The black gold first struck in 1918, and the population grew from 700 to 10,000 in just a few months. The town of Burkburnett was named by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 after his friend and rancher, Samuel Burkburnett would soon become “Boomtown USA.”
“It’s always been proud of being called Boomtown,” said Russell Miller with the Burkburnett Chamber of Commerce and Historical Society. “Sometimes it is a derogatory term, but we don’t consider it a bad term at all. You can still find oil wells if you know where they are. Right here in town on city lots and behind houses and so it’s still it’s just a lot quieter than it used to be.”
This boom was so well known that it grabbed the attention of Hollywood.
The film ‘Boom Town’ starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert talks about the adventure of two oil wildcatters in Burkburnett during the boom.
Gable credits being able to play this role so well from his memory of living in Burkburnett when his dad worked in the oil field. Burkburnett was a town for oil. The black gold first struck in 1918, and the population grew from 700 to 10,000 in just a few months. The town of Burkburnett was named by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 after his friend and rancher, Samuel Burkburnett would soon become “Boomtown USA.”
We consider ourselves to be the ‘Boom Town’ because Hollywood made us that way,” said Miller. After the oil boom settled, Burkburnett saw another boom with Sheppard Air Force Base and the population grew again. It is the history that boom town has made that will stay for years to come. “It is where we came from,” said Miller. “It is who we are. It was not always easy. Some of these people have had businesses in Burkburnett all their lives they suffered the boom-and-bust periods along with everybody else, but they got through the hard times to maintain Burkburnett as a community.”
Director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Burkburnett, Brent Battista grew up in Boomtown. His dad worked in an oil field. He said holding onto the history will help the town prosper.
I think it’s something we don’t want to lose, said Battista. Growing up here, the small-town pride that we have a lot of close time with each other. We’re just trying to maintain that sense of community, said Miller. To make people proud of where they live and why they live here.
One way the Historical Society is keeping this history alive…is by collecting artifacts and putting them in museums.
The Wild West was being tamed when in 1905 the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, was the guest of Samuel Burnett at a wolf hunt in the “Big Pasture” area of what would later become the State of Oklahoma. Burnett was a flamboyant figure whose 6666 Ranch covered much of the North Texas – Southern Oklahoma area.
In 1905, part of the vast Burnett empire was sold to Frank Kell and J.A. Kemp of Wichita Falls who were building a railroad through Burnett’s ranch to the “Big Pasture.”
A town lot sale held by Kemp and Kell on June 6, 1907 marks the official beginning of the city which would later become world famous as the center of a gigantic oil boom. At the suggestions of Teddy Roosevelt, the town was named for his wolf hunt host, Burk Burnett.
The oil-crazy days were dramatized in story and song and later became the subject of the Clark Gable – Spencer Tracy movie, Boomtown.
In every aspect, Burkburnett is a progressive community. It looks to the future as well as to its historic and colorful past. Burkburnett continues to merit its name of: “Boomtown, USA!”