Navarro County Texas
Early Roads, Trails and
Stage Coach Routes


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Early Roads, Trails and Stage Coach Routes
by William V. Mowlam, Civil Engineer, County Surveyor of Navarro Co., TX
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", 1961
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society


FORWARD: The writer would be very presumptuous to make any claim to a personal knowledge of much of the matter contained in this paper.   Therefore in the beginning he wishes to acknowledge the several sources of the information.  To the Late William M. Elliott, Civil Engineer and County Surveyor of Navarro County and immediate predecessor in office we are indebted for a Historical paper describing the Older Roads or Trails of Navarro County.  To Mr. Walter Hayes, Justice of the Peace, Precinct No I, we are also indebted for a delightful discussion about these old trails and his specific identification of the old Trail from Fairfield North through Stewards Mill and thence to Wortham.  We are also obligated to Mr. Alva Taylor for the loan of the large volume entitled THE LONE STAR STATE, a History of Navarro, Henderson, Anderson, Limestone, Freestone and Leon Counties, Texas; and for his assistance in mounting the old County Map of Navarro County.

We also add some of our own experience and gleanings as we have resided in and traveled through this County all of this Century and have practiced our profession for more than thirty-five years in several of these counties.

Older Roads and Trails in Navarro County

Of the Older Roads and Trails in Navarro County, one of the earliest and possibly the first was what was called the Springfield Road.   This road was the road or trail to the North from Navasota, for a long time the northerly terminus of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad.  The road passed through "Old Springfield" some few miles North of Groesbeck in Limestone County near the Navasota River.  Old Springfield was the site of an old mill driven with a water wheel and as a very small boy it was my privilege to go on a picnic from Groesbeck to the Old Mill and I have a vivid picture of the Water Wheel.  From Old Springfield the road ran Northwest over Tehuacana Mills and then through the Old Rushing Community on what was known as the Ridge Route following the bluff along the easterly side of Pin Oak Creek, and known as Pisgah Ridge, passing over Mount Nebo and thence to the crossing of Richland Creek near the present side of Love Bridge.  From this point the road ran in a northerly course course, probably through the Old Pryor Community, now the village of Retreat, and then Northwesterly into Corsicana, passing near the old "Judge Frost Home" and North on Twentieth Street to about Fifth Avenue.  Twentieth Street in known on Old Deed Records as the Springfield Road.  Along this road in both Navarro and Limestone Counties lived some of the pioneer families and early settlers of this area, the Longbothams of Worthams of Wortham, the Lee family, the Whites and Hodges along the ridge and John Pickett and Dr. Wm. M. Love, for whom the Love Bridge was named and who owned and partitioned all of the John McNeal Survey.

North of Corsicana, this road was known as the "Waxahachie Road".  The road passed through Corsicana on the West side of the Court House by way of North 13th Street, which is called the "Old Waxahachie Road" in the old deed records, and thence northwesterly through Zions Rest, past the Duncan Cemetery and northerly and westerly probably through the Old King Willow Community about one mile Northeast of the present Emhouse Community.  Much of this old road is still in use, although, very little of it is incorporated in the later improved Highways and Farm-Road System of the County.  In South end of the County "Ridge Road" is presently occupied by the Improved Farm-Market Road No. 1394 from the County Line to Mount Nebo, where the road turns easterly to return to Richland.  From the Court House North, the present route of North 13th Street and North Beaton Street occupy the original route to the Zions Rest Church and School, now North Corsicana Methodist Church and Fannin School.  North of the King Willow Community it is not certain just where the road crossed Chambers Creek and then Waxahachie Creek into Ellis County, but there is some evidence that it crossed in the vicinity of the present road, known some thirty years ago as the "Exall Highway".  From the History of Navarro County, aforementioned we quote as follows: Says the Express in 1860: "Recently the New line of four-horse coaches, on Col. G. W. Grants line, via Corsicana, Fairfield, Centerville, Madisonville and Anderson shortens the route nearly forty miles.  When Grant's line becomes a little more known, it will attract a great portion of the travel .... At Waxahachie Vanmeter mounts the box; it is after midnight; you go whirling down the beautiful Waxahachie Creek, passing well improved farms, and many evidences of thrift and industry.   Passing on down, you cross Mustang Creek, a small stream.  At Corsicana, Charlie Lyons takes the strings, and you go whirling southward at the rate of six miles an hour  He puts you into the careful hands of Joe Cashion; Joe takes you to Centerville, and hands you over to Hezzleton;  Hezzleton gives up to Mays, and Mays sets you down at Fanthorp's  - - in forty hours from Waxahachie.  This was the acme of rapid transit, recorded with enthusiasm".  The above route followed the route as outlined with enthusiasm".  The above route followed the route as outlined before the Quote about the Grant Line to a point near the South County line and then Easterly into Wortham, thence passing near Cade on an old trace, not now occupied by a road to Birdston and then Southeasterly through Stewards Mill into Fairfield.

