Settlers from an earlier community called St. Clair moved a few miles east to the railroad in 1872. In 1931, oil was discovered, and the population boomed. (One of Texaco's first derricks and pumping units is preserved in the 100 block of W. Commerce along with a historical marker.) The "Antique Capital of East Texas" boasts several antique shops.

Events include the East Texas Gusher Days in April, the Gladewater Round Up in June, and the Gladewater Arts and Crafts Festival each September.

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