The World's Richest Acre
In 1930, oil was discovered on the Daisy Bradford farm by a 70 year old wildcat oil driller named Columbus Marion "Dad" Joiner. His discovery would forever change the pastoral lifestyle of East Texas and usher in the largest oil field in the continenal United States, reaching 26 miles long.
Dad Joiner had been doggedly drilling on the Daisy farm since 1927. His third attempt proved to be the gusher he had hoped for and history was made.
Imagine the 1930's small farming community of Kilgore, TX with about 590 residents suddenly having thousands of people flocking into the area to find work and make their fortunes. Within a short while, 10,000 people called Kilgore their home. Only then was Kilgore incorporated and became a true city. The first mayor was J. Malcolm Crim, the son of Mrs. Lou Della Crim who had a well blow in just in time for the holidays in December, 1930. The Crims subsequently became one of the wealthy families in Kilgore.
The new inhabitants were housed in all manner of hurriedly erected buildings. The dirt roads were clogged with every imagineable vehicle and horse drawn equipment. When it rained, the streets were a quagmire of bogged down trucks, cars and oil field equipment. Some had to be left there until the mud dried!
Oil wells were drilled on just about every street corner and numbered close to 1,200 within the city limits at the height of the oil boom. This was the greatest concentration of oil wells in the world! One well was even drilled through the terrazo floor of the Kilgore National Bank. Some of the wells are still producing. Aproximately 53 restored steel derricks are around town now. At first wooden derricks, as seen in the photos below, were used for many years.
Located at the downtown corner of Commerce and Main streets, the World's Richest Acre Park recreates the forest of derricks that made Kilgore's skyline famous. On this 1.2 acre site, there once stood 24 oil wells that pumped 2.5 million barrels during thirty years of production. Twelve full sized restored derricks now stand along with plaques, pavers and equipment. Oil derricks downtown are decorated and lit up for the Christmas season.
|Kilgore also has an excellant Oil Museum which is one of East Texas' most famous and most popular tourist attractions with over 1 million visitors already. It is located at Kilgore Junior College which is home to the world famous Kilgore College Rangerettes. This dance and drill team members have performed in countries around the world, on television, at sporting events and nationally recognized events. Their history spans over 60 years.|
The early boom days were traumatic for the native East Texans. Lease hounds, oil promoters, roughnecks, drillers, camp followers and would be outlaws poured into the area. Though most citizens were law abiding, the local authorities called for help to keep law and order in Kilgore and the surrounding area. Kilgore had become the hub of the East Texas Oil field. The Texas Rangers moved into the region. On February 2, 1931 the well known Texas Ranger "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas rode into town accompanied by his long time associate J.P. Huddleston. Experienced and impeccably dressed, Lone Wolf was not a man to contend with and the local populace knew he meant business. Stern warnings went out to the lawless elements who were growing almost as fast as Kilgore itself. Though many left Kilgore immediately, Lone Wolf and J.P. Huddleston along with the local authorities in the region were kept busy with those who were determined to make their way through crime in the boom towns. The criminals were subsequently caught up in the law enforcement net.
In every boom town the conditions were the same. Dirt streeets turned into quagmires as too much traffic contended with the local rains. By early 1931, most East Texas towns doubled in population and new communties sprang up. These were the times of the depression and prohibition, and conditions were still hard. Men flocked into the area to make their fortunes and a good living one way or another. Millionaires were made and companies grew. Large, plush mansions were eventually built in small towns for wealthy oil families. Many of these homes are still there with their imported marble, chandeliers, murals, rare woods and other symbols of the wealth gleaned from the oil flowing freely. H. L. Hunt of the Dallas Hunt oil men got his start here. East Texas boomed as black gold flowed from the ground. The oil field was confirmed as a strip that streched for 26 miles North to South when wells came in located in Gladewater and Longview.
At first new production was seven wells every two weeks, then escalated to almost 100 wells a day and finally even more! Oil which sold for $1.10 a barrel at the time of discovery dropped to $.15 as the frenzied drilling activity flooded the market.
Production spread into other counties and the highest daily production was around 1.4 million barrels. After production tests of 290 wells were allowed to run wide open for two hours, the yield predictions were for 123,750,000 barrels per day!
State Governor Sterling declared a state of martial law and on August 16, 1931, 1300 armed National Guardsmen were ordered into the area and the field was shut down until order could be restored. Various legislative action finally provided the control law and order needed to stabilize the region and the production.
The field has produced more than 5 billion barrels of oil, and may run to 6 billion barrels. During World War II, a large pipeline, called the big inch, flowed oil thousands of miles from the East Texas oil field to the refineries of the New England states. This strategic reserve of oil gave the Allies the stability they needed to win the war.
From this beginning of a few wildcat oil drillers, the East Texas oil field has enabled the sleepy hamlets and small towns of the region, nestled in the piney woods, to evolve into modern cities and towns. The petroleum industry provides jobs for countless thousands of American citizens.
|Texas Ranger "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas|
|East Texas Oil Museum|
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