Big Wells is on State Highway 85 seventeen miles northeast of Carrizo Springs in northeastern Dimmit County. It was named for the artesian wells once found in the area; water from the first well supposedly jetted higher than thirty feet out of the ground. Big Wells was one of several land-development projects in Dimmit County between 1909 and 1917. The town began as a 480-acre parcel of the Big Four Colony, an ambitious, 56,000-acre development project that may have grown out of efforts to promote the Bermuda Colony, another Dimmit County development scheme.
In 1908 the Hurst and Brundage Company began to promote the town. Actual settlement at the site apparently began in 1910, and the town grew rapidly, partly because it was situated on the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf tracks. In 1911 a local post office opened; by the next year Big Wells had two schools, and a new, three-story high school was added in 1914. By 1915 the town had 800 residents, a bank, a newspaper, four general stores, a lumber company, and at least one hotel.
Big Wells suffered through a difficult period of drought, low crop prices, and marketing problems between 1916 and 1918. Businesses failed and many people left. The newspaper folded in 1919. By 1925 the population of Big Wells had reportedly dropped to 300. By 1929, however, it had rebounded to 700, and by 1944 the town had 866 residents and sixteen businesses. Big Wells has mostly depended for survival on oil operations in the area. The artesian wells have required pumps to produce water since World War II. In 1955 the town had 1,077 people and fifteen businesses, but its school closed that year. In 1973 Big Wells had 711 people and six businesses. In 1989 it had 833 people and three businesses; the use of new horizontal drilling techniques had brought old oilfields back to life. In 1990 the population was 756, and in 2000 it dropped to 704.