ready for the start of the 1928-1929
school year at the same site. The 1929-1930 school year began with
90 pupils. However, the discovery of oil on October 14, 1929, less
than a mile from the school, dramatically changed the school district
as well as the entire community. School administrators and board members
knew that they needed to plan ahead for massive community growth.
Another contribution to the disruptions in the school district’s operations
was the oil drilling on school property, approximately 500 feet from
the building. The school building was temporarily moved to an adjacent
site, but an election was held in 1931 in order to secure funding
for a greatly expanded school site to accommodate the population explosion
that occurred as a result of the discovery of oil in Van.
349 East Texas Ave., approx. 1/2 mile E of downtown Van
The discovery of
the Van oil field in 1929 brought about many changes within the community,
including an influx of school-aged children that required the transition
from a five-room rural school to a large, ultra-modern school campus.
While other Texas schools were forced to make budget cuts because
of the depression and later World
War II, oil revenues enabled the Van schools, led by Supt. Jesse
E. Rhodes and Principal C.C. Moore, to expand rapidly. The 1929-1930
school year had begun with 90 pupils, but the start of the 1930-1931
brought 611 students. In the summer of 1930 a gymnasium was built
and was originally used as a temporary high school. After the approval
of a bond by local voters, construction began on new Van schools in
spring 1931. By the start of the 1931-1932 school year, a brick elementary
school and a brick high school were ready for use. The temporary high
school was converted back to a gymnasium after the completion of the
permanent high school. The Pure Oil Company allowed the school to
tap into its water lines free of charge, allowed the school to heat
its buildings with gas from the gasoline plant, and also donated $12,500
to the school district to help with expansion costs. A teachers’ home
was constructed in 1930 and was meant to entice the best available
teachers to work within the district. A transportation program began
during the 1931-1932 term with the purchase of three buses. An athletic
park was completed in spring 1933 and a physical education-vocational
building was erected in 1937. A second major building program that
continued even during World
War II was completed in 1947.
326 West Main St
IN 1885, A GROUP
OF AREA CHRISTIANS ESTABLISHED A CONGREGATION IN THE COMMUNITY OF
SWINDALL (LATER VAN) BECAUSE OF THE DIFFICULTY IN TRAVELING TO CHURCHES
IN SURROUNDING SETTLEMENTS. ORIGINALLY NAMED ANTIOCH CHURCH,
MEMBERS FIRST MET UNDER A BRUSH ARBOR, USING THE COMMUNITY SCHOOL
DURING POOR WEATHER. IN 1891, GEORGE AND LIZZIE SWINDALL, THE COMMUNITY
NAMESAKES, DEEDED PROPERTY ACROSS FROM THE SCHOOL TO THE CHURCH, AND
MEMBERS SOON BUILT A SANCTUARY. THE REV. S. N. ALLEN WAS THE FIRST
CIRCUIT RIDING PREACHER TO PASTOR THE CHURCH, WHICH HOSTED COMMUNITY
EVENTS IN ADDITION TO WORSHIP SERVICES. THE ORIGINAL STRUCTURE WAS
REPLACED IN 1910. IN 1929,
OIL WAS DISCOVERED IN VAN, WHICH LED TO A POPULATION BOOM. CHURCH
MEMBERSHIP ALSO INCREASED AND IN 1931, AN OIL WELL WAS DRILLED ON
CHURCH PROPERTY. THE REV. JOHN W. MILLS, JR. BECAME THE CONGREGATION’S
FIRST FULL-TIME PASTOR THAT SAME YEAR. IN 1936, CONSTRUCTION WAS COMPLETED
ON A THREE-STORY BRICK STRUCTURE. ADDITIONAL ADJOINING PROPERTY WAS
PURCHASED IN 1955 AND 1972, AND IN 1987, A FOURTH CHURCH BUILDING
WAS CONSTRUCTED ON THE ORIGINAL SITE.
VAN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH HAS A RICH HISTORY OF COMMUNITY OUTREACH.
MEMBERS HAVE OFFERED MEALS TO THE NEEDY, TAUGHT ENGLISH LANGUAGE CLASSES,
OFFERED EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS TO CHILDREN, VISITED NURSING HOMES AND
THE HOMEBOUND, AND HOSTED VARIOUS ORGANIZATIONS’ MEETINGS. TODAY,
MORE THAN 125 YEARS AFTER ITS ESTABLISHMENT, THE CHURCH CONTINUES
TO MEET THE SPIRITUAL AND PHYSICAL NEEDS OF THE VAN COMMUNITY.
175 YEARS OF TEXAS INDEPENDENCE * 1836-2011
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