Heritage, Volume 12, Number 3, Summer 1994 Page: 22
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Historic Tour of
e\< Beaumont, Texas
By Christy Marino
Museum Celebrates Early Days
of the Oil Industry in Texas
Spindletop/Gladys City Boomtown
Museum, operated by Lamar University
in Beaumont, is a 15-building complex
that recreates Gladys City, an early 1900's
era Texas boomtown on the Spindletop
oil field. The museum functions as an
educational facility open to the public
year-round. Visitors can relive the boom
days on a tour through the buildings representing
actual businesses in operation
during the boom, including a post office,
saloon, general store, dry goods store,
blacksmith shop, and livery stable. The
original Gladys City played a major role
in the colorful history of Spindletop.
The name "Spindletop" dates from
before the Civil War when a slight rise of
ground south of Beaumont became known
as Spindletop Hill. One theory about the
origin of its name is that heat waves,
rising from the surrounding prairie, gave
a grove of trees on the hill the appearance
of a spinning top. Many ghost stories were
associated with Spindletop Hill. St. Elmo's
Fire, actually static electricity, was often
seen dancing there in the moonlight.
In 1889 Pattillo Higgins, a young
Beaumont man, became interested in the
possibility that Spindletop Hill covered a
vast pool of oil. Higgins was a self-taught
geologist and from his extensive studies
and observation of surface indications, he
concluded that an abundance of cheap
fuel was available at Spindletop.
Beaumont businessman Capt. George
Washington O'Brien had known of the
possibility of producing oil from Spindletop
Hill as early as 1865 and had acquired more
than 1,000 acres of the John Allen Veatch
survey in 1888. Higgins interested his friend
George W. Carroll in purchasing the other
major portion of the Veatch survey. In
1892, the men decided to pool their interests
and form the Gladys City Oil, Gas &
Manufacturing Co. It was one of the earliest
oil companies incorporated in Texas. Their
plan was to find oil and use it to develop a
model industrial city called Gladys City.
Higgins named the town and company for
his Sunday school pupil, Gladys Bingham.
The photograph above is Boiler Avenue at Spindletop, taken on April 23, 1903. All photographs courtesy of
Gladys City/Boomtown Museum.
22 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1994
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 12, Number 3, Summer 1994, periodical, Summer 1994; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45412/m1/22/: accessed December 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.