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Texas Handbook Online

A joint project between the General Libraries of the University of Texas and the Texas Historical Association


By Howard N Martin


The Alabama Trace was an Indian trail that extended from a point on the Old San Antonio Roadqv about three miles west of what is now San Augustine, Texas, to the Lower Coushatta Village (Colita's Villageqv) on the Trinity River in what is now San Jacinto County. The route of this trail is shown on Stephen F. Austin'sqv memorandum for a map of Texas in 1827. Surveyors' passing calls in field notes for original land surveys in selected East Texas counties confirm the location of this trail, which passed through four Alabama Indian village sites in the Texas counties of Angelina, Tyler, and Polk. From the Old San Antonio Road this trail went southwest through an Alabama village on the Angelina River near the junction of this river and Attoyac Bayou, and then crossed the Neches River at the Spanish­designated "pass to the south," where Fort Terán was constructed in 1831.

The next important locations on the Alabama Trace were the Cane Island Villageqv and the Peachtree Villageqv of the Alabamas in northwestern Tyler County, after which the trail crossed into eastern Polk County and went south along the east side of Bear Creek, passed through an abandoned Alabama village on what is now the Alabama­Coushatta Indian Reservation, went through a prominent Indian campground at the junction of Big Sandy Creek and Bear Creek, and from this point went on south to terminate at the Colita Village of the Coushatta Indians on the Trinity River. The Alabama Trace was used extensively not only by Indians but also by illegal immigrants and contraband traders who entered Spanish Texasqv from Louisiana on the Old San Antonio Road. They found that they could avoid Spanish military patrols operating from Nacogdoches by using out­of­the­way trails such as the Alabama Trace to bypass Nacogdoches. During the Republic of Texasqv period, Samuel T. Belt began operating a ferry across the Neches River at the Fort Terán site. Stagecoaches traveling from Houston to San Augustine went via Montgomery, Swartwout, Livingston, and the Fort Terán site, and then used a segment of the Alabama Trace for the remainder of the trip to San Augustine.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ellen Marshall, Some Phases of the Establishment and Development of Roads in Texas, 1718-1845 (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1934). Howard N. Martin, "Polk County Indians: Alabamas, Coushattas, Pakana Muskogees," East Texas Historical Journal 17 (1979). Stephen F. Austin's Memorandum for a Map of Texas, 1827 (S. F. Austin Collection, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin).

Howard N. Martin


The Coushatta Trace was a road from Louisiana into Texas that was used by the Coushatta Indians in their hunting and trading activities. It was an important middle road between the better­known and Spanish­patrolled Atascosito Roadqv along the Texas coast and the Old San Antonio Roadqv farther inland. The first group of Coushattas migrated to Louisiana in approximately 1766, following a group of Alabamas who had established a village on the Opelousas River and soon thereafter established a large village on the Sabine River near the mouth of Quicksand Creek. They opened a path from their village southwestward to La Bahía,qv and perhaps farther, known to early American settlers as the Coushatta Trace. This trail was not much more than a narrow path barely suitable for riders on horseback. In the field notes for a survey of a tract of land now in Polk County a Mexican surveyor called a section of this trail a sendal or footpath. It led to the best crossings of streams or rivers and proceeded straight across the country. Gen. Sam Houstonqv chose the route at its crossing of the Brazos in his retreat in 1836. Trains of packmules loaded with merchandise in transit from Louisiana to Mexico used the route, and field notes for some of the surveys along the Coushatta Trace refer to it as the "contraband trace." There is no indication that the Coushatta Trace was ever patrolled by Spanish or Mexican military units, and it probably was a favorite route for contraband traders. Also, the trail was used by several early settlers coming into Stephen F. Austin'sqv colony. Jared E. Groce,qv one of the Old Three Hundredqv colonists, moved to Texas in 1821 and established a settlement in the area that is now Waller County at the crossing of the Coushatta Trace and the Brazos River. Francis Hollandqv also traveled the Coushatta Trace from Louisiana to Austin's colony in 1822 with a large party of relatives.

In organizing the Austin colony for governmental purposes, the ayuntamientoqv of San Felipe used portions of the Coushatta Trace to establish boundaries of the Bastrop and Viesca precincts. Titles or grants to land, beginning in 1821, frequently refer to the Coushatta Trace to establish location. For example, Merrit M. Coates, on July 19, 1824, received title to a square league of land on the east side of the Brazos, 2½ linear leagues above the Coushatta crossing. The deed records of Austin County for July 13, 1824, show that land about a quarter league above the Coushatta crossing of the Brazos was granted to William Smeathers (see SMOTHERS, WILLIAM).

Although the Coushatta Trace and the Atascosito Road were the most important roads through Austin's colony, the actual route of the Coushatta Trace has been discovered only generally and recently. After tracing indications of the route on surveyor's field notes for 3,000 land grants in the Texas counties along the probable route, Howard N. Martin identified a map of the trace. The trail extended from the Coushatta village on the Sabine River through the area of ten present Texas counties and merged with the Atascosito Road in Colorado County. From the Coushatta village on the Sabine River, one major trail led eastward to Opelousas, Louisiana, and another, the Coushatta-Nacogdoches Trace,qv extended northwestward to the post of Nacogdoches, where the Coushattas traded and received presents from the Spanish. The Coushatta Trace began at the village on the Sabine and proceeded through the area of present Newton and Jasper counties, using the same path as the Coushatta­Nacogdoches Trace, to the Kisatchie Wold.qv It then turned westward along this ridge, crossed the Neches River near the mouth of Shawnee Creek, and passed through the Alabama Indian villages of Cane Island and Peachtreeqqv in what is now northwestern Tyler County. Continuing to follow the Kisatchie Wold westward, the Coushatta Trace moved through the site of present Moscow in Polk County, crossed the Trinity River near the Battise Villageqv of the Coushattas, and passed through the area of present San Jacinto County and the southeastern corner of Walker County.

