One of the deadliest tornadoes in Texas history occurred not far from San Antonio

The Goliad tornado of 1902 killed 114, injured more than 200

SAN ANTONIO – Did you know that one of the deadliest tornadoes in Texas history occurred in historic Goliad, located less than 100 miles southeast of San Antonio?

It may be well outside tornado alley, but it proves that deadly tornadoes can occur anywhere. Reports from that morning, May 18th, 1902, showed that it was a cloudy, sleepy Sunday in Goliad.

”Before church, they could see the clouds building in the southeast,” explained Lynda Breeding, curator of the Market House Museum in Goliad. ”At about three o’ clock, it hit.”

In those days, there was no warning system. The tornado moved quickly and was measured to be an eighth of a mile wide. Some of the town was still attending church.

”Fannin Street Methodist Church was still having their church service,” said Breeding.

Sadly, the church was flattened, resulting in mass casualties.

“There was no hospital and then that night, after it passed on, they started gathering up the dead and taking them to the courthouse,” explained Breeding. “That became the morgue.”

It was likely a chaotic scene in a bustling farming town that had a population of more than 1,000 at the time.

This picture shows the scope of the destruction in Goliad. (Market House Museum)

Amazingly, there’s still a relic that remains from the tornado. A piece of steel, that was picked up as the tornado struck a bridge, was carried a mile and implanted in the backyard of a home. It’s was wedged so far in the ground that no one has been able to remove the beam. It remains there to this day, more than 120 years later.

The bridge from where the steel came from was destroyed, too. The tornado was even said to have completely sucked the water out of the San Antonio River.

Incredibly, the stories from that day are told through photos. Despite the event happening in 1902, the Market House Museum in Goliad shared several pictures with KSAT.

”There’s one that shows a lady and I guess, husband, and they’re standing out in the field and they’re dressed. It’s Sunday. They’re dressed in their best,” explained Breeding, as she describes one of the pictures. “And they’re just looking [around].”

This event happened just two years after the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, which is one of the deadliest weather events in United States history. Weather disasters were likely fresh on the minds of Goliad residents.

We asked Breeding what surprises her in the pictures she possesses.

“The devastation,” she said. “And you know, the heartbreak.”

Sadly, 114 people died, tying it with the Waco tornado of 1953 as the deadliest in Texas history. Another 250 were injured. Amazingly, the historical missions in Goliad were untouched.

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About the Author:

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.