Alma M Carpenter Public Library

About the Museum


SOUR LAKE — Sherry Williams, chief librarian and also executive director of the Chamber of
Commerce here, is determined to restore this tiny town to its former glory.

She took me on a historical tour of the area where the healing mineral springs were once
found, springs that attracted visitors from all over the country as they were believed to
cure rheumatism and other ills. A grand hotel and resort was frequented by visitors from
all over, including none other than Sam Houston, who visited several times to treat his
war wounds.

In 1903, oil was discovered, leaving the mineral baths all but forgotten. An oil rush
ensued, with a vast tent city of workers and a forest of derricks dotting the once peaceful
plains. Texaco was founded here, and a monument commemorating its birth stands in front of
the library and museum that Williams curates.

“From mud baths to millionaires,” proclaimed the Oil City Visitor, the newspaper founded to
serve the thousands of new residents.

All the pumping caused the ground to subside and the springs disappeared. Today a lake
lined with toxic residue is in the place where the ground collapsed, and Texaco sold its
headquarters and moved to New York.

Town leaders like Williams have organized to keep the town’s history alive, offering tours,
hiring muralists to paint historic scenes, prettying up the town square and collaborating
on a variety of other projects.

The Bertha Cornwell Museum, which explores the history of Sour Lake, also has exhibits on
the birth and early years of Texaco.

“Yes, we’ll always be a small town, but we want to be the best small town we can be,” said

Sour Lake is one of the gateways to the Big Thicket National Preserve. It is about 12 miles
west of Beaumont, at the intersection of State Highways 105 and 326.

For tours, museum access and the latest on Sour Lake, call 409-790-0587.