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Getting Around in Early-19th Century Texas


TheNiche

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Having read several books on subjects related to 19th century Texas, including one on military history, one on immigration patterns, and two about the 1900 Storm, I've noticed that although the movement of people and goods is always a recurring theme, there is very little discussion regarding the type or placement of transportation infrastructure. There seem to be plenty of resources documenting the development of various railroads in Texas (if you know where to look), and the old alignments are easily witnessed in all sorts of urban and rural environments, even when the old rights of way have since been abandoned.

But with precious few exceptions, the precise characteristics and placement of roads, river crossings and ferries receives little discussion. There is no effort made to describe the width or permanency of a path perhaps carved by Indians, improved by settlers, and later parceled off onto private property, subsequently fenced, and left to become overgrown and to all but disappear over time. Nor is there typically any attempt (to my knowledge) to describe with precision where these paths were.

Does anybody have any resources that discuss this subject matter?

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One old path I've read about while doing research on family history is Trammel's Trace, which ran from Arkansas to Nacogdoches. Here's a link to a presentation on the Trace http://www.trammelstrace.org/

That brings to mind another one that I read about when I was researching the Neches River for my trip last December.

There was a point in time when Mexico was concerned about illegal immigration coming across the River into their territories and so they attempted to set up a string of forts, the most notable of which was Fort Teran. It was situated along the Kisatchie Wold, a ridge that runs from Mississippi to the Rio Grande Valley and that posed a major barrier to north-south movement through east Texas. Indian trails ran along the ridge and used river valleys as among the few viable north-south crossing points, and over time those became increasingly used by white settlers. But after the abandonment of Fort Teran, nature so completely covered it up that the exact location of the fort is disputed. The article I linked to doesn't create that impression, but there are other sources that claim that the historical marker is in the wrong place. Needless to say, identifying the precise location of the old trail would prove difficult.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Having read several books on subjects related to 19th century Texas, including one on military history, one on immigration patterns, and two about the 1900 Storm, I've noticed that although the movement of people and goods is always a recurring theme, there is very little discussion regarding the type or placement of transportation infrastructure. There seem to be plenty of resources documenting the development of various railroads in Texas (if you know where to look), and the old alignments are easily witnessed in all sorts of urban and rural environments, even when the old rights of way have since been abandoned.

But with precious few exceptions, the precise characteristics and placement of roads, river crossings and ferries receives little discussion. There is no effort made to describe the width or permanency of a path perhaps carved by Indians, improved by settlers, and later parceled off onto private property, subsequently fenced, and left to become overgrown and to all but disappear over time. Nor is there typically any attempt (to my knowledge) to describe with precision where these paths were.

Does anybody have any resources that discuss this subject matter?

I found a early wagon road that was very interesting to me, and may be of interest to some other readers. I was researching a piece of

property in east Texas that is just down the Sulphur river from Eppersons Ferry on Trammels Trace. The Deed was from The Repulic Of Texas Land Office aorund 1838 for a tract of land that was on the U. S. and Republic Of Texas border, saving a 6 Vara (16.66') strip, along the border, wide enough for two wagons to pass. The old road bed is still visible today.

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You may be able to find what you're looking for in the Handbook of Texas. There is a wealth of info here about historical Texas. When you get in, just do a search on what you're interested in finding.

I use the Handbook all the time! It's an awesome resource. ...but it has its limits. For instance, the only available image it has associated with "Houston, TX" is a low-res hand-drawn bird's-eye view from the north. You can't even discern street names, much less make out buildings from their features. In fact, eBay is a better source for such images because there are folks on there selling prints of reproduced historical documents. Another limitation is that it cannot depict road conditions or alignments, especially from way back.

There's not a great deal of discussion that pertains to the roads of that era. General commentary can be found on the section about "Highway Development", and discussion of the old Camino Real system provides some detail and cites several sources, but is still pretty superficial treatment of the subject. Finding out information about the road systems in a local area so that I know which road names to search for is difficult, too.

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I found a early wagon road that was very interesting to me, and may be of interest to some other readers. I was researching a piece of

property in east Texas that is just down the Sulphur river from Eppersons Ferry on Trammels Trace. The Deed was from The Repulic Of Texas Land Office aorund 1838 for a tract of land that was on the U. S. and Republic Of Texas border, saving a 6 Vara (16.66') strip, along the border, wide enough for two wagons to pass. The old road bed is still visible today.

