All Texans know that the first Americans to move to state were patent holders who came under
Moses and Stephen F. Austin's
empressario. The 1803 Louisiana Purchase, however, brought
Americans into Texas long before the Austins did - and they settled right along the Red River!

Though Texas was Spanish territory at the time of the purchase, Thomas Jefferson and his
government deemed the Red River watershed, which drained directly into the Mississippi, to be
part of the natural boundaries of the  Louisiana Purchase.

Americans, beset on settling any land as far west as possible, seized the moment. They considered
the lands south of the Red River America. To anchor their position, the first white American men
entered northeastern Texas via an ancient buffalo crossing on the Red River in 1811.  They built a
small, guarded outpost on a peninsula jutting into the river. The settlement and the bayou
surrounding it were called Pecan Point.

Arkansas or Texas?
To avoid complications with the Spanish, the new settlers  around the Red River insisted that
the Pecan Point settlement was an extension of Miller County, Arkansas. Why would they do such a

One theory purports that the American settlers wanted to attach their land claims to an American
territory rather than a Spanish one to gain more American-held land. Or, the Americans may have
wanted to expand slavery into the far reaches of the Louisiana Territory. Other theories speculate
that this was an attempt at getting Spain out of North America (Aaron Burr, Jefferson's vice president,
had tried to do that himself, though his plan led to his infamous treason trial). Yet other historians simply
regard the claims as an honest mix-up.

Off-limits Texas
The Spanish were quite aware that Americans were invading their territory, and they were not happy about it. In a treaty negotiated by
John Qunicy Adams, American Secretary of State, and Don Luis de Onis y Gonzales, the Spanish Minister to the US, the southern
boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase were formally established. The Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 affirmed that the lands south of the Red
River were under Spanish control.

By this time, however, settlement along the southern Red River was in full swing. Jonesboro had become a ferry crossing and trading
center, and plantations were built around Pecan Point. By 1824, Indian Territory had been established, and early Choctaw, Chickasaw, and
Cherokee refugees had formed towns just north of the river.

Oddly, the Spanish did not venture much into the northeastern corner of their territory. Instead, American explorers traced the area, and
trading roads - including the Trammel Trace, which linked Jonesboro to
Nacitotches, Louisiana - were established. Jonesboro even
became the main point of entry for famous pioneers such as Sam Houston and Davy Crocket.

The Isolated Gateway
The change-over from Spanish Texas to Mexican Texas did not seem to worry the renegade American settlers along the Red River. While
Mexico granted Moses and Stephen F. Austin land to establish settlements in the south, no one took up John Cameron's
empresario along
the western Red River. This may have been due to the hostilities with the Comanches and Wichitas, as even the Spanish had hesitated to
go the western Red River where they met with the dreaded
nortenos (northern Indians).  Mexico did not grant empresarios for settlement
at all along the eastern Red River.

During the Texas Revolution,  the eastern Red River lands continued to be populated by American settlers, mainly from Tennessee,
Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky. Still convinced that they were legally an extension of Miller County, Arkansas, Northeast Texans sent
delegates to both the Arkansas and Texas constitutional conventions!

Thoroughly Texan, and Southern...
Once Texas declared it independence in 1836, Miller County (the Texas portion) was dissolved, and Clarksville (est. 1831) became the seat
for Red River County, which encompassed the entire northeastern corner of the state. Settlers started arriving in earnest, expelling the
few remaining Caddos from their ancestral lands and pushing the frontier westward. In short order, (Old) Boston, Paris, and Bonham were
established during the Republic years. The new settlers brought several slaves with them, continuing the Southern plantation system -
and the reason why Texas was admitted to the Union as a slave state.

This little-known story is definitely a needed addition to Texas history books!
An 1839 Map of the Republic of Texas, courtesy Library of Congress.
Know Your History!

This history is extremely interesting - and illuminating - for three

Firstly, it counters the traditional interpretation that American
history in Texas began with Austin's colony.

Secondly, it provides a reason behind why Northeast Texas seems
neglected by most Texan historians - its settlement was suspect.

Thirdly, it allows us to understand why Texas would claim allegiance
to the Confederacy and why culturally, the northeastern quadrant of
the state still has a decidedly Southern "flavor."
This marker in northern Red River County indicates that Sam Houston first
stepped on Texas soil at the old Red River ferry crossing site of Jonesboro.
The beautifully restored Red River County
courthouse in Clarksville houses Republic
of Texas and early statehood documents.
Want to know more about Texas history? Visit the Red River Historian Bookstore!
The First American Settlement in Texas... was not Austin's Colony!