Gladewater History
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1950's Gladewater

The History Of

When Gladewater first came into existance in 1827 it was called St. Clair. The community moved a few miles east to the Texas & Pacific Railroad when it built through in 1872. Some effort was made to operate under a state charter but 3 years was the duration of its existance and no one pushed for an organized government again until 1931. B.F. Phillips was the first mayor and G.C. Dunaway and C. B. Everett were city commissioners.

500 was about the poputlation until the discovery of oil in 1931....then the influx of people was so fast and furious that they could not keep up with the need for business buildings and homes. The population doubled to 1,000 overnight, reaching 10,000 at the height of the boom. Sanitation required immediate and careful consideration. Governmental machinery had to be placed in motion and a multitude of complex and everyday problems beset the city builders. The problems of housing, sanitation, government organization, roads, schools, churches, etc. were contended with as the city struggled with its growing pains.

Gladewater & Kilgore each became incorporated and set up city governments within weeks after their discovery of oil wells. Uncounted thousands of people crowded the city in shacks and tents and traffic turned the dirt streets into deep pits of mud. That spring of 1931 was particularly wet and many roads were virtually impassable by automobile. The schools were swamped with new pupils. Cholera, Typhoid and malaria swept through the tent cities and shantytowns. The local jails and courts were understandably overburdened. Crime was held down considerably by Texas Rangers who had an informal license to kill. Even though Prohibition didn't end until  1933, honky-tonks by the dozen sprouted up. Gladewater had about 400 oil wells producing during this time. (One of Texaco's first derricks and pumping units is preserved in the 100 block of W. Commerce along with a historical marker.)

The town's first Dr. was Edgar Lathgro Walker. He arrived in Gladewater in 1892 with a new bride to visit his brother William B. Walker. The word soon spread that there was a Dr. visiting in town and Dr. Walker was soon knee deep in sick folks. He found his visit had turned his brothers parlor into a Drs. office. He decided to stay in Gladewater and practice medicine. He built the first brick building in town with a drug store in the front and his medical office in the back. He also opened a general merchandise store and bought several farms.

And practicing medicine he still was when the oil boom hit Gladewater. Oil men by the dozens were interested in Dr. Walker's farmland, fussing because the Dr. sat in his office writing $2 prescriptions when there was a fortune to be made from his land.


In 1912 the Texas & Pacific Railroad had a disasterous derailment about a mile west of the depot. Numerous cars fell into the creek. Either the Swift or Armor packing house has a car among those derailed and ham, bacon and pig tails were scattered all about. Sadly one of the derailed cars held fine racing horses. Several were killed and one had a broken leg. He was about to be shot, as was the custom then, when Mr. Ardis and Mr. Lawrence protested strongly. Mr. Ben Phillips was touched by their pleas and persuaded them not to shoot the horse, and to grant Ardis and Lawrence permission to keep the horse and care for him. The horse lived for many years with Ardis and Lawrence enjoying him. There was one young man discovered dead in the wreckage with no identificaton.


March, 1913 - This article is taken from the Gladewater Mirror.

Gladewater Lumber Company's Saw Mill Wrecked and Three Lives Snuffed Out.

David Moore, son of Mr. & Mrs. James Moore and a prominent citizen, among those killed.

Monday morning, while running at full speed the boiler at the Gladewater Lumber Co.'s saw mill exploded, killing three and injuring two more seriously if not fatally.

It is supposed that the water boiler became too low and the negro fireman in charge turned in cold water on the red hot flues. The cold water coming in contact with the hot boiler caused a tremendous explosion felt all over town. The boiler room was totally destroyed and the boiler itself was hurled through the air for a distance of eighty yards, making two complete turns in doing so.

David Moore, a prominent and highly esteemed citizen of Gladewater and part owner of the mill, was standing in front of the boiler when it blew up. Mr. Moore was picked up by the force of the explosion and thrown a distance of about 40 feet, landing against the supports of a tank on the opposite side of the mill. Practically every bone in his body was broken and he was fearfully scalded by the steam. Death was instantaneous.

Daniel Trexel, a 15 year old boy standing by Mr. Moore, was also thrown some distance and was badly scalded about the head and face. He had one deep cut on the head and another on the shoulder.

Others killed and injured were Lee Jones, colored, one arm broken. Bruised and cut, severaly scalded, may recover. Robert Johnson, colored, both legs and other bones broken, head crushed in, badly scalded. Lived about an hour. George Fowler, colored, both legs broken, one arm broke, other bruises, scalded all over, dead.

The accident with its terrible deaths was a shock to the entire community, while the financial loss to the Company was no small one.



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