During the nineteenth century the Texas Road was the primary north-south thoroughfare through the Cherokee, Creek, and Choctaw nations of Indian Territory, present eastern Oklahoma. The route entered Oklahoma near Baxter Springs, Kansas, and continued slightly west of south, passing near the present towns of Vinita, Pryor, Wagoner, Fort Gibson, Checotah, Eufala, McAlester, and Durant, crossing the Red River near Colbert, and entering Texas north of present Denison.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries a route known as the Osage Trace followed the Grand River from Kansas to the vicinity of present Fort Gibson, where it turned east toward Fort Smith (established in 1817 in Arkansas). The Osage used the pathway in their travels to and from the plains. One of their objectives in passing this way may have been to acquire salt from various salt springs in the Grand (Neosho) River valley. French and American traders from the east also used the trace to reach the Osage. In 1821 in present Mayes County the United Foreign Mission Society established Union Mission for the Osage, near a salt spring (and along the future road). In 1828 Isaac McCoy followed this road when he and other federal officials brought a Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek contingent to scout for resettlement locations in the Indian Territory.
It has been suggested that travel to Texas through eastern Indian Territory may have taken place as early as the 1820s. This may be true, because during that decade Mexican land grants in Texas began attracting large numbers of settlers from Missouri and Arkansas. In the early 1830s Texas-bound travelers may simply have followed the Osage Trace, but rather than turning east at Fort Gibson and going to Fort Smith, may have continued south to the Red River. The ultimate destination gave the pathway its name. Later, North Fork Town, Perryville, Boggy Depot, and Colbert's Ferry were notable places on the road. By 1842 Choctaws operated ferries across the Red River near present Colbert, and from 1853 an important one was operated by Benjamin F. Colbert. The ferries were situated south of the confluence of the Washita River with the Red, near present Colbert.
After Texas became a republic (1836) and later a state (1846), traffic along the road swelled. In 1849 and 1850 it became even busier as part of the southern route to the California gold fields. In 1858 the Butterfield Overland Express Company began using part of it as their stagecoach route. By the late 1850s more than one hundred thousand wagons per year were documented as using it to cross the Indian Territory. The traffic helped build up the Creek trade center called North Fork Town and also Perryville and Boggy Depot in the Choctaw Nation. During the 1840s and 1850s cattle moving north from Texas to Missouri were driven along the same general route, but the livestock drovers referred to it variously as the Shawnee Trail, the Sedalia Trail, or simply the Trail.
Traffic along the Texas Road, both north and south, slowed to a trickle in the early 1860s during the Civil War. Because the road served as the Federal supply route out of Kansas to Fort Gibson, it was of some strategic significance to both Confederate and Union forces in their struggle for control of the Indian Territory. The July 17, 1863, battle of Honey Springs took place directly astride the road. The first and second battles of Cabin Creek (in present Mayes County) took place on July 1 2, 1863, and September 18 19, 1864, respectively, when Rebel troops attacked Federal supply trains bound for Fort Gibson. Perryville was burned during an engagement in August 1863. Boggy Depot, by that time the capital of the Choctaw Nation, served as an important supply depot for Confederate operations in the Indian Territory. The February 13, 1864, battle of Middle Boggy occurred within several miles of the road, in present Atoka County.
With the cessation of hostilities, travel on the road resumed at its prewar level. This continued until 1872 when the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railway laid its tracks parallel to the well-used and well-known route. Thereafter, the Texas Road ceased to be an interregional artery and served primarily local wagon traffic. Later, the transcontinental Jefferson Highway (a national road from New Orleans through Texas and Oklahoma to Minnesota), was authorized in 1916 and completed in 1919. Now designated as U.S. Highway 69, it, too, generally follows the original route of the Texas Road from Kansas across Oklahoma to Texas.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: William P. Corbett, "Oklahoma's Highways: Indian Trails to Urban Expressways" (Ph.D. diss., Oklahoma State University, 1982). Grant Foreman, Down the Texas Road: Historic Places along Highway 69 Through Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1936). Grant Foreman, "Early Trails Through Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 3 (June 1925). Wayne Gard, "The Shawnee Trail," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 56 (January 1953). Muriel H. Wright, "Historic Places on the Old Stage Line From Fort Smith to Red River," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 11 (June 1933). Muriel H. Wright and LeRoy H. Fischer, "Civil War Battle Sites," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 44 (Summer 1966).
Bobby D. Weaver
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