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
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
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 unsubstantiated.
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.
Tracing the Trace
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
|If you follow the Trammel Trace, you can see some pretty old things,
like this fantastic gas pump.
|The original site of
Jonesborough is located
on private property, but
we will always have this
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 via the