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Promotion: Nearby Map of Gregg County
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Map of Rusk County

Kilgore is on U.S. Highway 259 and State highways 31, 42, and 135, 120 miles east of Dallas in south central Gregg County. The area was first settled before the Civil War by planters from the old South, but the city was not founded until 1872, when the International-Great Northern Railroad built a line between Longview and Palestine. The railroad bypassed New Danville, and the company platted a new town, which they named for Constantine Buckley Kilgore, who sold the 174-acre townsite to the railroad and urged many of the businesses of New Danville to move there. A post office opened in 1873, and by 1885 Kilgore had two steam gristmill-cotton gins, a church, and a district school; the estimated population was 250. The Kilgore State Bank opened in 1906, and an independent school district was formed in 1910. By 1914 the town had two banks, Baptist and Methodist churches, a newspaper, two cotton gins, several general stores, a drugstore, an ice cream parlor, a hotel, and a reported population of 700. The town reached a population of 1,000 in 1929. But the combined effects of the Great Depression and the decline of cotton, on which the town's economy had largely depended, brought a steep population decline. By the middle of 1930 the number of residents dropped below 500, and many businesses had been forced to close.

The discovery of the surrounding East Texas oilfield in the fall of 1930 transformed Kilgore from a declining rural community into a boomtown. Within days thousands streamed into the town, erecting tents and shacks in every available vacant space. Honky-tonk bars sprouted up around the town; schools and other public institutions were overwhelmed. By 1936 the town's population had swelled to 12,000. To deal with the onslaught, the city incorporated in February 1931. Kilgore, located near the geographic center of the oilfield, became an important production, processing, service, and supply hub. Numerous wells were drilled in the city itself, and at the height of the boom there were over 1,100 producing wells within the city limits. On part of one downtown block in the early 1930s stood the greatest concentration of oil derricks in the world; the area came to be known as the "World's Richest Acre."

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Christopher Long | © TSHA

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Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Belongs to

Kilgore is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Kilgore is classified as a Town


Latitude: 32.39496900
Longitude: -94.86452500

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated


Place Type Population (Year/Source) Currently Exists
College or University Yes

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Kilgore by the Numbers

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Population Counts

Pop. Year Source
13,376 2020 United States Census Bureau
14,257 2019 Texas Demographic Center
12,975 2010 United States Census Bureau
11,301 2000 United States Census Bureau
11,066 1990 United States Census Bureau
10,968 1980 United States Census Bureau
9,495 1970 United States Census Bureau
10,092 1960 United States Census Bureau
9,638 1950 United States Census Bureau
6,708 1940 United States Census Bureau