Area Attractions

Gaston Museum

Gaston Museum (Along Oil Field Driving Tour)

Gaston Museum, Joinerville, an area history museum, invites you to step into the 1930s. Visit "life in the East Texas Oil Field," once the largest oil field in the world. Located 6.2 miles west of the Henderson Traffic Star on State Hwy. 64, the Gaston Museum is Rusk County’s newest museum. Joinerville is home of the East Texas Oil Field’s discovery well. The Daisy Bradford #3 is located 2.2 miles from the museum. Joinerville was named for C.M. “Dad” Joiner, the wildcat driller, who discovered oil in Rusk County on October 3, 1930. This one event caused many changes not only in Rusk County but also for a large portion of East Texas. The museum is fortunate to have four historically significant buildings on site. Three are open to the public. The museum is presently housed in the 1940s roadside café building. Museum exhibits share space with the café's original furnishings.

Visitors may also tour an oil field tent house that was converted to a permanent dwelling and a Dixie Service Station established in 1931. Both buildings are filled with original furnishings. In June of 2005 the opening of the new building adjacent to the Dixie Service Station was opened. This new facility is such and added attraction. Funding was given by former students.

Exhibits include Early Oil Field, Boom Town Businesses, Radios from the 1930s to 1950, Gaston School history and the Gaston Wall of Honor, honoring veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and others.

The museum’s educational program for 7th grade students, "Life in the East Texas Oil Field," is an annual living history presentation, scheduled on the first Wednesday of October. Appointments are required.

Gaston Museum has recently published a 254-page memory book, including over 100 stories, titled "Gaston Museum Presents – Life in the East Texas Oil Field." The book sells for $25, and is on sale at the museum and the museum website, address shown below.

Gaston Museum is open 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays during the season and by appointment. The season opens each year on the second Friday in March and closes on the second Saturday in November. For appointments and information, please call (903) 847-2205 or (903) 657-5493. Mailing address is P.O. Box 301, Joinerville, Texas 76658. You can also email or visit their website.
London Museum

The London Museum/Cenotaph (Along Oil Field Driving Tour)

The London Museum chronicles the lives of the people of the East Texas Oil Field through the world's worst school disaster. March 18, 1937, a massive explosion destroyed the New London Junior-Senior High School, instantly killing an estimated 296 students and teachers. The subsequent deaths of victims from injuries sustained that day brought the final death count to 311. The explosion was blamed on a natural gas leak beneath the school building. Within weeks of the disaster, Texas legislators passed a law requiring an odor be added to natural gas, which previously was odorless, and therefore, undetectable.

The museum has just finished an expansion that doubled the size of the building. Three new exhibits have been added that commemorate life in New London after the explosion. A replica soda shop from the 1950s, an exhibit dedicated to those who fought and died in the World War II, and ex-student memorabilia chronicling New London school accomplishments.

The London Museum and tearoom is located across the road from the rebuilt London school on State Highway 42 in New London. Museum hours are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday, with Tea Room service from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Group appointments are available. Admission is adults $3, children $1. For appointments call (903) 895-4602 or website
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Jordan’s Plant Farm

Jordan's Plant Farm is one of the finest tourist attractions and garden centers in this area with a complex of over 200 greenhouses and a feeling of home.

This family-owned business excludes an air of old western charm with its replicas of an old hotel, a general store, post office, Grandma’s kitchen, barber shop, church, school, hotel lobby and saloon featuring quaint shows and unique collectibles, plants and seasonal gifts and decorations.

Jordan's Plant Farm is located approximately two miles on the right after turning onto State Highway 42 from U.S. Highway 79 south. The hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Saturday, and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Sunday. Call at (903) 854-3114 or (800) 635-1147.
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Rusk County Youth Expo Center

One of the finest facilities of its kind in the state, the $3.2 million Rusk County Expo Center was completed in 1995 as a complement to the existing Ag Center. This allows the facility to combine the functions as an Ag center with the capabilities of the open-air arena.

The Expo Center has 100,000 square feet under roof with a seating capacity of 4,700. A horse barn with 32 stalls allows overnight accommodation for horses.

The center has a busy calendar with events scheduled every weekend. Cattle sales, rodeos, team penning, cutting horse competitions, and auto and recreation shows have been booked into the facility. Check events calendar for specific dates.

Upon entering the gates at the Expo, check out the T-33 Korean Conflict era airplane erected in the memory of all veterans.

The center is located one mile past the city limits on 3303 FM 13 W. For information call Phillip Davis-Lone Star Feed at (903) 657-2161 or City of Henderson Tourism / Main Street Department toll free at (866) 650-5529.

Oil Field Driving Tour

Henderson, Texas lies just beyond the 43-mile-long Black Giant East Texas Oil Field. It was the world's richest oil field in the 1930s. Join us and travel through Henderson and Rusk County. We will tell you the area's fascinating history - tales of the Texas Republic, the Civil War, the Depression, the Great Boom, fascinating people, and a dreadful tragedy.

Attractions you will visit along your tour are the following:
  • Gaston Museum -Seasonal hours from the second Friday of March to the second Saturday of November, or by appointment. Email or visit their website.
  • Joe Roughneck Park – Drive by
  • Daisy Miller Bradford #3 Discovery Well – Drive by
  • Pleasant Hill Cemetery - Drive by
  • New London Cenotaph - Drive by
  • London Museum - See area attractions for hours of operation.
Begin your tour leaving the city from the traffic star and head west on Highway 64 to experience the "real thing," the East Texas Oil Field you will visit the following:

Gaston Museum

As you leave the city on Highway 64, you will cross under loop 571 at the city limit sign. Continue on Highway 64 approximately 4 miles where you will find the Gaston Museum on your right. This museum displays the life of the students during the 1930s.

