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SOUR LAKE: Spa of the Big Thicket BY RUTH GARRffiON SCURLOCK Ruth Scurlock, as a teacher and professional writer-iournalist, has been covering the stories of East Texas and the Big Thicket since the late 'twenties. She wrote about and participated in many of the early attempts to establish parts of the Thicket as game and forest conservation areas and collaborated with Dean Tevis in feature writing the best of the East Texas editions of the BEAUMONT ENTERPRISE. The Sour Lake that Ruth writes about was a watering place from the beginning, when the Indians first decided that any water that smelled and tasted that bad ought to be good for them. And it was a prospering community at the turn of the century. Then came the oil boom in 1901 and the whole tenor of the town changed. Sour Lake became the political hub of Hardin County for a while and had three newspapers to boast of its accomplish. ments, one of which was giving birth to the Texas Company. One of the most interesting episodes in Sour Lake oil history occurred in 1929. Early on the morning of October 9, a Texas Company man noticed that a piece of company land about two hundred feet across was sinking and had already sunk about fifteen feet below its normal level. Two sweet-gum trees stood in the sink area, and as the man watched he could see them slowly 169 170 68. Ruth Garrison Scurlock. going down. A little over an hour later the sink was fifty feet deep and the sides were beginning to crack. By noon the sink was ninety feet deep and was filling with mud, sand, water, and oil. All of this caused excitement and speculation, and as the story of the sink was retold it grew into legendary proportions, with men, mules, and machinery going very dramatically down the hole. More ob;ective reports indicate that besides the land, only a boiler was lost-and the two sweet-gum trees, both sunk completely out of Sight. The geologists' diagnosis was that a cavity filled with liquids and sands had been pumped clean by twenty-eight years of continual pumping, and that the crust had fallen in. The Sour Lake Sink is not much to look at now, but it is some sort of ob;ect lesson in conservation.-F.E.A. The Big Thicket is full of things that do not follow designated patterns but take surprising turns. Sour Lake is an example. Located in Hardin County at the southern tip of the Thicket where the forest opens out on a small SOUR LAKE prairie, slightly higher than the forest land around it, Sour Lake overlooks the lake which gives it its name. Two seemingly inexhaustible natural resources-oil and health-giving mineral springs -have at times brought the town wide-spread fame and a temporary rise in population and income; yet, for one cause or another, the outside capital which was developing these resources has found greener fields and moved on, again leaving Sour Lake a quiet small town, supported chiefly by the agricultural areas that surround it. The town owes its being and most constant fame to twentyseven highly mineral springs, all with different therapeutic components , which overflow to form the lake that gives the town its name, although for many years it was known as Sour Springs. Even the soil around the springs is highly mineral; and, while there are other areas of Texas which have mineral springs, Sour Lake stands out because of the variety of mineral elements found in its soil and water. In addition to the salt and petroleum common to coastal areas, these springs have a high content of calcium, magnesium , sodium, potassium, chlorine, carbohydrates, and sulphates . Why this is true geologically is not definitely known, but at a meeting of the Texas Scientific and Historical Societies, held in the Big Thicket somewhere in the early 1930's on Pop Jackson's hunting reserve, there was much discussion of this matter. Some strong claims were made that many of the oddities of the Big Thicket resulted from the fact that, toward the end of the ice age, the melting glaciers in northern United States and southern Canada pushed land and water southward and at times to the sidesboth east and west-in the Mississippi Valley, as silt was shoved away from the main stream of water flowing from the melting glaciers . This excess of water also caused...


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