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Kilgore (Gregg County)

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Kilgore is located fifteen miles southwest of Longview, near the geographic center of the great East Texas oilfield. The town began in 1872, when the International and Great Northern Railroad (I&GN) built a line between Longview and Palestine and purchased a 174-acre site from Constantine B. Kilgore. The discovery of the oilfield in 1930 transformed Kilgore from a declining rural community into a boomtown, an important production, processing, and supply center. The town’s population increased from 500 to 12,000 within six years. Wells were drilled in the yards of residences, and derrick legs touched those of adjoining drilling rigs. Many existing downtown businesses were demolished to make room for rigs. One downtown block known as the “World’s Richest Acre” contained 44 producing wells. But overproduction soon caused a precipitous fall in oil prices. In 1931, the State of Texas enacted proration orders aimed at curtailing production, which eventually were effective, and the boom began to subside by the mid-1930s as major oil companies gradually bought out most of the independent producers. Under an order of martial law, Texas Ranger captain Manuel T. “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas single-handedly cleaned up the crime and drove drifters out of town.

Kilgore’s oil industry heritage is remembered by numerous replica derricks that form the city’s skyline. A particularly impressive concentration are the 13 derricks clustered together on N. Commerce Street between Main and North streets, providing a poignant visual reminder of the “World’s Richest Acre.”

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

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