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Oily Place: Bradley's Corner in Wichita County, Texas

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Town full of oil derricks
Bradley's Corner north of Burkburnett, Wichita County, Texas (DeGoyler Library, SMU)

Bradley's Corner in Wichita County, Texas - the Place that isn't even on Maps!

The "skyscrapers" on this photograph climbed into the heavens practically overnight in Wichita County, Texas when oil was discovered along the Red River in 1918. "Boom towns" rapidly appeared and some even became sizable settlements. One example is Bradley's Corner north of Burkburnett, depicted on this photograph from the DeGoyler Library at SMU and now, no evidence of it can be found.

Bradley's Corner was a "collection of tents, shacks and oil field shops" in the Northwest Extension Field, where oil boom towns were hastily erected northwest of Burkburnett. It was near Bridgetown along the Red River, near the base of the now-demolished Grandfield Toll Bridge. Towns like Bradley's Corner and Bridgetown did not last very long. Once the oil stopped gushing, the wildcatters and roughnecks moved on. But Bradley's Corner was not supposed to be temporary: it had a school, which burned in 1922; a baseball team which was often defeated by the team from Iowa Park; and a lone church where men passed the liquor bottle.

Inside one of the frame buildings in this photograph was a gambling den that was raided in January of 1920. The den was located inside a "big rooming house" with secret entrances, "closely guarded by three sentries... armed with six-shooters." All of the gambling tables and roulette wheels could quickly be concealed, and the den featured a "scuttle-hole equipped with a ladder through which the gamers could escape in case officials appeared." The sheriff's officers that conducted the raid arrested the proprietor and fourteen gamblers.

In November of that same year, Texas Ranger M.T. Gonzaulias busted up a moonshine operation inside a tent at Bradley's Corner, where "a 50-gallon still, complete with coils and burners, a bottling machine, a one-half barrel of mash and other ingredients, and a complete gambling outfit" was discovered. A few months after that, another moonshiner clocked the same Ranger over the head with a pint bottle of corn liquor. During that same year, typhoid rampaged throughout these oil towns, originating from their water supply. Bradley's Corner was described as "deplorable. Toilet facilities are absolutely lacking. Garbage and other waste is left to decay and forms breeding places for flies. No attempt is made at mosquito eradication or malaria control."

With that kind of publicity, it might not that big of a mystery why Bradley's Corner is not depicted on ANY Wichita County maps from the time period, or even on the historical map that was made by the Brazos-Red River Historical Society in 1957. But with that kind of history, it's a shame that it's now gone. There is absolutely no trace of Bradley's Corner left, as far as I can tell.

Map of northern Wichita County form 1957
A map of northern Wichita County, Texas, as seen from the county's historical society in the 1970s. The town of Bradley's Corner is not depicted, but it was between Bridgetown and Morgan City northwest of Burkbrunett (Hardin Simmons Library).
Satellite photo with scars on landscape
Traces of the oil boom towns in Wichita County, most now gone, can be seen on Google Maps.

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