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    NEW LONDON, TEXAS

    Rusk County, East Texas
    Hwy 42 and Hwy 323
    12 miles S of Kilgore
    39 miles S of Gilmer
    25 miles SE of Tyler
    119 miles SE of Dallas
    45 miles SW of Marshall

    Population: 987 (2000)

    New London, Texas Area Hotels > Kilgore Hotels
    New London High School before explosion
    Now London High School before explosion
    Photo courtesy texasoldphotos.com
    History in a Pecan Shell

    The area's first post office (1855) was named London, Texas. In 1877 a school was opened. From its beginning until 1930 cotton and vegetable farming was the primary economic engine.

    When the East Texas oilfield came in a few miles west of town, everything changed - seemingly for the better. A modern school was built as well as scores of new homes. The new post office (established in 1931) had their application rejected by postal authorities since the name was already in use (Kimble County).

    In 1931 Humble Oil and Refining made New London their district headquarters and relocated 100 families from other assignments. This guaranteed that the community's success would outlive the boom times.

    On March 18, 1937, everything changed (see related stories) when a gas explosion lifted the school off the ground, killing scores of people - most all of them children.
    Scene of Now London School Explosion, March 18, 1937
    Scene of London School Explosion
    Mar. 18, 1937
    Photo courtesy texasoldphotos.com
    New London school and monument post card
    New London High School and Monument
    Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/%7Etxpstcrd/
    Even so, the boom continued and a new school was built within a year. During the 1950s when the East Texas oilfield started its decline, pumpjacks were installed and the familiar derricks disappeared. Some families remained, but others relocated and when New London was finally incorporated in 1963 the population was under 1,000 - where it has remained.
    New London Cenotaph, Texas monument
    The school today is known as West Rusk High School.

    The disaster is commemorated by an artistic cenotaph showing a male and female teacher comforting their students.

    Many of the dead are buried in the cemetery about a half mile east of the school.
    New London monument , cenotaph detail
    The Cenotaph & detail
    TE Photo, April 2003
    West Rusk High School, New London, Texas
    West Rusk High School
    TE Photo, April 2003

    More About New London School Explosion

  • A Tragedy's Museum by Bob Bowman
  • New London School Explosion by Archie P. McDonald
  • New London School Explosion by Archie P. McDonald
    Dr. Bobby H. Johnson, my long-time colleague at Stephen F. Austin State University, has written a play based on the New London School Explosion which occurred on March 18, 1937...
  • Phoenix Bird of Texas by George Lester
  • New London Texas Closed Building
    TE Photo, 2003
    New London Texas Oil Rig Farm House
    TE Photo, 2003

    New London Texas Forum

  • New London Explosion
    I have looked at your coverage of the explosion at the New London school and you have done a good job covering it. I hope you can expand your coverage as possible. My interest is because my mother, Betty Joe Beasley, was one of the younger kids who was waiting for an older sibling to meet them at the bus. She was waiting on her sister, my Aunt, Nadine Beasley. Nadine was the young lady that was found on the remains of the second floor of the building and had to be coaxed to jump into a mans arms to safety. They both are alive and well living in Longview and Kilgore.- Randall L. West, Milwaukie, Oregon, August 09, 2006


    Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories, and vintage/historic photos, please contact us.
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