Big Hill, ten miles southeast of Hamshire in southwestern Jefferson County, is named after a hill that rises about thirty feet above the low-lying marshy prairies of the Southeast Texas coast. In 1909 the area became a site for development, and many tracts were sold to second-generation Swedish Americans from Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and New York. The new settlers grew fig and citrus orchards until a hurricane destroyed most of their houses and barns in 1915 (see HURRICANES). The residents subsequently moved the remnants of their houses to Winnie and Hamshire. Many of the Swedes retained their property rights, however, a decision that proved extremely profitable when oil and gas were found at the Big Hill fields in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
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