Drillers Reunion celebrates Spindletop oil discovery

Published 12:44 pm Saturday, January 9, 2016


BEAUMONT — It may have come a gusher of a storm in Southeast Texas Friday night, but by Saturday morning under a mostly sunny sky it was raining oil in Gladys City.

There, at the Spindletop-Gladys City Boom Town Museum, on the Lamar University campus, the 115th anniversary of the Lucas Gusher at Spindletop was celebrated in grand style during the annual Drillers Reunion.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Volunteers dressed in period costume from 1901 when oil, or black gold as the precious natural resource has come to be known, was first discovered by wildcatters at a salt mine about three miles south of Beaumont.

When the “The Lucas Gusher,” came in, hissing and sprewing its oily brew into the sky, the discovery not only changed the economy of Texas, but also ushered in the petroleum age.

Larry Samford, 61, of Beaumont and native of Montana, attended the annual event for the first time Saturday, noting that his wife was in the camera club and taking photos.

“It’s a experience to see about history that began here. I’ve been reading that they are starting to drill up in Montana, but it will never be like here because of they can’t drill so many places because of the glaciers,” Samford said.

Presley Lewis, 16, was also a first-time attendee.

She came with her grandmother, she said.

“I wanted to see what it was like. I like history,” she said.

Those attending Saturday were able to see what it was like back in 1901 at the turn of the century and the end of Victorian Age when women’s bustled dresses and crinolines remained fashionable in Southeast Texas.

For the first time, Saturday’s anniversary celebration included a fashion show, Museum Director Troy Gray, 43, said.

“The whole point is to get everyone to go back in time and learn about the 1901 culture,” he said. “With the fashion show we get to learn about dress and compare what they wore then and now. The ladies will probably like what they wear now better.”

Those in attendance also experienced what it was like to live in a roaring oil boomtown by visiting replicated stores and businesses that populated Gladys City in 1901.

From a livery and funeral home, to dry goods store, saloon and even a tonsillectomy, the museum offered a real-time history lesson.

Melvin Moss, 80, of Nederland; and Joyce Jones, 65, of Nederland, were part of the Big Thicket Outlaws, a group of historical reenactors who performed skits ranging from shootouts to the Women’s Temperance Union taking over the saloon, where they served tea instead of alcohol.

“The kids love it. They like to see people shot,” Moss said.

Mike McGreevey, 60, of Port Neches; Don Smart, 65, of Hardin; and John LaFlamme, 58, of Beaumont, all history buffs and volunteers at the museum, portrayed the Hamill Brothers, who, along with Anthony Lucas, watched the well spew for nine days before they could get it under control.

“This puts a face on history for everyone — something they can touch and feel,” LaFlamme said.

E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews