The 20th Century
The city of Big Spring has long been known as the "Crossroads of West Texas" due to the numerous trails that radiated out from the spring site. Many of those ancient trails are now roads, highways, or rail lines. Those trail intersections allowed Big Spring to be the largest community in West Texas for many years during the late 19th and early 20th century.
Other communities developed along the rail lines. While there is no doubt that the region beyond Ft. Worth would have continued to develop, its most likely would have looked very differently had the spring not been visited and consequently thoroughly documented by Captain Marcy. Early plans for the Texas and Pacific Railroad called for the route west from Ft. Worth to be further up on the plains, closer to modern day Tahoka. However, a constant reliable water source was not to be found upon that route, and "Marcy's Road and big spring" proved to be the logical site for rail line development. Had the spring not existed, one can only imagine what the map of Texas would now look like. There is no doubt that the massive oil and gas fields of the Permian Basin would have been found, but the population centers of that region would not be in their present locations, and would not have the same names. Midland was named because of it's proximity to a mid-point along the Texas and Pacific rail line from Ft. Worth to El Paso, and Odessa was named by Texas and Pacific railroad workers who felt it resembled their homeland in Ukraine.
Big Spring continued to be the "Crossroads of West Texas" and flourished with ranching and industry. In 1916 the Bankhead Highway was developed to connect Washington D.C. with San Diego, California. This important highway followed the rail lines in Texas and ran from Texarkana through Big Spring and on to El Paso, largely following Marcy's route from 67 years earlier. The Bankhead Highway continued to be a major East - West route across the United States until 1959, when Interstate 20 was developed largely along the same route.
In the 1920's, Big Spring flourished with growth. One of the young city's most dominant landmarks, the 15 story Hotel Settles, opened in 1930 and at the time was the tallest building between El Paso and Ft. Worth. When the Great Depression struck in the 1930's, the city began to lose it's population base to the oil and gas centers further west. As many of the original generation of settlers in West Texas passed on, the spring site and it's importance to the state was soon forgotten, and the spring fell into disarray.
With the onset of World War II, the United States desperately needed locations with generally good weather to train pilots. On April 28, 1942, the United States Army Air Force opened Big Spring Army Air Field as a primary training facility for pilots. In 1952, the base was renamed as Webb Air Force Base in memory of 1st Lt. James L. Webb, a Big Spring native killed in the crash of his P-51 Mustang off the coast of Japan in 1949. Over 9,000 pilots were eventually trained at the base,which closed on January 1st, 1978.
In 1950, the Big Spring Veterans Administration Medical Center was established to serve regional veterans. It provides primary and secondary healthcare for former service men and women in 47 counties. Thousands of veterans are served by the VA Hospital.
Today, Big Spring is an energy and ranching center on the eastern edge of one of the world's most important oil fields, the Permian Basin. The present economy is based in manufacturing, oil field service, exploration, and fuel refinery. Diversified energy sources such as wind-turbine fields have changed the landscape of the surrounding countryside.
As Big Spring moves forward into the 21st century, the city has also looked to the past and the importance of the spring that gave the city it's name.