Sour Lake Oilfield

By: Robert Wooster

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

The Sour Lake oilfield is at Sour Lake, twenty miles northwest of Beaumont in southern Hardin County. The community is the site of the first commercial oilfield in the county. As early as 1866 it was predicted to be a prime location for exploration. Wells were dug in 1893, and by 1895 three small producers there led to the construction of the first refinery in Texas. After fire destroyed the first refinery, a new 100-barrel plant was constructed in 1898. The real boom, however, came in the wake of the Great Western Oil Company's 1902 gusher, discovered at a depth of 683 feet. The Sour Lake field yielded nearly nine million barrels the following year and transformed the resort town of Sour Lake into an exciting oil boomtown in the process. Overdrilling soon caused a decline in pressure at the field, drastically reducing the crude output. In 1912 Sour Lake was yielding only slightly more than a million barrels a year. Flank drilling increased production again by 1914, when over five million barrels were extracted. Cumulative crude-oil totals had reached nearly ninety million barrels in 1951. The Sour Lake field has also produced substantial amounts of natural gas.

George Fancher et al., The Oil Resources of Texas (Austin: Texas Petroleum Research Committee, 1954). Charlie Jeffries, "Reminiscences of Sour Lake," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 50 (July 1946).
  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Fields and Wells

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robert Wooster, “Sour Lake Oilfield,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995