Can you give coordinates so that I can see it from Google Earth? I think that I might have luck using aerial photography with many old routes, but I need a base-line comparison to make it work.

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Can you give coordinates so that I can see it from Google Earth? I think that I might have luck using aerial photography with many old routes, but I need a base-line comparison to make it work.

Something else to consider is how river channels have changed in the last 200 years or so. Many roads would have converged at fords or ferries during this period and if you can determine their locations then you might be able to use those as base points for tracing roads in and out via aerials. My family records indicate one of my ancestors ran a ferry in the 1830's at or near Egypt, Texas (northwest of Wharton) which is close enough to check out in person, though I haven't yet. Maps of the period will probably indicate ferries and fords as these would have been important junctions in the days before bridges were commonly built. Another resource for this might be local historical societies (many small towns and counties have them) where the locals might have some knowledge of old roads.

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Something else to consider is how river channels have changed in the last 200 years or so. Many roads would have converged at fords or ferries during this period and if you can determine their locations then you might be able to use those as base points for tracing roads in and out via aerials. My family records indicate one of my ancestors ran a ferry in the 1830's at or near Egypt, Texas (northwest of Wharton) which is close enough to check out in person, though I haven't yet. Maps of the period will probably indicate ferries and fords as these would have been important junctions in the days before bridges were commonly built. Another resource for this might be local historical societies (many small towns and counties have them) where the locals might have some knowledge of old roads.

Hmmm, maybe by using old surveys and property tax records, you could peice together just exactly how the river has meandered about. Unfortunately, though, I'm sure that it's swept away any trace of thousands of crossings.

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Hmmm, maybe by using old surveys and property tax records, you could peice together just exactly how the river has meandered about. Unfortunately, though, I'm sure that it's swept away any trace of thousands of crossings.

Maybe, but you might also be able to see the physical evidence of the shifts on an aerial.

The more I think about it the more I suspect you should contact some local historical societies in places you think a road might have run. Since the people involved in that sort of organization are usually older locals they may well remember old roads from their youth and/or from things they were told by their parents and grandparents. My father passed down to me some local history of the area where my great grandparents settled north of the hill country in the late 1800 - early 1900's that I would not have otherwise known. The info is probably around, but offline. A lot of the towns with a historical society also have an archive or small museum to display the artifacts and local trivia. Since Houston is on the eastern edge of Austin's first colony, we are within easy driving distance of the areas that were first settled by Anglo settlers in the early 1800's. You could probably plot a day trip to the west of Houston that would cover a number of these settlements to do some research.

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Hmmm, maybe by using old surveys and property tax records, you could peice together just exactly how the river has meandered about. Unfortunately, though, I'm sure that it's swept away any trace of thousands of crossings.

In the days before the Texas revolution and probably for a while after that the crossings in the entire state probably numbered in the dozens up to maybe a hundred or two. Remember in those days much of Texas was wilderness and there really weren't that many long-distance roads. That's why capturing and holding river crossings was a major concern of military strategy in those days. They were choke points precisely because there weren't that many roads or crossings.

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I used to date a woman whose direct descendant was Jesse Burnham. He was the 13th person to sign up with The Old 300 of Austin’s colony. Burnham’s grant was outside LaGrange along the Colorado where he opened a store as well as operated a ferry.

While never on good terms with Sam Houston, they became bitter enemies when, in the course of the Runaway Scrape, Houston had all of Burnham’s buildings burned, and then burned the ferry after the army crossed the river.

All of this is well documented. The ferry had to have been on a major road of the day. However, no one knows the exact location of Burnham’s Crossing. The probable location is on private property, and the marker is along a public road a good ways from the river. We found all this out while searching for information on Jesse.

Since then I have wondered how such an important piece of Texas History could be lost. There could be all sorts of reasons why, but the best reason I can come up with is that it just wasn’t all that important after the Revolution.

The reason I believe that is because of the history of the Alamo following its fall. No one gave much thought to preservation back then. The Long Barracks were rebuilt, but much of the work was done as a sales gimmick when the structure was used as retail space.

This lack of incentive to preserve is probably why old major routes were all but forgotten. No one really cared, until the country was struck with a desire for nostalgia about their past. .

