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A Traveling Map, Part I: Holtz's 1865 Map of the Great Bend Region of the Red River

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

The Connected Places of the Red River Valley in 1865


Map of Northeast Texas from 1865
This 1865 map is gargantuan - it measures 20 X 7 feet and had to be digitized in sections. Holtz drew it to show post offices, military roads, stage coach roads, a few ferries, settlements, and more (Library of Congress).

This 1865 map by Helmuth Holtz depicts the Great Bend Region of the Red River.


I circled some "points of interest" to add some history to this fantastic map, which is located at the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/item/2002622358/


Red Circle

Lanesport (usually spelled Laynesport) in Little River County, Arkansas was purposely platted to become a steamboat stop. In early advertisements to entice settlement, it billed itself "head of navigation on the Red River" which was kind-of-sort-of-true, at least for a moment in time in its early history. Some locals built their own flatboats and steamboats here, but Lanesport never developed into much of a town due to its location. The Washington Telegraph (Washington, Arkansas) noted in 1845 that "here the land is rich, but subject to overflow" and the Arkanasas Intelligencer (Van Buren) described the road southward to Lanesport in 1847 as "badly cut out, seldom travelled by waggons, and probably never worked upon." Lanesport diminished both as a steamboat landing and as a railroad town. Although the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe had intentions of building a line between Paris and St. Louis to "be surveyed... northeast and cross Red river at or near Lanesport," (Fort Worth Daily Gazette, 1887) guess what? The railroad never came through here. Bye, Lanesport!


Purple Circle

Between the 1820s and 1840s, nationals of the Shawnee Tribe, originally from the Ohio River Valley, made their way into northern Texas and southern Indian Territory. After 1811, the devastating losses in the Shawnee Wars made them refugees, as the United States took over their homelands and only compensated very few villages for the pre-emptions. Several Shawnees sought to leave the United States, settling in Canada or in Spanish, then Mexican, Texas. Since neither the Spanish or Mexican governments opposed granting land to Native Americans in Texas, several Shawnees settled in small villages and farms in the Red River Valley. According to a report by the Arkansas Times and Advocate in 1832, members of the Shawnees from Shawnee Prairie battled the Comanches "on Red river, near the Cross Timbers. The Shawnees attacked the Comanches about day light, and the battle lasted near sun set, when the Comanches retreated, leaving seventy-seven of their party dead." By the 1870s, most of the Shawnees had gone into Indian Territory, and Shawnee Prairie became a village occupied mostly by whites until it, too, was abandoned.


Green Circle

Trammel's Trace, also spelled Trammell's Trace like on this map, was a much older road than the stage coach and mail routes depicted. It may have been part of a series of Caddo trading paths which were used by Nicholas Trammell, a Tennessee-born gambler and horse racer at the turn of the 19th century. Trammell became a well-known figure in southwestern Arkansas due to his activities, as he ran operations between the United States and New Spain. The road was often used by people who wanted to avoid detection as it had not been blazed and was not patrolled by the military. There aren't many contemporary mentions of him, but his prominence can be seen in the Arkansas Post Gazette in 1835. In an ad where a man named Reynolds is looking for a horse thief named Mayfield and offering $100 for his capture, Reynolds writes that Mayfield "has a wife in Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory, at or near Nicholas Trammell's." According to a frontier dispatch from 1840, the "unfortunate Pierce, who, with the balance of his family, was murdered on the Trammel Trace" (Rhode Island Republican). I wouldn't travel along this road alone if I were you!


Blue Circle

Up until the early 20th century, the U.S. Secretary of War was in charge of infrastructure projects, such as building roads and bridges, clearing rivers, and proposing interstate railroad routes. Since the Secretary of War in 1856 was future Confederate president Jefferson Davis, he sought to build the first transcontinental railroad route through the South. His support galvanized he Cairo and Fulton Railroad's charter of 1853. When the South seceded from the Union, the whole idea of a southern route was nixed, naturally. But the idea gained traction (pun!) during Reconstruction, and the Cairo and Fulton Railroad began construction in the 1870s. However, the trains for this railroad never made it past Texarkana. Instead, the Texas and Pacific Railway extended from the Arkansas line into Bowie county and beyond.


There are so many other places to explore on this map. Pecan Point! Spanish Bluffs! Shaws Ferry! I'll get to them soon.


Holtz also drew a map for Louisiana and Arkansas in 1864. We'll explore that soon, too.

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