Another of the early roads and still occupied for the most part was what we now know as the "Chatfield Road".  This road from Corsicana passes through Pettys Chapel, Hester and Old Tupelo, and "Chatfield Point" and by the upper road to "Porters Bluff".  The old location and the present location of Farm Road No. 1129 across the old site of the old town-site of "TAOS", and crosses the Trinity River on a new bridge within a few hundred yards of the site of the Robert H. Porter House.  The house was destroyed by the flood of 1866, and the site was verified to the late Wm. M. Elliott by C. T. Hogan, Surveyor in this county and a guest of Mr. Porter before the Civil War.  We have reason to believe that we identified the same site on a survey in 1954.  This road continued in a Northerly way through Kaufman County.  Many of the pioneer families of this area of the county lived on or near this road, and includes the Hodges, Witherspoons, Thorpes, Andersons, Kenners, Hogans, Hesters, and Montforts and others.  The first bridge crossing Chambers Creek was very near to the  present site of the Hogan Bridge crossing and was constructed and operated as a toll-bridge by the late Capt. Wynder N. Kenner and George M. Hogan.

Branching off of the "Springfield Road" and running Northwesterly from Mount Nebo was stage route that passed about a half-mile East of the present Pursley Community and joined the present route of Farm Road No. 709 at a point about one-half mile East of the junction of FM Road 642 with No. 709.  There was standing on this site the Old Stage Coach Inn, two story with outside stairway.   This old building burned down during the past six to ten years.  From this point the road ran along the present course to Fort Spunky near the present junction of Farm Road 706 and Farm Road 638 and then by a devious route to the Britton Dawson Home on the Southeast outskirts of the Town of Dawson.  At this point it made a Junction with the Road from Spring Hill and Corsicana.

What was called the "Dresden Road" was another very early route to the Westerly part of the County.  This left the Court House along Main Street now West Second Avenue and followed the route of the Old Drane Road and passed North of the State Home and South of the Odd Fellows Home, passed through the Drane Community and past the Old Dr. Bryan Home and then more westerly to Old Dresden and Old Raleigh.  At Dresden there was a branch road to "Old Blooming Grove", about two miles Southwest of the present town of Blooming Grove and then ran westerly past the Frost area and thence to Hillsboro.  This road passed through the Drane and Johnson Ranch Ranch, which in the late seventies and early eighties was considered a model stock farm.

The "Cow-head Road" was the main thoroughfare from Corsicana to the West.  It ran from Corsicana from the old "Springfield Road" at about the present location of Fifth Avenue and Twentieth Street, and passed over Collins Hill and thence along the present location of West Collin Street to the Site of the Junior College, passed along the present location of the College Main Drive to 45th Street and thence South around the South side of the State Home property and on South to the present Corbet Slab Road and thence westerly through lands of Meigh Owen and the Carpenters and through Pansy to Springhill.  From Springhill we believe that the road turned South to the junction with the road from Fort Spunkey at the Britton Dawson Home passing in the vicinity of the present Town of Dawson and on Southwesterly to the Brazos River Crossing at about Waco.  In the days when this road was most in use Old Springhill was very thriving community, old deed records showing the ownership and occupancy of some three-score business lots.  We have only in the past ten years had occasion to search out and survey several of these early town lots.   The building of the Cotton-Belt Railroad in the early eighties and the establishment of the Town of Dawson, caused most of the residents of Springhill to remove to the then new town, and today there are scattered remains of building piers and chimneys and other evidence showing that the old town must have been "quite a place" in its day.  On this old road were the early homes of the beloved Mr. Wiley Johnson and Mr. Douglas Johnson.

