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Gregg County TX
Gregg County

Kilgore Hotels


Oil Boom Town
Texas' Official "City of Stars"

Gregg County, East Texas

32°23'8"N 94°52'7"W (32.385534, -94.868502)
U.S. Hwy 259 and State Hwy 31, 42, & 135
12 miles SE of Longview
33 miles W of Marshall on Hwy 31
26 miles E of Tyler on Hwy 31
120 miles E of Dallas off I-20
Population: 14,836 Est. (2016)
12,975 (2010) 11,301 (2000) 11,066 (1990)

Book Hotel Here > Kilgore Hotels

World's Richest Acre Kilgore Texas downtown and oil derricks
View of "the world's richest acre" in downtown Kilgore.
Over 1,100 producing wells in Kilgore at the height of the boom

TE photo 5-02


by Bob Bowman

In the 1940s, a drive through Kilgore was unlike any other excursion into East Texas.

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.

Today, 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.

Each Christmas, Kilgore 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 Jefferson in East Texas and Natchitoches and Shreveport in Louisiana.

On 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 of oil.

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 Texas.

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
"All Things Historical" December 19, 2005 Column

Kilgore Tx PO Mural - Drilling For Oil
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, October 2011
Kilgore Post Office Murals
"Music of the Plains, Contemporary Youth, Pioneer Saga & Drilling for Oil" ›

Kilgore Chronicles

  • Gussie Nell Davis by Archie P. McDonald
    Gussie Nell Davis and the Kilgore Rangerettes

  • FDR and Nine Acres by Bob Bowman
    "With luck -- and an infusion of funds -- a historic Kilgore home built in the 1930s could be on its way to regaining its stature as one of East Texas’ most interesting homes. Set in sylvan splendor in the middle of the East Texas Oil Field, the home of oilman Tom Potter is best known as Nine Acres, a place where President Franklin D. Roosevelt probably visited in the thirties."

  • Playmates by George Lester. A memoir

  • Kilgore Hotels > Book Here
  • Oil Derricks in Kilgore Texas
    Oil Derricks in Kilgore
    Photo courtesy Sam Fenstermacher, October 2006
    Kilgore, Texas depot and Oil derricks
    Former depot with oil derricks in Kilgore, Texas
    TE photo 5-02
    Downtown Kilgore and oil derricks
    Another view of the "the world's richest acre"
    TE photo 5-02
    Crim Theater, Kilgore, Texas
    The former Crim Theatre in Kilgore
    TE photo 5-02
    Former Texan Theater in Kilgore, Texas

    The former Texan Theatre,
    "all interior was done in western style decor." - Jean Broussard.
    TE photo 5-02
    More Texas Theatres

    Longhorn Drugs old neon sign in Kilgore, Texas

    Old neon drug store sign
    TE photo 5-02
    More Texas Old Neons

    Beall Brothers tile sidewalk sign
    Beall Brothers tile sidewalk sign. The first Beall Store?
    TE photo 5-02
    1931 date plate

    1931 date plate. Relic of boomtimes.
    TE photo 5-02
    More Pitted Dates

    Barber pole and miniature oil derrick in Kilgore
    Barber pole and miniature oil derrick
    TE photo 5-02

    Take a road trip

    Kilgore, Texas Nearby Towns:
    Longview | Marshall | Tyler
    See Gregg County | East Texas

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