"The world's richest acre" put Kilgore, Texas, on the map.
In the middle of the Great Depression, most of East Texas hit hard times when King Cotton became a pauper. Then in 1930, the vast East Texas Oil Field was discovered.
Kilgore was near the heart of what was to become the largest oil field in the contiguous United States. So much oil was pumped out of the ground that the price of crude dropped worldwide from $1.10 to 10-cents a barrel. The wildcatter's response to dropping prices was to pump more oil, as much as 900,000 barrels a day.
The oil boom hit Kilgore like a swarm of locusts. At its height, there were 1,100 wells within the city limits. One downtown block had 44 derricks side by side. Some holes were drilled right through the tile floors of stores. It was the greatest concentration of oil derricks in the world.
More than 80 years later, oil is still important to the region. Kilgore is known as the "City of Stars" for the electric stars that cap the faux derricks behind the downtown business district. At Christmastime, the light display is a sight to see. Downtown supports several mom-and-pop stores, a great coffee shop, and a couple of good restaurants. It's a distant memory of when the Texas Rangers walked the street to keep peace.
1,111st in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.
Copyright © 2014 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.