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History found in History: Mound City in Red River County, Texas, a steamboat port

Updated: Aug 19, 2023


Survey map of Red River County Texas from 1896 with Mound City at Red River
An 1896 General Land Office map of Red River County, Texas shows the old landings of Jonesboro (northwest side of map) and Mound City (southward). View the map here: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth88918/

Mound City in Red River County, Texas once welcomed steamboats in the 1870s, and was still marked on maps in the 1890s, but according to newspaper accounts from 1900, it hadn't seen river traffic for many years prior.


Originally, all early Native and European settlements hugged the Red River as it acted as a highway of sorts. However, the settlements that were established on higher ground were able to grow and prosper because, unlike those on the river, they weren't drowned out. The banks of the river are dotted with these forgotten places, but most evidence has been erased by farmers' plows.


The newspaper clipping reads: "An object lesson in Red river navigation appeared this week in one of the local papers. In quoting from an issue of a paper published here in April, 1875, it is mentioned that the "steamer R.L. Bryarly landed at Mound City today with a cargo of corn and groceries." Mound City is on Red river in this county, fifteen miles north of Clarksville. It appears that the river was navigable in those days."


Mound City may have been named for the Caddo villages that were once very prominent along the river as it made its way to the Great Bend, or it may have been named by Missourians who wanted it to grow into St. Louis, which was nick-named "Mound City."


The R.L. Bryarly paddle wheeler was the first ship to go north from the Great Raft after the Army Corps of Engineers cleared the river from its natural log jam (the second federal project) in 1873. It apparently was still plying the middle Red River in 1875.


Newspaper article from 1900 about Mound City
The Houston Post re-printed a missive from a local, unnamed newspaper in 1900, which relayed a story from April of 1875, about Mound City, Red River County, Texas.

Steamboat Bryarly in 1873
The R.L. Bryarly in 1873, as photographed for Lt. Eugene Woodruff's account of his clearing the Great Raft of the Red River in 1873. This photo was taken in Louisiana at Sale and Murphy's Canal, a waterway deliberately cut around the massive log jam on the Red River that reappeared in the decades after the first major raft removal project.

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