Sour Lake
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Sour Lake Texas

From Mud Baths to Millionaires

This book was originally published in 1994 and has recently been published on Amazon in three formats: Kindle eBook, paperback and Hard Cover.

Link to Amazon


This manuscript is the first comprehensive history of Sour Lake, Texas, that has been published. Sour Lake’s history is unique, beginning as a place of magical healing which resulted in a place of instant wealth. Many other Texas place names share a heritage of the oil boomtown, but few share the array and excitement of the names of Stephen Jackson, General Sam Houston, Andrew Briscoe, Henry Millard, R. W. “Dick” Dowling, James and Ambrose Merchant, Walter A. and John Savage, Major P. G. T. Beauregard, A. M. Gentry, Mrs. John Sealy, John H. Hutchings, Joseph Stephen Cullinan, Texaco, Gulf, John Henry Kirby, John W. Gates, Charles Schreiner, Frank Herman Carpenter, the Hogg-Swayne Syndicate (Governor James S. Hogg and James W. Swayne), the Sharp Brothers (Walter Benona, James Robert and John), James Franklin Weed, Andrew Barrow Hamil, Wirt Davis, John Hamman, John Nathan Gilbert, Howard R. Hughes, Sr. and the Rio Bravo Oil Company in their past. Sour Lake’s story includes the giants of Texas History and equals the excitement found in the history of Corsicana, Spindletop, Saratoga, Humble, Electra, Petrolia, Batson, Goose Creek, West Columbia, Burkburnett, Mexia, Ranger and the others.

When one drives through the Sour Lake of 1994, it is hard to image some of the scenes described in the following chapters since the present town can be described as a quiet, pleasant place. One can still find the old town site, the remnants of the lake, and the large oil company tanks, but these reminders coupled with the residential areas do not seem dramatic enough to be the beginning point of the petroleum age. As W. T. Block once suggested, Sour Lake was indeed the site of an epic transition from a forest of trees into a forest of oil derricks. The Spindletop Oil Field of Jefferson County can rightfully claim its place as the first major discovery field in Texas and the United States. Sour Lake though is the site of the first two oil refineries in Texas which was the start of the area’s petrochemical industry that became the backbone of the Texas economy. The Gulf Coast Refinery Company of 1895, operated by the Savage Brothers, and the Trinity Lubercating Company of 1898 predated the operations at Corsicana. Sour Lake provided the need for the first pipelines and the proof that reliance on oil as a fuel source was possible. For example, in 1901 the Southern Pacific Railroad utilized very few barrels of oil for fuel, but by August of 1902, the company shipped 8,500 barrels per day to fire their engines and established in 1903 their own drilling outfit, the Rio Bravo Oil Company. One could argue that the discovery and production of the Sour Lake oil field provided the incentive to truly begin the petroleum age in Texas and in the United States. Sour Lake crude has fueled the world and provided the initial capital to establish three of the giants of the American Economy, the Texas Company (Texaco) and Guffey Oil Company (Gulf, Chevron) and the Burt Refinery (Magnolia, Mobil). The discovery of oil at Spindletop fired the world’s imagination, but the Sour Lake oil field provided the substantiveness to the dream.

W. T. Block must be commended for his diligent research and exhausting work. His final product, a twenty year endeavor, documents an untold chapter of Texas history. He provides a history of the pioneers, the early settlers, the Sour Lake Springs Hotel and health spa, the men who developed the oil field, and even the unpleasant stories of race riots, murder and destruction. Block’s Sour Lake includes the unknown heroes such as Rufus Luckey and “Dr. Mud” who worked magic with the sour waters, and the drama of planned oil well spoutings for the spectators.

Mr. Block has written more Southeast Texas history than any other author to date and his experience is well documented by this work. The future generations will thank him and praise his name.

First Pages

There are no original computer files to use as a resource to recreate this book. To republished the book, I scanned the book and published it as a "Print Replica" in Amazon terms.

NOTE: Print replicas are not fully functional as Kindle eBooks:

  1. Not compatible with Kindle e-reader (requires PC, Android, or iOS application to view).

  2. Print Replica versions are scanned images and the font size cannot be changed. Text in these books can still be selected and searched on like the fully functional Kindle versions.

The following images represent the beginning of the book in order to see what the scanned book looks like inside.

--William T. Block III (WT's son)

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Unless otherwise indicated, the material published on this site is copyrighted by William T. Block.
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