Impact of Purchasing Louisiana
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. Jefferson's government even funded
an expedition to document the Red River, hoping that it led to Santa Fe. 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
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. Still others believed that
by claiming the land as part of the US, they could run the Indians out of it. 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
There were some settlers, however, who tied themselves to New Spain (and by 1824, Mexico) and voluntarily rescinded their American
citizenship, as they hoped to gain title to free land offered by the Mexican government when authorities decided that they could not fight
back the tide of American filibusters. Unbeknownst to them, they even signed fraudulent documents in their quest to gain legitimate title
to their lands - James Bowie and Ashley Crittenden passed phony claims amongst the anxious Americans and triggered an international
incident between the U.S. and Mexico.
At first, 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, a branch of which linked Jonesboro to Nacitotches, Louisiana - were established. Famed men
such as Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, James Bowie, and Benjamin Milam crossed into Texas via Jonesboro and Lost Prairie (Miller County)
and Fulton (Hempstead County).
|An 1839 Map of the Republic of Texas,
courtesy Library of Congress.
|Know Your History!
This history is extremely interesting - and illuminating - for three
reasons: 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
|The First American Settlement in Texas...
was not Austin's Colony!
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. Mexico granted Moses and Stephen F. Austin land to establish settlements in
the south, and offered title to the lands held by Americans in northeastern Texas if the interlopers signed
loyalty oaths. Mexicans themselves did not pursue these land grants themselves, and no one - American or
Mexican - 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). Mexicans also seemed to be hesitant to settle
near the seemingly less-civilized frontier Americans.
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
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!
|The Great Bend of the Red River at Fulton, Arkansas Territory marked
the border between the United States and Mexico. Not all Americans
honored that division, however, and even accused the American
government of working against its own citizens when representatives
sided with Mexico's legitimate claims. PS: the wooden stakes that line
the river mark old docks and ferry landings along the northeastern
border of the Red River at Fulton.
|Though now Pecan Point is simply
surrounded by an oxbow lake, it once
was a prominent northern jut of land
south of the Red River in what is
today's Red River County, Texas -
which was once considered Miller
County, Arkansas. Confused, yet?
|James Bowie was kind of