Big Spring, Texas

Big Spring, Texas

Infobox Settlement
official_name = Big Spring, Texas, USA
settlement_type = City
nickname = The Spring City

imagesize =
image_caption = Big Spring's Municipal Auditorium and Statue of Liberty, with the old Settles Hotel in the background.

mapsize = 250px
map_caption = Location within the state of Texas
subdivision_type = Country
subdivision_name = United States
subdivision_type1 = State
subdivision_name1 = Texas
subdivision_type2 = County
subdivision_name2 = Howard
government_type =
leader_title = Mayor
leader_name = Russ McEwen
established_date =
area_magnitude = 1 E9
area_total_km2 = 49.7
area_land_km2 = 49.5
area_water_km2 = 0.2
area_total_sq_mi = 19.2
area_land_sq_mi = 19.1
area_water_sq_mi = 0.1
elevation_m = 744
elevation_ft = 2441
latd = 32 |latm = 14 |lats = 36 |latNS = N
longd = 101 |longm = 28 |longs = 31 |longEW = W
population_as_of = 2000
population_note =
population_total = 25233
population_density_km2 = 509.8
timezone = CST
utc_offset = -6
timezone_DST = CDT
utc_offset_DST = -6
latitude = 32°14'36" N
longitude = 101°28'31" W
website =
postal_code_type = ZIP codes
postal_code = 79720-79721
area_code = 432
blank_name = FIPS code
blank_info = 48-08236GR|2
blank1_name = GNIS feature ID
blank1_info = 1330654GR|3
footnotes =

Big Spring is a town in the U.S. state of Texas at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 87 and Interstate 20; its population of 25,233 (2000 census) makes it the largest city between Midland to the west, Abilene to the east, Lubbock to the north, and San Angelo to the south. Big Spring was established as the county seat of Howard County in 1882 and is also the largest town in that county.

The town got its name from the single, large spring that issued into a small gorge between the base of Scenic Mountain and a neighboring hill in the southwestern part of the city limits.


Big Spring is located at coor dms|32|14|36|N|101|28|31|W|city (32.243198, -101.475231)GR|1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 19.2 square miles (49.7 km²).19.1 square miles (49.5 km²) of it is land, and 0.1 square miles (0.2 km²) of it (0.42%) is water.

Origin of the name "Big Spring"

The area's "big spring", long dry but recently modified to draw water from Comanche Trail Lake, was of major importance to all life in the surrounding area. In the early-1840s, it was the center of a territorial dispute between Comanche and Pawnee tribes, and has been a major watering hole for wildlife and prehistoric man in this semi-arid area (G. Brune, 'Springs of Texas', 1981). Early military scouting reports and pioneer accounts describe the water as cold, clear, and dependable; the spring pool was approximately 15' deep, with the overflow going only a short distance down the draw before it sank beneath the surface. The spring has mistakenly been described in other writings as being located in Sulphur Draw. It is actually located to the south, near the top of a small, rugged, unnamed draw running eastwards from the spring, and is itself a tributary to Beal's Creek, the name given to Sulphur Draw as it flows into, through, and past the town of Big Spring.

Long used by regional inhabitants, both permanent and nomadic, with a large number of locally-collected artifacts testifying to its heavy occupation, the spring sat astride the several branches of the later-developed Comanche War Trail as they converged on this important water hole from beyond Texas, coming south across the Northern Plains and the Llano Estacado. From the Big Spring, the war trail continued south via three branches, one to the southeast through the western part of the Concho country; one going almost due south, heading for Castle Gap and Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos River; and one heading west to Willow Springs in the sand country southwest of present Midland, before turning south down the Pecos, all headed ultimately for Mexico. As whites began to settle the western territories, the spring continued to serve as a major watering place on the southern route of the Gold Rush Trail of the early-1850s and continued in use well beyond that time, as the cross-continental trail turned into a major road for later pioneers coming into the area.

Brune also reports that the spring was sourced from a relatively small aquifer situated on the northern end of the Edwards Plateau and the southern end of the High Plains, being, structurally, a collecting sink of lower Cretaceous (Fredericksburg) limestones and sands. The spring aquifer held a large quantity of water due to the great number of fractures, solution channels, and interstices in the rocks and underlying sands, although the aeral extent of the Big Spring sink is estimated to be only one mile in diameter, with the main area only 3000' in width and almost circular, with some ellipticity trending towards the west. The Cretaceous beds subsided about 280' below their normal position, centered around the SE quarter of Section 12, Block 33 T1S; T&P RR Co survey, and the entire strata appears to be preserved within the sink, the surface topography roughly following the subsurface subsidence. (US Department of the Interior publication, 'Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 913', 1944). This writing identifies the sink as one of a number of similar subsurface geologic features in the surrounding area, differing from the Big Spring sink only in the fact that the surface topography above the others, while showing some decline, does not dip low enough to intersect the top of the water tables; hence, no springs could form from the other aquifers. In a passing comment, enigmatic in its content and disappointing in its brevity, the report states that no other comparable deep sinks formed elsewhere on the Edwards Plateau.

The same publication suggests that the spring's discharge volume was in excess of 100,000 gallons/day at the time of the railroad's arrival in the area in the late-1880s. The water was heavily mined by wells built by both the railroad and the early town of Big Spring greatly in excess of its modest recharge rate, until the water table first dropped below the level of the spring outlet, and, finally, was completely depleted by the mid-1920s. The town now artificially fills the spring from its current source of water as a means of allowing residents and visitors to maintain some idea of how it appeared in times past.


Although the area had long been a popular watering hole for Native Americans and other prehistoric residents and nomads, including members of the more recently established Jumano, Apache, and Comanche tribes, the first European to view the site now known as Big Spring was probably a member of a Spanish expedition, possibly that of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, although the record of his travels cannot confirm his visit.

United States Army Captain Randolph B. Marcy's expedition was the first United States expedition to explore and map the area in 1849. Marcy marked the spring as a campsite on the Overland Trail to California. The site began to collect inhabitants and by the late-1870s, a settlement had sprung up to support buffalo hunters that frequented the area. The original settlement consisted largely of hide huts and saloons. Ranching quickly became a major industry in the area; early ranchers included F.G. Oxsheer, C.C. Slaughter, and B.F. Wolcott. [Handbook of Texas|id=BB/heb9|name=Big Spring]

One notable early rancher was Briton, Joseph Heneage Finch, the Seventh Earl of Aylesford. Finch purchased 37,000 acres (150 km²) of ranch land in the area in 1883 and is credited with building Big Spring's first permanent structure, a butcher's shop. [Handbook of Texas|id=HH/hch20|name=Howard County]

The completion of the Texas and Pacific Railroad led to the founding in the early-1880s of Abilene, Colorado City, and Big Spring, three railroading and ranching towns where saloons and gambling dens flourished.

More important in the town's history was the discovery of oil in the region during the 1920s. The early discoveries in the area marked the beginning of the oil industry in the Permian Basin area of west Texas, and the oil industry has continued to be a dominant part of the area's economy. The oil industry in Big Spring reached its peak during the oil boom of the 1950s.

Another major part of Big Spring's economy and life during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s was Webb Air Force Base. It initially opened during World War II as the Big Spring Bombardier School, a training base for bombardier pilots. Following the war, it was converted to a U.S. Air Force Training Base and was named for James Webb, a Big Spring native who died in action during World War II. Webb Air Force Base was active until it was closed in 1977, when the base facilities were deeded to the town.

Big Spring was also featured in the 1969 film "Midnight Cowboy", which starred Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight and received the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1969. The opening scenes featuring Voight, then a relatively unknown actor, playing the character Joe Buck were filmed in Big Spring and the neighboring town of Stanton.

Big Spring is the location at which the opening scene of the Quentin Tarantino film, From Dusk Till Dawn, takes place.

The [ FAI] World Hang Gliding Championship was hosted by Big Spring in August, 2007.

Signal Peak located 10 miles to the southeast of Big Spring (Hill, 1889) [Hill, R.T. 1890. A brief description of the Cretaceous rocks of Texas and their economic value. In: Dumble, E.T. (ed.), First Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Texas, 1889. Austin: State Printing Office, pp. 105-141.]


As of the censusGR|2 of 2000, there were 25,233 people, 8,155 households, and 5,463 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,320.4 people per square mile (509.8/km²). There were 9,865 housing units, at an average density of 199.3/km² (516.2/sq mi). The racial makeup of the town was 76.69% White, 5.31% African American, 0.59% Native American, 0.63% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 14.41% from other races, and 2.35% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 44.64% of the population.

There were 8,155 households, out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.3% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.0% were non-families. 29.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51, and the average family size was 3.10.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 23.6% under the age of 18, 9.9% from 18 to 24, 32.7% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 125.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 132.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $28,257, and the median income for a family was $35,448. Males had a median income of $27,636 versus $21,863 for females. The per capita income for the town was $14,119. About 17.1% of families and 22.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.0% of those under age 18 and 18.3% of those age 65 or over.

Economics and culture

Big Spring's economy is primarily based on agriculture (with cotton as the primary crop) and petroleum production and refining. Public-sector institutions such as Howard College, a federal prison, and a VA hospital are also major employers in the area. Other noted large-scale employers in Big Spring are StarTek USA [] an outsourcing call center, Wal-Mart, Solitaire (a mobile home manufacturing company) and ALON USA (the oil refinery; headquarters are in Dallas and is owned by an Israeli firm).

Big Spring's population and economy steadily declined since the closure in 1977 of Webb Air Force Base, and the relocation of the corporate offices of Cosden Petroleum to Dallas. After dropping from a high of more than 31,000 persons to as low as 18,000, the population has again begun to climb, although a large number of those "residents" are counted under the "group housing" segment of the census, which includes Big Spring State Hospital, Big Spring FCI and several private prisons. The economy has seen improvement in recent years as the fortunes f the oil and gas industry have improved. Additionally, the construction of the Texas State Veterans Home, a large expansion of the VA hospital and expansions at Alon refinery have boosted the economy.

In recent years, Big Spring has been the site of several major hang gliding championship tournaments, including the U.S. Hang Gliding Nationals. The city was also the site for the filming of parts of "Hangar 18".

The Big Spring Heritage Museum contains pioneer and Indian artifacts, art exhibits, and the largest collection known of longhorn steer horns. There are also rare and unusual phonographs, including models by Thomas A. Edison. There is also a large collection of dolls. The museum is located at 510 Scurry. There is an admission fee. [ Texas Transportation Commission, "Texas State Travel Guide, 2007", p. 111]

Notable residents

*Harvey Wallace Caylor (1867-1932) - Frontier artist []

*Rob Dennis - Music producer (Country band Cross Canadian Ragweed)

*Bubba Franks - Green Bay Packers tight end; although born in California, was raised and played high school football in Big Spring. [ [ Daniel "Bubba" Franks bio (2000 NFL draft preview)] on [] , the official website of the Green Bay Packers]

*J. J. Pickle - Democratic United States Representative from the 10th congressional district of Texas from 1963—1995

*John Paul Stevenson - Public address voice of the NBA's Houston Rockets

*Troy Fraser - Republican state senator and chairman of the Texas Senate Business and Commerce Committee

*Tumbleweed Smith - Radio personality

*Tony Franklin (placekicker) - Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins; barefoot kicker set 18 NCAA records playing at Texas A&M, He led the NFL in scoring (140 points) and field goals made (32) in 1986 and was selected to represent the AFC in the Pro Bowl. Played in Super Bowl XV and Super Bowl XX

*J. T. Smith — wide receiver for the St. Louis and Phoenix Cardinals, Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs. Played 13 years in the NFL, then coached the San Angelo indoor team. Played at North Texas State after finishing at Big Spring High School. As a prep receiver he amassed over 1,000 yards, and holds the school record with a 100 yard interception return for a touchdown. He was inducted to the Big Spring Hall of Fame and in 2002. JT was named to the AFC Pro Bowl team in 1980 and the NFC Pro Bowl team in 1988. He also led the NFL in total punt returns in 1979 & 1980. His stats include 544 receptions for 6,974 yards and 35 touchdowns for a career average of 12.8 yards per reception. He also averaged 10.9 yards per carry rushing the football.

*Tom Sorley — President/CEO of Rosendin Electric, fifth largest electrical contractor in U.S. All-State quarterback at Big Spring High School, went on to play football at the University of Nebraska, where he was team captain and completed 57.2 percent of his passes (148-256) from 1976-1978, which is ninth on the Nebraska all-time completion percentage list. He quarterbacked the Huskers to a 27-9-1 record and wins in two bowl games.

Points of interest

* [ Settles Hotel]
* Howard County Courthouse
* Big Spring Municipal Auditorium
* [ ALON USA Refinery]
* Comanche Trail Park
* McMahon-Wrinkle Industrial Airpark
* Big Spring Vietnam Memorial
* [ Big Spring State Park]
* Signal Mountain
* [ Heritage Museum of Big Spring]
* [
* [ Scenic Mountain Medical Center]
* Dorthy Garret ColisuemOrganizations
* [ Moore Development for Big Spring]
* [ Big Spring Chamber of Commerce]
* [ Big Spring Symphony Orchestra and Chorus]
* [ Big Spring Concerned Citizen's Council]
* Downtown Revitalization Association

* [ Big Spring Herald]
* [ KBST/KBTS Radio]
* KBYG-AM Radio

* [ Big Spring Independent School District]
* [ Howard College (Junior College)]
* [ South West Collegiate Institute for the Deaf]

* Big Spring FCI
* Big Spring Federal Prison Camp
* Big Spring Correctional Center (Cornell Companies)


External links

* [ City of Big Spring homepage]
* [ Big Spring historical info and photos]
* [ - Old Postcards, Photograghs & Ephemera from Big Spring]
* [ Big Spring Community Site]
* [ Big Spring Independent School District]

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