Mineola is at the crossing of U.S. highways 69 and 80, eighty miles east of Dallas in southwestern Wood County. Before 1873 the place was called Sodom. According to some, Maj. Ira H. Evans, an International-Great Northern Railroad official who laid out the townsite, named the town for his daughter, Ola, and a friend, Minnie Patten. Others say the name originated when Major Rusk, a surveyor for the I-GN, combined his daughter's name with that of Minna Wesley Patten. The town came into existence when the railroads built lines through this part of the state. In 1873 the Texas and Pacific and the I-GN raced to see which could get to Mineola first. The I-GN reached the finish fifteen minutes earlier. A city government was organized in 1873, a post office opened in 1875, and the town incorporated in 1877, but a fire in the 1880s destroyed eighteen buildings. The town's oldest paper, the Mineola Monitor, was founded in 1876. By 1890 the town had seven churches, several schools including a black free school, hotels, banks, and a population of 2,000. In 1895 Mineola became the site of the Wood County Fair.
Since Mineola was in the heart of the East Texas timber belt, timber was plentiful for railroad tiemaking and lumber. During the community's first sixty years, farm products included cotton, livestock, fruit, and berries. A chair factory opened in 1886, became a crate and basket factory in 1900, and operated until 1952. Highway improvement, the Magnolia Pipeline Company gas line, and the establishment of a railroad terminal caused growth during the 1920s, and the discovery of oil in parts of Wood County and construction of a T&P railroad shop spurred the economy during the 1940s. By 1930 the population was 3,000, and by 1970 it was 4,000. Diversified farming gave way to cattle raising and watermelon crops by 1950. The Mineola Watermelon Festival began in 1948. Subsequently, sweet-potato farming, a creamery, a nursery, and a company that supplies poles and pulpwood to the telephone company helped the economy. The town remains a shipping center. The Mineola Memorial Library, largely financed by H. W. Meredith, was completed in 1960. Nearby Lake Holbrook, also completed in 1960, attracts residents and visitors. The Meredith Foundation has provided large sums for educational and cultural purposes since 1962. Meredith Hall Civic Center, completed in 1977, is used by large and small groups for varied events. The population of Mineola in 1980 was 4,346. The manufacture of women's clothing, sporting goods, electronic connectors, fertilizer, and cattle feed and the packaging of dry beans and meat provide employment for many people. The Wood County Airport, five miles north of Mineola, was completed in 1984. A new city hall complex was completed in 1986, and a two-school facility was completed in 1987. The population of Mineola in 1990 was 4,321. By 2000 the population was 4,550.