TRAIL OF LIGHTS
the 1940s, a drive through Kilgore
was unlike any other excursion into East
More than 1,000 wooden oil derricks -- perhaps the most visible evidence
of the East Texas oil
boom -- lined the town’s streets. During the Christmas season, lights
were hung on many of the derricks. And one plot of ground was known
as “the world’s richest acre.”
Then, the underground
oil pools played out. Kilgore’s
oil derricks began to disappear and Kilgore
soon looked like any other East Texas community.
steel replicas of the old derricks are back, thanks to the work of
the Kilgore Historical Preservation Society. And the Christmas lights
are back, too.
view of the "the world's richest acre"
TE photo 5-02
lights up its derricks and produces a sample of what the town looked
like some sixty years ago. The lights are turned on the first Saturday
after Thanksgiving and remain lit until after January 1.
Stars top the sixty replica derricks, helping the city maintain its
title as the state's official "City of Stars." Kilgore
is also among the stops on the Holiday Trail of Lights, which
includes Marshall and
East Texas and Natchitoches
and Shreveport in Louisiana.
Oct. 3, 1930, in a Rusk
County pasture, 70-year-old "Dad" Joiner brought in the Daisy
Bradford 3 and unknowingly tapped into the world's largest pocket
The resulting oil boom brought thousands of producers and drillers
into East Texas, turned
the quiet little communities into raucous boom towns and made millions
for oil producers.
The boom also brought con men, prostitutes, thieves and other criminals
before Texas Rangers were assigned to clean up the area.
When the Rangers filled up the jails, they chopped a hole at each
end of an old church building, ran a chain the length of the building,
and chained and padlocked prisoners to the chain. If a prisoner need
to use a restroom, a bucket was passed down the chain.
Even though the oil patch isn’t as prosperous as it once was, oil
remains a big part of the economy of Kilgore
and the city remains a popular destination place for tourists who
want to learn how oil in Texas began.
Kilgore has carefully
preserved the legacy of its boom years with the East Texas Oil
Museum near the campus of Kilgore College.
Visitors from more than 120 countries have visited the museum, which
is not only the cornerstone of oil history in East
Texas, but one of the leading destinations for tourists in East
This Christmas, if you remember the old wooden derricks from East
Texas’ past, come to Kilgore
for a hefty dose of nostalgia from the forties.
Bob Bowman's East
19, 2005 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers