Believe It or Not in Tomball,
By U.S. Sen. John
For the residents of Peck, Texas,
the beginning of the 20th century
marked an optimistic time. Former Texas Sen. Thomas Henry Ball had
succeeded in routing the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway through this
small farming town in Northwest Harris County. The arrival of the
railroad spurred other important developments, such as a telegraph office,
a water station, and various facilities connected to the railroad.
With these developments, Peck soon became an agriculture trade center in
To pay homage to the man who largely
made this possible, the residents of Peck renamed their town Tomball
after Thomas Ball on December 2, 1907—105 years ago this month.
Soon, Tomball had an operating school, electric lights and telephone
service. By 1914, Tomball was home to a several stores, six hotels, two
cotton gins, a blacksmith, a bank and a population of 350.
The economy was flourishing—so much so that
businesses in neighboring towns were benefitting as well. According to Mary
Roach of the Spring Creek County Historical Association, a café
in neighboring Hufsmith had to cook “a cow a day” to
satisfy the appetite of hungry railroad workers from Tomball.
Little did the residents of Tomball know, however, their good
luck was about to turn even sweeter. In 1933, workers with Humble Oil
& Gas Co., now Exxon, were drilling in Tomball on the property of
J.F.W. Kob. At depths of 5,000 feet, they struck oil, which gushed up
more than 100 feet into the sky. As Lessie Upchurch, the author of
Welcome to Tomball: A History of Tomball, Texas, described it,
"liquid gold shot up in the air."
mutually beneficial contract was negotiated by Humble Oil and the City of
Tomball. Under the agreement, in exchange for exclusive drilling rights
within the city limits, the residents of Tomball were promised free
water and natural gas for 90 years. The unique contract landed Tomball
in the syndicated newspaper series Ripley’s Believe it or
Not as being the only city with free gas and water and no
Tomball was officially incorporated on July 6,
1933, with a population of 665. Soon, more than 25 energy companies were
posted in Tomball and producing within a five-mile radius of the
city. It came as no surprise, therefore, that Tomball quickly earned the
nickname “Oil Town U.S.A.” With the arrival of additional
oil companies, the population of Tomball eventually tripled. According
to Upchurch, from 1933 through 1976, the city’s wells produced
more than 100 million barrels of oil and 316 billion cubic feet of
Today, thousands of Texans call Tomball
home. The city’s motto is the “Hometown with a
Heart,” and much of the unique history of this Texas town is preserved by
the Spring Creek Historical Association at the Tomball Museum Center.
The Center holds a collection of several buildings from Tomball and
the region, including a one-room schoolhouse, a log cabin jailhouse,
church, and an original oil camp home that housed workers.
While “liquid gold” may no longer shoot high into
the sky, Tomball remains a true Southeast Texas gem that provides us
with a unique glimpse back in time to a defining moment in Texas
Sources: Texas State Historical
Association; the .
Senator Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary,
Armed Services and Budget Committees. He serves as the top
Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and
Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney
General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District