Gladewater was settled by settlers from an earlier community called St. Clair who moved en masse a few miles east to the Texas and Pacific RR when it built through in 1872. In 1931 oil was discovered and the population doubled to 1,000 overnight, reaching 10,000 at the height of the boom. (One of Texas' first derricks and pumping units is preserved in the 100 block of W. Commerce along with a historical marker.)
Gladewater is now a trade center for agricultural and lumbering interests. The "Antique Capital of East Texas" city boasts more than two dozen antique shops.
Annual events include the East Texas Gusher Days held in April, the Gladewater Round Up in June, and the Gladewater Arts and Crafts Festival each September.