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Hmmm, maybe by using old surveys and property tax records, you could peice together just exactly how the river has meandered about. Unfortunately, though, I'm sure that it's swept away any trace of thousands of crossings.

You know, you might also be able to devine some routes by plats, if they exist, of early land grants. I've seen some old plats that showed adjoining roads and from that you might be able to figure out exact locations. Best guess for that would be county courthouses or the state archives.

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Maybe, but you might also be able to see the physical evidence of the shifts on an aerial.

The more I think about it the more I suspect you should contact some local historical societies in places you think a road might have run. Since the people involved in that sort of organization are usually older locals they may well remember old roads from their youth and/or from things they were told by their parents and grandparents. My father passed down to me some local history of the area where my great grandparents settled north of the hill country in the late 1800 - early 1900's that I would not have otherwise known. The info is probably around, but offline. A lot of the towns with a historical society also have an archive or small museum to display the artifacts and local trivia. Since Houston is on the eastern edge of Austin's first colony, we are within easy driving distance of the areas that were first settled by Anglo settlers in the early 1800's. You could probably plot a day trip to the west of Houston that would cover a number of these settlements to do some research.

...yeah, but I'm really more of an armchair historian. I like to know things, but I don't want to expend much effort.

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  • 5 months later...

But with precious few exceptions, the precise characteristics and placement of roads, river crossings and ferries receives little discussion. There is no effort made to describe the width or permanency of a path perhaps carved by Indians, improved by settlers, and later parceled off onto private property, subsequently fenced, and left to become overgrown and to all but disappear over time. Nor is there typically any attempt (to my knowledge) to describe with precision where these paths were.

Does anybody have any resources that discuss this subject matter?

I have done some research on this but mostly in central texas. All I know about houston roads are that washington and san felipe once were the roads that started to those two places. Most of my work has been in Burnet county. here is what I know.

County road commissions existed from soon after counties were formed. They subdivided the counties into precincts, and appointed supervisors. Labor was drafted using the corvee system. What this meant was if you were related to a commissioner, you got the supervisor job, and you drafted everyone on the road to work for a few days a year, or they could hire someone to replace you. The supervisors were paid. The county road commissions met monthly to decide what construction needed to be done, but the work was all done by amateurs. The notes detail the pre-engineered wagon roads of the county.

Wagon roads were narrow, they had a high crown to shed water. If two wagons met, one would pull over. Corners were turned at 90 degrees. Right of ways were barely two wagons wide.

In 1915 the first Federal Aid to highways was passed. This gave funding for road construction to any state that had highway depts. That meant the northeast got it all. The south resisted. The govenor of alabama stated in 1915 that the states constitution forbade the goverment from participating in any form of public improvement. Texas formed its highway dept in 1918. Sometime after that roads got classified, numbered, and the old routes were obscured by the new engineered road. Long story.

When I took the current highway map for Burnet county and dated its road segments by various means I discovered that most of the old route geography still existed, but was obscured. For instance, the national road of texas was called various things at various places, ie stagecoach lane, county road xx, state highway xx, US highway 183. The original route had been maintained by different entities. Only in one case was there a road that completely dissapeared, and that was a military road that was only used 5 years.

More interesting, todays route geography is a composite of all past route geographies. Once I reconstructed the roads around dates or periods, I could understand the spatial logic of the road system: it connected places that were important at that time, but what places were important changed with various factors, such as the coming of the railroad, the paving of the US highway system. These were not small changes: burnet has about 5 named cities in it today, Burnet, marble Falls, Bertram, Briggs, Oakalla, but in 1860 it had nearly 20. When the railroad came the population drifted to the towns that had sidings. When the automobile road came the same thing happened again.

My advice is to start with a early automobile map or a preautomobile map such as one from before 1920. Then work backwards using historical sources. Even secondary sources such as county histories can be useful for finding out the names of a few roads.

Two other considerations: before goverments purchased rights of ways roads could shift in location. So the camino real was not a fixed, surveyed route but rather a series of road segments that, depending on the weather, would get you across the countryside. We know that the oregon trail is actually 200 miles wide at its widest point, between the northernmost route, and the southernmost.

Also, roads often were named from each community. For instance, in Burnet there was the Belton road. As it passed through florence it was called the burnet belton road. In belton it was called the burnet road.

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I have done some research on this but mostly in central texas. All I know about houston roads are that washington and san felipe once were the roads that started to those two places. Most of my work has been in Burnet county. here is what I know.

County road commissions existed from soon after counties were formed. They subdivided the counties into precincts, and appointed supervisors. Labor was drafted using the corvee system. What this meant was if you were related to a commissioner, you got the supervisor job, and you drafted everyone on the road to work for a few days a year, or they could hire someone to replace you. The supervisors were paid. The county road commissions met monthly to decide what construction needed to be done, but the work was all done by amateurs. The notes detail the pre-engineered wagon roads of the county.

Wagon roads were narrow, they had a high crown to shed water. If two wagons met, one would pull over. Corners were turned at 90 degrees. Right of ways were barely two wagons wide.

In 1915 the first Federal Aid to highways was passed. This gave funding for road construction to any state that had highway depts. That meant the northeast got it all. The south resisted. The govenor of alabama stated in 1915 that the states constitution forbade the goverment from participating in any form of public improvement. Texas formed its highway dept in 1918. Sometime after that roads got classified, numbered, and the old routes were obscured by the new engineered road. Long story.

When I took the current highway map for Burnet county and dated its road segments by various means I discovered that most of the old route geography still existed, but was obscured. For instance, the national road of texas was called various things at various places, ie stagecoach lane, county road xx, state highway xx, US highway 183. The original route had been maintained by different entities. Only in one case was there a road that completely dissapeared, and that was a military road that was only used 5 years.

More interesting, todays route geography is a composite of all past route geographies. Once I reconstructed the roads around dates or periods, I could understand the spatial logic of the road system: it connected places that were important at that time, but what places were important changed with various factors, such as the coming of the railroad, the paving of the US highway system. These were not small changes: burnet has about 5 named cities in it today, Burnet, marble Falls, Bertram, Briggs, Oakalla, but in 1860 it had nearly 20. When the railroad came the population drifted to the towns that had sidings. When the automobile road came the same thing happened again.

My advice is to start with a early automobile map or a preautomobile map such as one from before 1920. Then work backwards using historical sources. Even secondary sources such as county histories can be useful for finding out the names of a few roads.

Two other considerations: before goverments purchased rights of ways roads could shift in location. So the camino real was not a fixed, surveyed route but rather a series of road segments that, depending on the weather, would get you across the countryside. We know that the oregon trail is actually 200 miles wide at its widest point, between the northernmost route, and the southernmost.

Also, roads often were named from each community. For instance, in Burnet there was the Belton road. As it passed through florence it was called the burnet belton road. In belton it was called the burnet road.

EXCELLENT POST!

This explains some of the oddities that I've encountered driving on county roads, including the senseless 90-degree curves...at least, it sort of does. Was there a method to the madness in the 19th century? It just seems like they should've been aware of the hypotenuse at that time.

Do you still have all the documentation from your research? I'd really like to see the "spatial logic". I've got a collection of dozens of official state road maps, but they only go back as far as 1938. And obviously, they lack precision.

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EXCELLENT POST!

This explains some of the oddities that I've encountered driving on county roads, including the senseless 90-degree curves...at least, it sort of does. Was there a method to the madness in the 19th century? It just seems like they should've been aware of the hypotenuse at that time.

Do you still have all the documentation from your research? I'd really like to see the "spatial logic". I've got a collection of dozens of official state road maps, but they only go back as far as 1938. And obviously, they lack precision.

Niche, I had a friend who passed away @ 2-3 years ago, who was a civil engineer all his life, and was fascinated with just what you're researching. I had earned him interviews with several of the old timers in Fort Bend County before they passed on. He had walked the old Thompson's Road, which lead to Thompson's Ferry, and across the Brazos into Sugarland. Part of the old road is still being used to go to Thompson's, but the obscure part is on private property, which slopes down to where the ferry was. This road was also a famous cattle route for several of the largest ranches driving cattle across the Brazos there at the ferry, and then onward through where BelAir is today, then all the way to Roundrock. They would join up there, and move North on the old Chisholm Trail. I knew Lightin' Autry, who rode as a cowboy on the last long drive to Kansas. He told us all about these things. There were many other old timers that I knew well - all passed on now. I'll check with my friend's wife, and see if they kept any of his historic road maps, and see if we can go over them. There are many historic, and obscure roads out there in Fort Bend County, but you'll have Hell gettin' access to see them, and also finding anyone extant that can help you really. The stories of these old roads are fascinating to me as well, from the cowboy perspective. They ( The old cowboys ) had different songs they would sing on different trails, or roads. So, if they were heading down the Line to work, they sang a song lead by Obediah ( Working cowboy ), then sang different songs for the return trip in the evening going home. They also had some pretty risque songs for the old road to Sandy Point, to visit the ladies of the night... etc. etc. etc. There's a ton of great history surrounding your topic, laced with a heavy layer of the romance of early Texas. I'll see what I can find, and get back to you.

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Also, roads often were named from each community. For instance, in Burnet there was the Belton road. As it passed through florence it was called the burnet belton road. In belton it was called the burnet road.

You still see that in Houston. Here's 2 examples.

1. In the old Bammel area near FM 1960, there's the Bammel-N. Houston Rd. Once you drive south to the old North Houston, it becomes Champion Forest. After leaving the old North Houston area, again going south, it becomes N. Houston-Rosslyn Rd. until it terminates at Antoine in the old Rosslyn area.

2. Just north of the old town of Almeda, W. Fuqua turns into Almeda-Genoa Rd. Driving east along Almeda-Genoa away from Almeda, you cross through Minnetex to Telephone Rd. and into the Genoa area. Once you continue past Genoa, Almeda-Genoa crosses I-45 into South Houston and becomes S. Shaver.

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Niche, I had a friend who passed away @ 2-3 years ago, who was a civil engineer all his life, and was fascinated with just what you're researching. I had earned him interviews with several of the old timers in Fort Bend County before they passed on. He had walked the old Thompson's Road, which lead to Thompson's Ferry, and across the Brazos into Sugarland. Part of the old road is still being used to go to Thompson's, but the obscure part is on private property, which slopes down to where the ferry was. This road was also a famous cattle route for several of the largest ranches driving cattle across the Brazos there at the ferry, and then onward through where BelAir is today, then all the way to Roundrock. They would join up there, and move North on the old Chisholm Trail. I knew Lightin' Autry, who rode as a cowboy on the last long drive to Kansas. He told us all about these things. There were many other old timers that I knew well - all passed on now. I'll check with my friend's wife, and see if they kept any of his historic road maps, and see if we can go over them. There are many historic, and obscure roads out there in Fort Bend County, but you'll have Hell gettin' access to see them, and also finding anyone extant that can help you really. The stories of these old roads are fascinating to me as well, from the cowboy perspective. They ( The old cowboys ) had different songs they would sing on different trails, or roads. So, if they were heading down the Line to work, they sang a song lead by Obediah ( Working cowboy ), then sang different songs for the return trip in the evening going home. They also had some pretty risque songs for the old road to Sandy Point, to visit the ladies of the night... etc. etc. etc. There's a ton of great history surrounding your topic, laced with a heavy layer of the romance of early Texas. I'll see what I can find, and get back to you.

Wow, that's pretty cool. I've got an interest in Thompson's Ferry because of its significance in the Texas Revolution. That's where the Mexican Army under General Cos crossed en route to San Jacinto. I just hope that the developers of Sienna Plantation did adequate archeological investigation before they started work out there. There'd no doubt be plenty of artifacts. Yet, I have to wonder whether the Thompson's Ferry that was used in the latter-19th century was at the same location as the one from the Revolution.

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You still see that in Houston. Here's 2 examples.

1. In the old Bammel area near FM 1960, there's the Bammel-N. Houston Rd. Once you drive south to the old North Houston, it becomes Champion Forest. After leaving the old North Houston area, again going south, it becomes N. Houston-Rosslyn Rd. until it terminates at Antoine in the old Rosslyn area.

2. Just north of the old town of Almeda, W. Fuqua turns into Almeda-Genoa Rd. Driving east along Almeda-Genoa away from Almeda, you cross through Minnetex to Telephone Rd. and into the Genoa area. Once you continue past Genoa, Almeda-Genoa crosses I-45 into South Houston and becomes S. Shaver.

There are plenty of others. Richmond, Addicks-Satsuma, Aldine-Westfield, Spring-Stuebner, Hufsmith-Conroe, Decker Prairie-Rosehill, Cypress-Rosehill, Barker-Cypress, Conroe-Porter, Old Houston Rd., Aldine-Bender Rd., Huffman-Cleveland...and oh so many more. What I'm most curious about is how these old routes have been incrementally realigned over the decades and centuries. And why.

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EXCELLENT POST!

This explains some of the oddities that I've encountered driving on county roads, including the senseless 90-degree curves...at least, it sort of does. Was there a method to the madness in the 19th century? It just seems like they should've been aware of the hypotenuse at that time.

Do you still have all the documentation from your research? I'd really like to see the "spatial logic". I've got a collection of dozens of official state road maps, but they only go back as far as 1938. And obviously, they lack precision.

The method was that the roads would follow property boundary surveys. So 90 degree turns were common before the engineering of highways, and before the transition from wagon road to automobile road. The transition by the way, occured in two stages. First engineers designed roads like rr. The result was no consideration for the fact that cars could swerve. Examples in the houston area are very narrow rr underpasses, there used to be one on the west side of downtown and others on the old galveston highway. Other examples are extremely deep ditches with no right of way: you are either in the ditch or on the road. The examples I use in my classes of these two are from houston. If you see them, it means the road was engineered between 1918 and about 1930. By the early 1930s, Jac Gubbels wrote a book on road side design and talked about the evolution of the right of way and the streamlining of ditches on either side.

My research on Burnet resulted in a GIS database that would need to be rebuilt in order to take snapshots of the various route geographies. I will work on doing that and post it but it might take months to do, given my current schedule. The key route geographies were 1)Republic of Texas, 2)Early statehood, 3)Comming of the RR 4)after the new deal road construction

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There are plenty of others. Richmond, Addicks-Satsuma, Aldine-Westfield, Spring-Stuebner, Hufsmith-Conroe, Decker Prairie-Rosehill, Cypress-Rosehill, Barker-Cypress, Conroe-Porter, Old Houston Rd., Aldine-Bender Rd., Huffman-Cleveland...and oh so many more. What I'm most curious about is how these old routes have been incrementally realigned over the decades and centuries. And why.

After the creation of the state highway department, highway design was professionalized, with engineers taking over. So the first thing that happened was routes were straightened, ditches developed and deepened, because circa 1918 engineers knew about rr but not automobiles as of yet. The result was narrow roadsides, narrow underpasses, steep ditches, straight roads and long gradients. Cars initially had a top speed of 35, then 50. This drove rethinking the auto road. Bewteen 1920 and 1940 the design community incrementally widened and streamlined rights of way, including ditches and shoulders. Since this all required a large investment of capital, engineered roads occur on publicly owned right of ways, which could be expanded.

Note that during the New Deal, road construction was a quick way of creating employment everywhere. Gifford Pinchot as governor of Pennsylvania had every road in the state put into the state system and covered with asphalt. Roosevelt saw this and paved the nations blue highways. This means that very often the preengineered road was simply paved, or the rr inspired road was simply paved. In these cases redesign comes later. One can then look at a road and determine whether it is

a) a paved wagon road

B) an early rr inspired engineered road

c) a road designed around the full potential of the automobile (design speed, banked curve, variable median strip, wide right of way, engineered shoulder)

d) a road designed around some of the elements of automobile design

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I found a early wagon road that was very interesting to me, and may be of interest to some other readers. I was researching a piece of

property in east Texas that is just down the Sulphur river from Eppersons Ferry on Trammels Trace. The Deed was from The Repulic Of Texas Land Office aorund 1838 for a tract of land that was on the U. S. and Republic Of Texas border, saving a 6 Vara (16.66') strip, along the border, wide enough for two wagons to pass. The old road bed is still visible today.

[/quot

I have been wanting to researching Trammels trace from the arkansaw border, where it connnected to the last extension of the National Road, which ran basically from Memphis to Fulton, Austins farm and steamboat landing, near texarkana. From Texarkana south it is mostly along the route of various current highways, I was unaware that sections of the old trace still existed. That trace section should be a candidate for the national register!

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You know, you might also be able to devine some routes by plats, if they exist, of early land grants. I've seen some old plats that showed adjoining roads and from that you might be able to figure out exact locations. Best guess for that would be county courthouses or the state archives.

