“Bread will be coming right out of your ears, ma’am. New roads, agriculture, employment, education – these are just a few of the things we can offer you, and I assure you, ladies and gentlemen, that if we do find oil here – and I think there’s a very good chance that we will – this community of yours will not only survive, it will flourish.”
– There Will be Blood, 2007
The sea of oil beneath their feet stretched for 45 miles. Found on 3 October 3 1930 by Columbus Marion Joiner, the East Texas Oil Field was one of the largest oil fields in the United States. The roughnecks and roustabouts came in their thousands to work the land.
In 1939, Farm Security Administration photographer Russell Lee was in Kilgore to photograph men working on drilling rigs.
Founded in 1872, Kilgore is on Interstate 20, 120 miles east of Dallas in Gregg and Rusk County. Settled before the Civil War by planters from the old South, by 1885 the estimated population was 250. And then it became boomtown. The East Texas oilfield transformed Kilgore. By 1936 the town’s population had grown to 12,000.
Major oil companies gradually bought out most of the independents, and by the eve of World War II the boom was largely over, although oil production in the area continues.
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