“Black Gold” that Saved East Texas

Remembering the Era of Oil in ETX!
Published: Jan. 5, 2024 at 11:49 AM EST
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Check out our Full-Length Interview here!

Out of all the fossil fuels that the Earth produces, there is none more vital for the growth of modern civilization than oil. From driving our vehicles to providing electricity to our homes, this “Black Gold” is used to power up most things in our society today. The East Texas Oil Museum captures the great lasting impact that oil had when it was discovered here in the Piney Woods nearly a century ago.


“The oil boom found here in East Texas during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl allowed citizens here to not suffer.”

Olivia Moore, the museum services director, explains the monumental shift that the discovery of oil, also known as “Texas Tea”, had on the local economy. In the era of the Great Depression, most Americans were without work. No job means no money. With dwindling funds to provide for their families, the future seemed awfully bleak. Yet a BOOM happened in 1930! A massive oil field was discovered by the rig, Daisy Bradford #3, which resides in Rusk County. This moment would forever change East Texas. In the blink of an eye the population of Kilgore blossomed from 500 to 12,000 people within a few years. Jobs and opportunity were plentiful. Hope was restored for Texans in such a desolate period in American history.

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“Repeat guests come in, lean over the counter and ask, “Do you still have the Elevator?”

The museum has lots to offer, with its vast number of detailed exhibits that showcase the history of East Texas oil, the everyday life during that time, and so much more. But what Olivia gets asked about the most is the elevator. Take a trip to the center of the Earth in the museum’s very own deep core elevator. (No, it doesn’t actually go down. But it is a very educational and fun experience.) The elevator ride is located in the larger exhibit known as Boom Town. Here, you will step into a highly detailed world that resembles East Texas in the 1930′s. This huge space literally contains a small community, with an old timey barber shop, bank, soda fountain, movie theater, and so much more. Boom Town is the perfect spot for families to come and explore what life was like during this era!

Along with their evergreen rooms and items, the East Texas Oil Museum always has great events and even special rotating exhibits on their calendar. Check out their website for a full list of what’s coming to the museum next!


“The museum isn’t necessarily about oil… It’s more about how oil changed the lives of the people that lived here during the 1930′s.”

As you pull into Kilgore, it’s hard to ignore the many old fashion oil wells, known as “derricks”, scattered throughout the city. Even as you enter the museum itself, there are photographs of old rigs and even authentic equipment displayed throughout. Yet, Olivia offers the true heart of the museum. Even though oil is the actual substance that created a massive economic boom for East Texas, the real focus is the people. The longtime locals and fresh foreigners who would make Kilgore their home. The lives that were forever changed. The mission of the Museum is to tell the stories of these individuals.

Olivia mentioned that this is a community museum. Meaning, the majority of items in the museum have been donated by families in the East Texas area. From cast iron pans to an operational printing press, the real lives of Texans are on display. Olivia and the museum’s passion is sharing these stories. Real folks and the future generations whose lives were completely different after the oil boom.

Start 2024 off with a visit to the East Texas Oil Museum! Information on prices and hours of operation can be found HERE! Come learn more about this Era of Oil that forever changed the East Texas landscape and culture.

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