|Old Boston's Boston's New Boston
There are three Bostons in Bowie County, Texas, and the history is as convoluted as the names.
Convoluted Bowie County
In the far northeastern corner of Texas lies Bowie County, established by the Republic of Texas in 1840. Its pre-American centuries were
filled with Caddoan villages and brisk inter-tribal and French trade. Numerous archeaological sites point to Bowie County as home to a
major settlement that may have been the first Caddoan settlement to be depicted by Spanish exploreres in 1691.
Named after James Bowie, a frequent traveler in the region who died during the siege of the Alamo in 1836, Bowie County itself was once
part of Red River County, which was established in 1836 upon Texas becoming a republic. The area that became Red River County was
carved out of Miller County, Arkansas Territory, after the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 firmly established the region as belonging to New
Spain. Thus, American settlers in what would become Bowie County swore loyalty to Mexico in order to receive title to their lands.
However, Mexico tried to assert their authority over this eastern frontier by encouraging land grant settlements with Indian tribes, such
as the Shawnees, who had been expelled from Indiana Territory after the wars in 1811. This action may have contributed to Americans in
eastern Mexican Texas forming allegiances with the growing independence movement, as they were generally hostile to Indian land
claims. It's important to know that Texas revolutionary fervor began simultaneously among Americans in southeastern Texas as well as by
men in Arkansas who owned land on the western side of the Red River. Several men who owned land in both Arkansas and what would
become Bowie County, Texas, signed the Texas declaration of independence.
Convoluted County Seats
The first county seat of Bowie was DeKalb, but its tenure was very brief. Instead, a little hamlet named Boston, which was more central in
the county, got the nod. Texarkana, founded in 1873 by the Texas and Pacific Railroad, briefly became the county seat in 1885, but
Bostonians did not want take this lying down. They petitioned for a new county seat a few miles north of the original Boston to meet up
with the Texas & Pacific tracks. Thus, Boston became Old Boston, and the new site of Boston was founded. Voters approved the change
But the tracks of the Texas and Pacific Railroad reached further north than the town’s center, which held the courthouse and the jail. Was
this a survey error? On purpose? It's hard to say. The citizens of Boston moved their businesses a little bit further north to take
advantage of the railroad, as well as the new alignment with the state highway that connected to Texarkana and Clarksville. The town that
grew up around the train station became New Boston, to differentiate itself from Old Boston and Boston.
In 1987, the courthouse in Boston was burned by arsonists. This was a suspicious fire, since the county was in the red and officials had
recently raised the insurance coverage... hmm. Also, a new, modern courthouse had been built off the interstate, and no one wanted to
deal with the old building anymore, so the Boston courthouse was never built. The only reminder of this calamity are the courthouse
foundations and the county’s two-story, pink-bricked jail, which still sits on what used to be the city’s courthouse square.
Since the county's courthouse now sits on I-30, should it be called Newest Boston?
|Many Bostons are located on this 1897 map of Bowie County.
|The large and extensive Caddoan mounds found in Bowie County suggest that the area was an important trade and political location. Depicted
here is the Hatchel excavation site, conducted in concert with the WPA in the 1930, northeast of Texarkana (Texas Archaeological Society).
|This ceremonial bowl was recovered at a Bowie County dig of the Caddo mounds. The vessel originated with the Natchez tribe but was buried in
a Caddoan Nassonite cemetery. Recovering intact (as opposed to broken) vessels are key indicators that a site was religious in nature.
|The courthouse in Boston succumbed to fire in the late 1980s (Texas Historical Commission).
|A pavilion reminds visitors where the courthouse once stood. The newest courthouse of New Boston sits along Interstate 30 today.
|The Boston jail sits at the corner of the former county courthouse square. Luckily, it survived the fire. RRH readers tell me that it is sometimes
open for Halloween festivities.
|An interior shot of the jail shows the "sanitarium green" popular with institutional interior decor of the early 20th century. It was built in 1891.
|An abandoned floor surrounds the old jail - possibly from a portico structure?
|The backside of the jail shows its significant wear but also, its significant architecture. The fire escape is a nice touch.
|There's nothing left of Old Boston, but Boston's old jail is a fantastic road trip destination. To find it, take
US 82 to New Boston and go south on McCoy Boulevard (TX 8), then turn east on Walters Boulevard (FM
1840). The jail is at the corner of Walters and Merrill streets. Here's the map: