Once known as “the toughest town in Texas”, Luling was established in 1874 as the far western stop of the Sunset Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The developing importance of the town as a cattle-raising center, combined with the importance of the railroad as a shipping point, allowed the town to grow and prosper.
Being the northern terminus of a freight road to Chihuahua, Mexico added to its stature. As the cattle drives to the railroad head decreased, Luling survived by turning to its rich soil and hardy folk. Luling came to be known throughout the region as an agriculture center with cotton, corn, and turkeys as its principal products.
Cotton ruled the local economy until the momentous year of 1922. On August 9th of that year, Edgar B. Davis’ Rafael Rios No.1 blew in, opening an oilfield 12 miles long and 2 miles wide. The Rios No. 1 proved to be a part of one of the most significant fields discovered in the Southwest. Thousands of oil field workers descended upon the little community. They filled every available room and constructed a tent city, called Rag Town, along the railroad tracks. By 1924, the field was producing 11 million barrels of oil per year.
Almost overnight, the town of Luling went from a population of 500 to 5,000 people.
Tents filled every vacant area as roughnecks and their families set-up housekeeping. Work was hard and living even harder, but the dream that unfolded was a microcosm of Texas history-a time when a community of farmers and their families responded to the coming of the railroad, only to have their lives changed forever by the discovery of oil.
To preserve the memories of Luling, and honor the rich heritage, the Central Texas Oil Patch Museum was established in the historic Walker Brothers building located in the heart of the downtown business district.
This beautifully restored building is an historic landmark in itself. Established in 1885, it was a mercantile store, a place where cotton was financed and traded. This became a centerpiece of Luling’s social life.
Through it’s exhibits, the Museum introduces present and future generations to the days of old and the contrast between that era and the present.
The Museum is a focal point of tourist traffic, with the Luling Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center located at its entrance. The facility also serves as a community hall where meetings, seminars, and entertainment are conducted for the benefit of the citizens.