The earliest 15 minute USGS topographic maps may show major survey boundaries, such as section lines. There is a shapefile that can be downloaded from the Texas Land Office that shows the original land grants, where land went from the public domain into private property, for each county. Very often roads are at the boundaries of surveys of properties. For researching the roads around houston I would start with the oldest 15 minute maps which are approximately from the mid 1920s, still early in the period of reengineering the wagon roads to auto roads, considering that the state highway dept was not created until 1918, i think.

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I found a early wagon road that was very interesting to me, and may be of interest to some other readers. I was researching a piece of

property in east Texas that is just down the Sulphur river from Eppersons Ferry on Trammels Trace. The Deed was from The Repulic Of Texas Land Office aorund 1838 for a tract of land that was on the U. S. and Republic Of Texas border, saving a 6 Vara (16.66') strip, along the border, wide enough for two wagons to pass. The old road bed is still visible today.

[/quot

I have been wanting to researching Trammels trace from the arkansaw border, where it connnected to the last extension of the National Road, which ran basically from Memphis to Fulton, Austins farm and steamboat landing, near texarkana. From Texarkana south it is mostly along the route of various current highways, I was unaware that sections of the old trace still existed. That trace section should be a candidate for the national register!

I've seen some research on Trammels Trace. I ran across it doing family history - Nicholas Trammel Jr, who blazed the trace, is my (and a bunch of others of others) g-g-g-grandfather. He was not a very popular guy with some of the early Texas leaders because of his penchant for stirring up trouble. The Trace was a main route into Texas for early settlers, following old Indian paths, etc. Nick Trammel returned to Texas later in life, and died in Gonzales County in the 1850's. His son Nathaniel settled somewhere between Harwood and Luling.

Another resource for roads is the old census records. The late 1800's forms have some sort of reference to the road people lived on.

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I've seen some research on Trammels Trace. I ran across it doing family history - Nicholas Trammel Jr, who blazed the trace, is my (and a bunch of others of others) g-g-g-grandfather. He was not a very popular guy with some of the early Texas leaders because of his penchant for stirring up trouble. The Trace was a main route into Texas for early settlers, following old Indian paths, etc. Nick Trammel returned to Texas later in life, and died in Gonzales County in the 1850's. His son Nathaniel settled somewhere between Harwood and Luling.

Another resource for roads is the old census records. The late 1800's forms have some sort of reference to the road people lived on.

Do you mean the manuscript census? I had not considered that, but if you had property records and suspected that someone lived off a road, that might work. It would be vague about the location of the road, and it would be the name of the road the year of the census.

In fact, Trammels trace is the main road that connects the national road of the US (Arkansas extension) to the Camino Real. As such it would be the main overland route from anywhere north and east of Louisiana in the late 1830s on.

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The usefulness of the road information in the census will vary depending on the location. On some census records, I've been able to locate the roads on a modern map. On others, I've merely come close. Most of the records I've looked at are for Fayette, Gonzales, and Matagorda Counties, as that's where my ancestors were living. My Dad has done some work on Wharton County.

A great resource for superimposing modern roads over the old abstract maps is the Railroad Commission GIS site, which lets you choose what features to show. It's mostly meant for locating oil and gas wells, but does a great job showing the abstract boundaries and roads too. And, it's a lot cheaper than trying to get the maps from Dwights or PI. The Clayton Library in Midtown has a bunch of old oil and gas maps showing property ownership from various times. Those can be useful too.

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Niche, I had a friend who passed away @ 2-3 years ago, who was a civil engineer all his life, and was fascinated with just what you're researching. I had earned him interviews with several of the old timers in Fort Bend County before they passed on. He had walked the old Thompson's Road, which lead to Thompson's Ferry, and across the Brazos into Sugarland. Part of the old road is still being used to go to Thompson's, but the obscure part is on private property, which slopes down to where the ferry was. This road was also a famous cattle route for several of the largest ranches driving cattle across the Brazos there at the ferry, and then onward through where BelAir is today, then all the way to Roundrock. They would join up there, and move North on the old Chisholm Trail. I knew Lightin' Autry, who rode as a cowboy on the last long drive to Kansas. He told us all about these things. There were many other old timers that I knew well - all passed on now. I'll check with my friend's wife, and see if they kept any of his historic road maps, and see if we can go over them. There are many historic, and obscure roads out there in Fort Bend County, but you'll have Hell gettin' access to see them, and also finding anyone extant that can help you really. The stories of these old roads are fascinating to me as well, from the cowboy perspective. They ( The old cowboys ) had different songs they would sing on different trails, or roads. So, if they were heading down the Line to work, they sang a song lead by Obediah ( Working cowboy ), then sang different songs for the return trip in the evening going home. They also had some pretty risque songs for the old road to Sandy Point, to visit the ladies of the night... etc. etc. etc. There's a ton of great history surrounding your topic, laced with a heavy layer of the romance of early Texas. I'll see what I can find, and get back to you.

