The East Texas Oil Field was discovered in 1930; oil was discovered in the city of Kilgore in 1937. The acre at Commerce and Main streets was called the “world’s richest acre” by 1966, when 24 oil wells were on 10 lots on that small piece of real estate.
The wells are mostly gone, but some stand decoratively with a star on top that is lit each Christmas. In 2003, the Texas legislature declared that Kilgore was officially the “City of Stars.”
Wikipedia: Kilgore, Texas
Kilgore is a city in Gregg and Rusk Counties in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Texas. It is the home of Kilgore College, and was also the childhood home (from age six) of famous classical pianist Van Cliburn. The population was 11,301 at the 2000 census.
Handbook of Texas Online
KILGORE, TEXAS (Gregg County). Kilgore is on U.S. Highway 259 and State highways 31, 42, and 135, 120 miles east of Dallas in south central Gregg County. The area was first settled before the Civil War by planters from the old South, but the city was not founded until 1872, when the International-Great Northern Railroad built a line between Longview and Palestine. The railroad bypassed New Danville, and the company platted a new town, which they named for Constantine Buckley Kilgore, who sold the 174-acre townsite to the railroad and urged many of the businesses of New Danville to move there. A post office opened in 1873, and by 1885 Kilgore had two steam gristmill-cotton gins, a church, and a district school; the estimated population was 250. The Kilgore State Bank opened in 1906, and an independent school district was formed in 1910. By 1914 the town had two banks, Baptist and Methodist churches, a newspaper, two cotton gins, several general stores, a drugstore, an ice cream parlor, a hotel, and a reported population of 700. The town reached a population of 1,000 in 1929. But the combined effects of the Great Depression and the decline of cotton, on which the town’s economy had largely depended, brought a steep population decline. By the middle of 1930 the number of residents dropped below 500, and many businesses had been forced to close.
The discovery of the surrounding East Texas oilfield in the fall of 1930 transformed Kilgore from a declining rural community into a boomtown. Within days thousands streamed into the town, erecting tents and shacks in every available vacant space. Honky-tonk bars sprouted up around the town; schools and other public institutions were overwhelmed. By 1936 the town’s population had swelled to 12,000. To deal with the onslaught, the city incorporated in February 1931. Kilgore, located near the geographic center of the oilfield, became an important production, processing, service, and supply hub. Numerous wells were drilled in the city itself, and at the height of the boom there were over 1,100 producing wells within the city limits. On part of one downtown block in the early 1930s stood the greatest concentration of oil derricks in the world; the area came to be known as the “World’s Richest Acre.”
Oil Boom Town
Texas’ Official “City of Stars”
Gregg County, East Texas
U.S. Hwy 259 and State Hwy 31, 42, & 135
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: 11,301 (2000) 11,066 (1990)
Kilgore 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.
22 December 1966, Victoria (TX) Advocate, pg. 14, col. 2:
Kilgore Site Called
“World’s Richest Acre”
KILGORE, Tex. (AP)—Main and Commerce has been designated the most densely drilled oil tract known. The Texas State Historical Survey Committee describes the site as the “world’s richest acre.”
The tract supports 24 wells on 10 lots and has produced 2.5 million barrels of oil. The wells were drilled before spacing rules.
18 June 1983, Kerrville (TX) Mountain Sun, “Banking on Texas” by Chas. Schreiner Bank, pg. 3, col. 6 ad:
Liquid Gold: A single derrick rising above plantings of jasmine and holly in downtown Kilgore marks “the world’s richest acre” of land. There, on June 17, 1937, the first oil well was brought in on a 1.19 acre tract. At one time, 24 wells were pumping on the tiny piece of real estate. It remains the most densely drilled tract in the world!
This particular tract held such a rich reservoir of petroleum banks, stores and other businesses were torn down so that more wells could be drilled. The wells on “the world’s richest acre” were among more than 1,000 drilled in downtown Kilgore during the great East Texas oil boom that began in 1930.
Huntsville (TX) Item
Holiday Trail of Lights
December 05, 2006 07:13 pm
Kilgore — a city of stars
With more oil at one time than anywhere else in the world, Kilgore, Texas was once known as the World’s Richest Acre.
Today, the oil derricks are gone, along with most of the money made during the city’s oil boom.
Kilgore today is a small town, with small town values, but the city is rich with something else — charm.
From the Kilgore Rangerettes, the gridiron’s first precision drill team, to star-topped replica oil derricks, Kilgore has dubbed itself the City of Stars. Christmas is a magical time in Kilgore, according to Chamber of Commerce president Mike Coston.
“You go to any city in America and you’ll see Christmas lights everywhere,” he said, standing underneath one of the city’s 70 oil derricks. “They’re beautiful and they’re fun to see, but in Kilgore, what you’ll see are stars.
“In our retail business, our industry and our residents — they all decorate with stars,” he beamed. “At night, the stars really shine in Kilgore. At one time, we had more than 1,200 oil derricks. We now have more than 70, and they’re all lit with stars for Christmas.”
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Sunday, June 29, 2008 • Permalink
Six generations ago my uncle, Constantine Buckley Kilgore or Uncle Buck as he was known to the family indeed held over 170 acres which later became Kilgore, Texas. However, according to our Kilgore family history, Uncle Buck’s house sat on what is now call “God’s Richest Acre”.