How to Get from There to There
Let's say you're a guy or gal from Tennessee in the early part of the 19th century. You've become tired of trying to carve out a farm on land
that is nothing but rock. And, "opportunity" is your middle name. Chances are, you'd figure that life would be easier if you went to the
southwest, into the new lands (new to you, anyway) that came from the Louisiana Purchase.
You might travel down the Mississippi River and the lower Red River to Natchitoches and then set out in whatever direction you choose.
That's if you had money, and if you wanted to move to Spanish-controlled Texas. Most likely, being a rock farmer and all, you have to walk
your way to prosperity, so you'd take one of the few roads available, which was the Southwestern Trail that led from St. Louis to
Washington, Arkansas. But, then what?
Well, you'd follow Trammel's Trace. Scores of Americans took this path on their way to Texas, including such luminaries as Stephen F.
Austin, Davy Crockett, and James Bowie.
History of a Confusing Place
Before 1819, the southern borders of the Louisiana Purchase were in a constant state of flux. The Americans believed the boundary
should be south of the Red River, and the Spanish argued that the Red River was the northern border of their territory. Within all this
mess, plenty of Tennesseans, Missourians, Kentuckians, and other assortments began to settle the area, anyway. According to historian
Grant Foreman ("Miller County, Arkansas Territory: The Frontier that Men Forgot," Chronicles of Oklahoma 18, no. 1 (March 1940)), these
immigrants pretty much knew that wherever they settled, they were doing so illegally: either they were inside Spanish territory on an
empressario that no one had yet claimed, or they were on federally-controlled US territory and therefore, did not have permission to stake
land claims and trade with Indian tribes like the Caddos, Delawares, and Osages.
This may be why American settlers held fast to the idea that they lived in Miller County, Arkansas Territory - pretty much stating, by way of
foot and butt, that they were not illegal immigrants, after all. To that effect, these early settlers set up an ad-hoc county government at
Jonesboro, a trading post along the river in present-day Red River County, Texas, that was established about 1816. A trading post at
Pecan Point, established a little earlier and situated east of Jonesboro, was also a beacon, but this settlement never grew into anything
larger and eventually housed a plantation.
Trammel, the Tramp
To get to Jonesboro, the pioneers (many with one or two enslaved people traipsing with them) took a circuitous path carved out by
Nicholas Trammell, who himself used an old Indian footpath. Nicholas Trammell (1780-1856) exemplified many of the new settlers to this
water-logged, flat, and isolated portion of the Red River: he was an adventurer, explorer, tradesman, interpreter, surveyor, capitalist,
horse racer, and a person with "itchy feet" who operated ferries, horse trading operations, farms, and taverns along the White, Red, and
Guadalupe Rivers in Arkansas and Texas. Some have accused him of stealing slaves and horses, but lots of that information is
Trammel's Trace, as this circa 180 mile road was called, began (or ended; depends on which way you're traveling) south of the Great Bend
of the Red River in Arkansas, where the Southwestern Trail ended. By 1824, the Great Bend was served by a ferry operated by Moses
Austin and his son, Stephen, at the site of present-day Fulton. After crossing the river, travelers walked southwest to cross the Sulphur
River, then traveled south to meet the Camino de Real in Nacogdoches. A secondary arm led to the Pecan Point and Jonesboro
settlements. Although out of the way for those who wanted to enter Spanish/Mexican Texas settlements, it seemed that many immigrants
went this way to start American settlements in what they considered Miller County.
|If you're an intrepid road-tripper who wants to emulate the pioneers, you'll have a tough time following Trammel's Trace today.
Most of the trail has been obliterated by agriculture, development, and newer roads. And, most of the towns along the trace today
did not exist during its use. Along this route, there are plenty of cute hamlets, towns, and cities to enjoy - a far cry from those early
travelers, who recounted that they could go days along the trail without seeing another human being. Actually, that doesn't
sound too bad.
|Not much is going on at Fulton's Landing anymore.
|If you follow the Trammel Trace, you can see some pretty old things, like this fantastic gas pump between Washington and Fulton on AR 195.
|The original site of Jonesborough is located on private property, but we will always have this marker.
1. From Fulton, take US 67 - the Bankhead Highway - through Texarkana and then to Maud.
2. In Maud, turn south onto TX 8.
3. In Linden, take US 59 south throgh Jefferson and Marshall.
4. In Marshall, take US 43 south to Tatum.
5. After Tatum, turn onto FM 3231, also known as County Line Road.
6 County Line Road ends at FM 1251.You'll have to take FM 1251 to the east to meet US 79, then take US 79 west to FM 1798.
7. Go south on FM 1798 until you meet up with US 259.
8. Take US 259 south into Nacogdoches (make sure to take Business US 259 into town)
|Pecan Point was the first American settlement along the western Red River. It would later be a plantation before a flash flood obliterated the
house and outbuildings.
|North of Fulton, travelers on Trammel's Trace would link to Washington, Arkansas via the "Southwest Trail."
|An 1840s map shows the Trammel Trace's trajectory through the Red River Valley. Notice that several "roads" made up Trammel's trace.
Branches went to Jonesboro and Fulton. (Library of Congress)