Niche, I'm sorry to report that my friend's wife, and family had given all his work away, or threw it out. They really didn't appreciate these topics, and after his death, they didn't care about much. I did give it the old college try though. Have you contacted the archealogical society in Ft. Bend County? I'm sure they would have some valuable collections, and stories to relate as well. Good luck, and thanks for bringing this up, I'm really enjoying reading the posts.

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Niche, I have a CD I just found while looking for something else. I purchased it about three years ago. It has lots of old maps and links that might be of interest to you. I have attached the label. If you would like to look at it, PM me and I will mail it to you. You may keep it as long as you need it (within reason). If anyone else here is interested, you can pass it along when you are through with it.

AntiqueMapsCDre.jpg

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The following link is one that I use frequently when looking for maps of a historical nature. Hope it helps....

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/texas.html

I have referenced this site numerous times, and I spend hours pouring over old maps found there. The ones that would best fit this thread would be the Topographic Maps. They were created in specific years, the earliest I found being around 1898-99. Other series include the years around 1915, 1947, 1955, and on into more recent years.

Most of the maps cover the same area so that you can pull up the same area for different years and switch from one to the other to see how the roads changed over time.

Houston is divided into six main areas. The northwestern section is Houston Heights. The map to the east is Settegast, which includes downtown. You can find adjacent maps by looking at the border of the one you are viewing. In the center and in the right margin of the Heights map you will see “Settegast”. At the corners of the maps show the map areas diagonally from the one viewed.

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That brings to mind another one that I read about when I was researching the Neches River for my trip last December. There was a point in time when Mexico was concerned about illegal immigration coming across the River into their territories and so they attempted to set up a string of forts, the most notable of which was Fort Teran. It was situated along the Kisatchie Wold, a ridge that runs from Mississippi to the Rio Grande Valley and that posed a major barrier to north-south movement through east Texas. Indian trails ran along the ridge and used river valleys as among the few viable north-south crossing points, and over time those became increasingly used by white settlers. But after the abandonment of Fort Teran, nature so completely covered it up that the exact location of the fort is disputed. The article I linked to doesn't create that impression, but there are other sources that claim that the historical marker is in the wrong place. Needless to say, identifying the precise location of the old trail would prove difficult.

Hey Niche you may be interested in a website I've discovered. It's put together by an amateur historian in Tyler County in east Texas. It's a pretty comprehensive accumulation of Tyler County history, as you will see, but if you scroll down you'll find the results of his search for the site of Fort Teran, including some photographs.

Enjoy. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txtyler/misc/tyler_links.htm

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That brings to mind another one that I read about when I was researching the Neches River for my trip last December. There was a point in time when Mexico was concerned about illegal immigration coming across the River into their territories and so they attempted to set up a string of forts, the most notable of which was Fort Teran. It was situated along the Kisatchie Wold, a ridge that runs from Mississippi to the Rio Grande Valley and that posed a major barrier to north-south movement through east Texas. Indian trails ran along the ridge and used river valleys as among the few viable north-south crossing points, and over time those became increasingly used by white settlers. But after the abandonment of Fort Teran, nature so completely covered it up that the exact location of the fort is disputed. The article I linked to doesn't create that impression, but there are other sources that claim that the historical marker is in the wrong place. Needless to say, identifying the precise location of the old trail would prove difficult.

Hey Niche you may be interested in a website I've discovered. It's put together by an amateur historian in Tyler County in east Texas. It's a pretty comprehensive accumulation of Tyler County history, as you will see, but if you scroll down you'll find the results of his search for the site of Fort Teran, including some photographs.

Enjoy. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~txtyler/misc/tyler_links.htm

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