Gaston Museum is open 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays during the season and by appointment. The season opens each year on the second Friday in March and closes on the second Saturday in November. For appointments and information, please call (903) 847-2205 or (903) 657-5493. Mailing address is P.O. Box 301, Joinerville, Texas 76658. You can also email or visit their website.

Joe Roughneck Pioneer Park

After viewing the museum, continues for one-half mile to Joinerville and there you may view the Joe Roughneck Pioneer Park on the right. The Monument was erected in 1956 by Lone Star Steel Company as a memorial to working men in the oilfield, with encasement to be opened in the year 2056. The park contains a replica of a wooden Derrick used to drill the discovery well.

Joinerville Post Office

Leave the park headed back toward Henderson. You will see the Joinerville Post Office on your left with a sign identifying directions to the Daisy Miller Bradford #3 Discovery Well. Turn along side the Post Office on CR4105.

The Well

Continue on CR 4105 to CR 4136. The Well will be on your left with a white pipe rail fence. A Historic marker is located at the well site. Daisy Bradford was the third attempt by C.M. (Dad) Joiner to bring in a producer in this area. Dad was A bit of a poet, sometimes a dreamer, and always a promoter, Columbus “Dad” Joiner went through Rusk County buying leases and promising the discovery of a wondrous ocean of oil. He eventually gathered 5,000 acres under lease and began drilling the first well in 1927. Drilling went slowly, because of his “poor-boy” rig and mechanical failures were everyday occurrences. He drilled two dry holes using the poor equipment, and with no money or credit at the sawmill to replace the part, they did not have a choice but to drill where the sill broke.

After almost a year of on and off drilling, the well came in on October 3, 1930, and the boom was under way! There was celebration in the depression, wrecked hills of Rusk County. The East Texas Oil Field was an independent oilman’s dream. The larger companies were slow to recognize the impact of the find, and it took three wells scattered over the full length of the field to convince them that they should get in on the game. By that time much of the lease able land was gone. The Black Giant turned out millionaires like the mint turns out dimes. Among these was H. L. Hunt. It was Hunt who pulled Joiner out of a tough spot when he got into trouble for overselling his leases. Hunt Oil still owns the Daisy Bradford #3 today.

Pleasant Hill Cemetery

Leave the Daisy Bradford Well heading north on CR 4136 to Hwy 323. Turn right on Hwy 323 and you will travel 1 mile to the Pleasant Hill Cemetery. This is the burial site of some 171 students of the New London School which were killed in the explosion on March 18, 1937. This is one of the few cemeteries in which most markers have the same death date. The cemetery also contains the grave of Captain Robert W. Smith who was born in n North Carolina in 1814, then moved to Texas in 1836, enlisted in the Texas Army and fought in the Battle of San Jacinto. Captain Smith was the Captain in charge of the Battle in Neches in 1839. Captain Smith fired the fatal shot that killed Chief Bowles of the Cherokee Indian Tribe. He was also the Captain of company under the general Smith during the Regulator Moderate War. He donated the land for Pleasant Hill Church and Cemetery. He later was Sheriff for Rusk County. Captain Smith died in 1851.

Leaving the Cemetery go back on Highway 323 headed north like the way you came.

New London Cenotaph & London Museum

You will be headed for the New London Cenotaph (means empty tomb) and the London Museum. At the intersection of 323 and 42 turn right. You will be in New London. The Cenotaph a memorial to 293 children and teachers who died when the New London School exploded ten minutes before school was dismissed. With the terrible explosion came the odor additive to natural gas. The cenotaph is a divider in the highway with the school on the left. The London Museum is across the street. The London Museum chronicles the lives of the people of the East Texas Oil Field through the world’s worst school disaster.

Return to Henderson on Highway 323 to 64. Turn left on 64 and proceed to the first traffic signal light (Marshall Street). Turn right proceed down Marshall to “y” in the street. Turn to the left on High Street. Visit the Depot Museum at 514 North High and see pictures and more information about the oil bust days in Rusk County.

Monte Verdi Plantation

Monte Verdi meaning "Green Mountain" is located high on a hill in Rusk County Texas. It is said that from the upper gallery a person can see four different counties.

Monte Verdi is an architectural showplace built in the Greek Revival style and was completed in 1856. The mansion was built by Julien Sidney Devereux and was situated on his 10, 721 acre plantation. After Julien's death in 1856, it was Sarah Devereux that kept the plantation producing through the Civil War years even while being heavily taxed to support the Confederate Troops.

The plantation remained in the family until sometime around the turn of the century. The home passed through several owners and the land was sold off piece by piece. By 1958, the home was in great disrepair. Mr. and Mrs. E.F. Lowry bought the property and immediately began their three year restoration. They returned the home to its grand stature overlooking the East Texas hills. The plantation received its Texas Historical Medallion in 1964. Mr. and Mrs. Lowry then purchased a log cabin in Mt. Enterprise, Texas, for relocation to the site of the original plantation kitchen. The cabin built in 1844, known as the "Birdwell House," is an excellent example of "Saddle Bag" architecture. It was built by Col. Allen Birdwell. The cabin received its own Texas Historical Medallion in 1967.

The plantation is now owned by the Koch family. They have spent much time and travel to furnish the home with the appropriate period pieces of furniture. Their home is now open to the public on special occasions throughout the year and always by appointment. They are especially delighted to offer their home for tours and special events with the knowledge of how graciously Monte Verdi caputres the culture of bygone days.

For more information you can contact Joe Koch at 903-863-2633 or visit the plantation website.

Tourism Coordinator:
Suzanne Cross
(903) 657-6551 Ext. 268