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
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
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
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
TERRIBLE EXPLOSION AT SAWMILL
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.