In the area of present Montgomery County the Coushatta Trace passed along the eastern side of the San Jacinto River, crossed this river near the Iron Mound league, and turned west. It ran south of the site of present Montgomery and then passed through what is now Waller County to the Coushatta crossing of the Brazos River. A General Land Officeqv map of Austin County shows the Coushatta Trace extending from the William C. Whiteqv survey at the Coushatta crossing to the James Cumminsqv five­league mill tract south of Bellville, through the Miles N. Allenqv survey, and from there across the San Bernard River to merge with the Atascosito Road at the Rawson Alleyqv survey, on the east bank of the Colorado River in Colorado County. The merged Atascosito Road-Coushatta Trace traversed the area of several Texas counties en route to La Bahía or Goliad.

This trail became so traveled that the Mexican government erected Fort Teran in 1831 at the Coushatta Trace crossing of the Neches River as a means of controlling the movement of settlers into Texas. Later, stagecoach and horse mail routes were established along sections of this trace. When new counties were organized in Texas after 1845, one of the principal responsibilities of the commissioners' court in each county was to "view" and establish new roads, and these new roads gradually replaced the Coushatta Trace. Only a few sections of this trail remained in use in the 1990s: an example is the paved ten­mile section of Farm Road 350 west of Moscow in central Polk County.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Eugene C. Barker, ed., "Minutes of the Ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin, 1828-1832," 12 parts, Southwestern Historical Quarterly 21-24 (January 1918-October 1920). Leland C. Bement, Buried in the Bottoms: The Archeology of Lake Creek Reservoir, Montgomery County, Texas (Texas Archeological Survey, University of Texas at Austin, 1987). E. L. Blair, Early History of Grimes County (Austin, 1930). Julia Kathryn Garrett, "Dr. John Sibley and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1803-1914," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 45-49 (January 1942-April 1946). Thomas Clarence Richardson, East Texas: Its History and Its Makers (4 vols., New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1940). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

Howard N. Martin


The Coushatta­Nacogdoches Trace was a trail used primarily by Coushatta Indians on trips from their village on the Sabine River to Nacogdoches, Texas. The large village was on the east bank of the Sabine River, opposite the mouth of Quicksand Creek. Dr. John Sibley,qv the American Indian agent in Natchitoches, Louisiana, wrote that this Coushatta village was approximately eighty miles south of Natchitoches. From the village the combined Coushatta­Nacogdoches Trace and the Coushatta Traceqv ran northwestward across Newton County and northern Jasper County to the Kisatchie Wold,qv a continuous ridge from the Mississippi River floodplain to the lower Rio Grande valley in Texas. At this point the Coushatta Trace turned westward along the Kisatchie Wold, and the Coushatta­Nacogdoches Trace continued in a northwest direction, traversing southern San Augustine County, crossing Attoyac Bayou north of its confluence with the Angelina River, and continuing to Nacogdoches.

An 1820 map of Louisiana and Mississippi, published by H. S. Tanner of Philadelphia, shows the route of the trail from the Coushatta village on the Sabine River to Nacogdoches. The Spanish post of Nacogdoches was an important factor in the pattern of living developed by the Coushatta and Alabama Indian tribes in the Big Thicket.qv Nacogdoches served as governmental administration center, military post, source of supplies and presents, and a market for deer hides, bear oil, and other items sold by the Indians near Nacogdoches. The increasing significance of Coushatta contacts with this trading and distribution center led to the development of a nearly straight trail from the Coushattas' village on the Sabine to Nacogdoches. The Spanish commandant at Nacogdoches maintained a record, the Nacogdoches Diary of Daily Events, which includes references to visits of Coushattas for various purposes.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Isaac Joslin Cox, "The Louisiana-Texas Frontier," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 10, 17 (July 1906, July, October 1913). John Sibley, A Report From Natchitoches in 1807 (New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, 1922).

Howard N. Martin


The Campground Trace was an eighteen­mile-long trail connecting the Middle Coushatta Village (Long King's Villageqv) with a popular Indian camping area in eastern Polk County, Texas. From Long King's Village this trail crossed Long King Creek north of the site of present Goodrich, extended eastward across what is now central Polk County, crossed Menard Creek, and ended at the junction of Big Sandy Creek and Bear Creek, south of the present Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation. On Stephen F. Austin'sqv Memorandum for a Map of Texas, 1827, this location is shown as the site of an abandoned Alabama village. Also, the surveyor Samuel C. Hirams wrote in the field notes for his survey of land for William Nash that he began the survey at the old Indian campground. This camping site was apparently well known among the Alabama and Coushatta Indian tribes, and members of these two groups frequently used it during their hunting trips in the Big Thicketqv of East Texas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Howard N. Martin, "Polk County Indians: Alabamas, Coushattas, Pakana Muskogees," East Texas Historical Journal 17 (1979).

Howard N. Martin

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