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Epperson's Ferry in Bowie County, Texas

Map
Epperson's Ferry along the Sulphur River in Bowie County, Texas is marked on this 1841 map (Texas General Land Office). At this point, the county across the river from Bowie was a "judicial county" named Paschal. Declared unconstitutional in 1842, Paschal County was first absorbed by Bowie and then, became the county of Cass in 1846.

Around 1834, Mark Epperson from Tennessee opened a ferry at the Sulphur River in today's southern Bowie County. Epperson's Ferry served the Trammel Trace, a Caddo trading path-turned American immigrant trail, and his ferry helped people like Sam Houston and Ben Milam travel from Jonesboro and/or Fulton to Nacogdoches.


Appropriately named the Epperson Ferry, Mark petitioned that the conveyance be sanctioned by the Republic of Texas in 1837, which was granted: the ferry, operated by enslaved men Thomas and Frank, became part of a postal route and later, stage coach route. Mark also received a land grant at the ferry site.


In this period, Bowie County shared its southern border with Paschal County, which no longer exists. Designated as a "judicial county" by the Texas legislature, the Republic's Supreme Court ruled these types of counties (there were eleven of them) unconstitutional as they did not confer representatives. Paschal County, noted on the map from 1841 and most likely named after planter Brook Paschal, a neighbor of Mark's, organized into Cass County in 1846 instead.


During the 1840s, a telegraph line linked Boston in Bowie County, almost directly north of the ferry, to Nacogdoches along the trace, which at Epperson Ferry had become a Holloway -- a carved meander into the loamy soil. Then, in 1856, the first steamboat arrived at the ferry landing. The Sulphur River, which connects to the Red River in southwestern Arkansas near today's Doddridge, never became a steamboat destination, though.


The ferry continued to operate after the Civil War. In 1866, Mark Epperson was exempt from U.S. taxation due to the importance of his trade. He died in 1869, but I believe the ferry continued to operate with the family. At one point, though, the ferry was no longer needed, most likely due to railroads and population centers moving away from the original roads. Pace's Ferry, which ran east of Epperson's and between Maud and Douglasville, may have replaced Epperson's. Pace's ferry was discontinued in 1924 when a bridge was erected as its site.


Epperson's Ferry was one of Texas's earliest ferries and important crossings, but its location, almost directly due south of Old Boston, is threatened by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wanting to raise the levels at Wright Patman Lake, which opened in 1957. Preservation Texas placed it on Texas's "most endangered list" in 2022. The site itself is hard to get to (CR 4128 south of Corley, a town that sits along the Bankhead Highway), but what's neat is that the original bends in the Sulphur River that denoted Epperson's Ferry's location still exist today.


Map
On this 1899 map (originally by CW Pressler), a person wrote that a monument for the Texas Centenary was placed at Epperson's Ferry site in 1936 (Harding Simmons University).

The map above mentions a 1936 book, "Monuments commemorating the Centenary of Texas Independence." The book is online at the University of Michigan and can be found via Hathitrust, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015027787319&seq=13


Google map
Today, the site of Epperson's Ferry is accessible, somewhat, along CR 4128 in Bowie County. The ferry stood directly south of Boston (which is just south of New Boston).

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Ben Hammonds
Ben Hammonds
Apr 03

Yep, all of this is my neck of the woods. My family lived along Sulphur and in areas just west of the old ferry since 19th century. Notice on the map, west of the ferry location is the James Poer survey, which I live on at Simms. Where the ferry was is some hundred yards west of where the road now meets the Sulphur on a higher bluff where once there was the small community of Epperson, long before the railroad came thru and Corley was built along it, now there is nothing to Corley either. Paddle-wheelers came up to ferry now and then back in the day. West along the Sulphur, lying west of US 67 south of Basset…

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