Luling Texas / Railroads, Oil and Watermelons

Luling Texas is one of those historic towns with more than one version of how it got it’s name. One version has the town named after a Chinese railroad worker, another that it was named for a Judge and yet another that it was named after a railroad owner’s wife. Whatever story is true, there are plenty of attractions in Luling Texas both historic and recreational and it makes a fine addition to your Texas travel vacation planner.

luling texas theater

Luling’s original 5,000 sq ft. theater

A Fun Visit to Luling Texas

Luling Texas is located on the San Marcos River south of Austin Texas and northeast of San Antonio. The town is located just off I-10, near the US Hwy 183 – I-10 interchange. Luling is 45 miles from Austin, 139 miles from Houston and 90 miles from Victoria Texas.

This is a trip stop that will make a good addition to your Texas travel planner. Luling is renowned for its barbecue, rich oil history, decorated pump jacks, fresh produce and plants, abundant watermelons, and Texas’ first inland canoe paddling trail on the San Marcos River.

luling texas watermelon stump

Luling Texas Watermelon Shop

Luling the Railroad Town

Luling as a community came into being because of the railroad. In 1874 the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio railroad laid track from Columbus to a terminus three miles west of Plum Creek. The area around this terminus became the city of Luling. Most of the first settlers in Luling were from the area of Plum Creek and from the Atlanta community.

Fifteen years later in 1889, a second railroad, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass, laid tracks through Luling, connecting it with both Lockhart and Shiner, Texas.Luling’s population rose and fell during the last part of the 1800’s and by the year 1900 the population was estimated at about 1,500 residents.

oil museum luling texas

The Luling Texas Oil Museum

The 1922 Oil Discovery

The discovery of oil in Luling Texas in 1922 led to rapid growth. Prior to this discovery Luling, Texas had an economy that relied essentially on one crop, cotton.

A man named Edgar B. Davis moved to Caldwell County Texas from Massachusetts to manage oli leases on his brother Oscar’s property. In 1921 Edgar founded the United North and South Oil Company. When his brother passed away Edgar bought the oil leases from the estate and began drilling. After six dry holes, Edgar Davis hit oil on the seventh try in August 1922. This was despite the claim of geologists that there was no oil to be found there.

The discovery was large. By December 1924 Davis’ field was producing 43,000 barrels of oil per day. In 1926 Davis sold his oil leases to the Magnolia Oil Company for a reported $12 million.  In celebration of the sale Edgar B. Davis threw a barbecue and reportedly gave a substantial cash bonus to each of his employees.  Davis was known as an oilman and philanthropist.

Oil fields attract a good number of retail and service businesses. The 1922 oil discovery drove population steadily over the years and by 1930 Luling’s population was about 6,000.

When you visit Luling Texas make it a point to stop into the Luling Oil Museum located at 421 East Davis Street. The museum is located in the historic Walker Brothers Mercantile Store which was established in 1885.The museum pays tribute to Luling’s rich cultural heritage and the significant role the oil industry played in the growth of the area. As of this writing, the museum hours are M-F 9A-5P Their phone number is (830) 875-1922.

luling texas attractions

East Davis Street

The World famous Luling Watermelon Thump

The world famous Luling Watermelon Thump is always held the last Thursday-Sunday in June in downtown Luling, Texas. The Watermelon Thump is comprised of several events over it’s four day run.

One such event is the “watermelon seed spit” contest. Luling has the distinction of having the world’s record for this event. The Guiness Book of Records Watermelon Seed Spit Record is 68 feet 9 1/8 inches from the starting line.  The Championship Watermelon Seed Spit record was set in 1989 by Lee Wheelis from Luling.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Visit the National Ranching Heritage Center / A Texas Trip Into History

A Tour of the Texas State Capital Building / Austin

Visit Round Rock Texas / Sam Bass and the Historic Palm House

luling texas historic buildings

Historic Walker brothers Mercantile Bldg.

The Best Kept Secret in Texas, Luling’s Paddling Trail

Luling has one of the states inland paddling trails for canoeing/ kayaking recreation. The paddling trail, designated by Texas Parks and Wildlife, is a six mile stretch of the San Marcos River. This stretch of river offers a relaxed paddling experience for both novices and seasoned paddlers. The paddling trail takes an estimated 2 to 3 hours to complete. You can put in your canoe or kayak at  the Hwy 90 Bridge two miles west of town and take out at the Zedler Mill.

Shuttle & Equipment Rental can be arranged through Luling Parks & Recreation Department. Phone  (512) 227-1724.

An Area Where Early Texas History Abounds

You’ll find plenty of attractions in Luling Texas and it makes a fine addition to you Texas travel planner when you visit other nearby towns and cities such as Austin, San Antonio, Lockhart and Gonzales. All of these towns and cities offer Texas historic museums, historic buildings and structures dating to the 1800’s and fun recreational activities like canoeing and kayaking.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)

One thought on “Luling Texas / Railroads, Oil and Watermelons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.