|Motto: "Wichita County's Best Kept Secret"|
Location of Electra, Texas
Electra is a city in Wichita County, Texas, United States. It is part of theWichita Falls, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area. The United States Census Bureau counted Electra's population as 3,168 at the 2000 census and estimated it to be 2,891 as of 2006. Electra claims the title of Pump JackCapital of Texas, a title made official by the state in 2001, and has celebrated an annual Pump Jack Festival since 2002.
Daniel Waggoner started a ranch in present-day Electra in 1852. Around thirty years later, the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway was built, and its railroad tracks ran through the area. In 1885, Waggoner's son, William Thomas Waggoner, successfully lobbied railroad executives to build a railroad station at the site. By this time, the Waggoner ranch covered a half-million acres. Up until this time, the town was called Waggoner, but following the building of the station and a post office in 1889, it was dubbed Beaver Switch, after the nearby Beaver Creek. The opening of 56,000 acres (230 km2) of land north of the railroad station brought more farmers to the area. The town was renamed again in 1907, this time after Waggoner's daughter, Electra.
Water can be scarce in this region of Texas, so Waggoner started drilling for water for the towns new residents. Most of these drilling sites were befouled by crude oil, which made the water unfit for drinking. Three years later, a developer from Fort Worth named Solomon Williams bought the land from Waggoner. Sooner thereafter, he annexed nearby land, subdivided the land, and placed advertisements in national media trying to increase the population. His efforts were successful, and the town grew from a population of 500 to 1,000 between 1907 and 1910. The Waggoner family, still today, owns much of the same land they did in the beginning and still drill for oil in those parts.
In 1911, the Electra Independent School District was created.
On April 1, 1911, the Clayco gusher brought forth an oil strike. Word spread quickly, and the population increased fourfold over a period of months. Fortunately, there was already some infrastructure built in the town to handle the new residents.
Jasper "Jake" Smith, III (born 1935) of Vivian in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, worked in the summer of 1954 in the oil field of Electra. In his autobiography, Dinner with Mobutu: A Chronicle of My Life and Times, he recalls his experience:
...We were fully integrated into the community of young men of Electra. I discovered that Texans were welcoming to newcomers, and I soon felt right at home.
Anyone who has seen the movie The Last Picture Show or read the book might recognize Electra, Texas. TheLarry McMurtry novel was set in this approximate locale at this particular time - 1954. The residents were pretty accurately portrayed in the novel. The main pasttime for my cohort group was drinking beer and fighting. Some of the local toughs liked to travel to Wichita Falls to pick fights with airmen from the local Air Force base. I tried to avoid these fisticuffs since it was certain I would get my ass kicked.Electra was dry and dusty with hardly any big trees. The fields were covered with mesquite bushes, six to eight feet tall covered with two-inch thorns. People outside Texas had not yet discovered that mesquite is a powerful aromatic wood for smoking meat; so this prickly bush was considered a great nuisance, rather than a potential resource. The main assignment for us college boys working in the Electra oil field that year was to cut down mesquite bushes which crowded in on the oil fields. ... We would start whacking away at the mesquite bushes. By the end of the day, most of us were covered with bloody punctures from the sharp thorns. After a few days, these injuries usually became infected, causing one or more of the young roustabouts to visit the company doctor. About midway through the summer, the company decided that this mesquite project was getting to be too risky; so we were given other assignments.
In 1936, Electra had well over 6,000 residents, by the 1960s, the population had decreased to just over 5,000. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was growing, and many people moved away. By 2000, Electra's population had fallen to about 3,000.