In recent years and the present efforts of the people of this County to build a really good road through to Palestine recalls the location of the Old Wild-cat Road.  "Wild-cat" Road extended from Corsicana by way of Wild-cat Ferry on the Trinity River in Freestone and Anderson Counties through the Anderson County Communities of Bethel and Tennessee Colony to Palestine.  The Old Road left the Southend of South Seventh Street, passed over the Hickey Hill and then easterly and Southeasterly through the Peoples and R. Heaton Surveys east of the present location of the T. & B. V. Railroad and crossed the Elm Creek bottom about one-half mile East of the railroad location and then climbed Elm Hill and on to the site of Old Mildred.  From this point the road ran about due East through the McKie Ranch and crossed Chambers Creek at the Anderson Bridge crossing and passed Southeast of Kerens about four miles at Old Crossroads.  From Crossroads the road ran East and Southeasterly through the Rural Shade Community and then more Southerly through the lands of the Ingram families to "Wild-cat Ferry" on Trinity Rover in the northeast corner of Freestone County.  A branch of this road lead off at "OL Mildred" and is still known as Old Eureka Road and there were other branches off of the Eureka Road that ran South to Birdston and then to Cade.  The Old Eureka Road crosses U.S. Highway No. 287 in the Eureka Community about 300 yards to the West of the Bonner Store and runs on Southeasterly to Winkler on the County Line.  This road follows what is locally known as the "Jones Crossing" Road an old ford across Richland Creek and is now known as the "Jones Bridge Road" since a steel bridge was constructed on the creek crossing and a concrete slab built through the bottom.  Highway No. 287 the present improved highway to Eureka and Palestine follows a completely new location throughout its entire length.

Our paper would not be complete without a description of the location of the road from the Eastern part of the County.  A long the Trinity River there were numerous ferrys and you will note from the map there several substantial Steel Suspension Bridges.  One of these was known as the Bazette Crossing and was located about four miles Northwest of Trinidad in Henderson County, another crossed the river in the Robert Hunt Survey East of Montfort and a third was located at Porters Bluff.  These latter two were removed by the Army Corps of Engineers for the improvement of navigation on the Trinity River about the year 1900.  The Bazette Bridge was still in use as the principal crossing from Trinidad to Kerens until the construction of the modern steel bridge and the opening of State Highway No. 31 in the early 1930's.  From this crossing on the river the road followed about the North line of the Horn Survey, passing about a mile North of the Kerens Community and continued on a straight course and passed through the North side of the Powell community and crossed the location of the St. Louis & Southwestern Railway at about one-half mile West of Powell, ran parallel to the railway located for about a mile and then Southwesterly to the crossing on Chambers Creek.  There is still standing a steel bridge on this route and about one mile West of Lake Corsicana.  From this point the road ran in a more westerly direction through the "Old Phillips Chapel" Community and passed by the corner of the Old Water Works Lake and finally entered Corsicana near the Southeast corner of the Town and later by the Old Fairgrounds and South Third Street.  For many years there were several trails crossing the Barth Lands to the East of the Fairgrounds and entering the town along East Tenth Avenue.  These trails meandered across a common or camp ground belonging to the Cotton-Belt Railroad  and in my early years I have seen many covered wagons camped on this area and also on the Collins Hill on the Cowhead Road West of Corsicana.

It has been a pleasure to prepare and present this paper to you, and I am sure you can preserve the Map in your Museum for the benefit of posterity

William V. Mowlam, C. E.
Corsicana, Texas
March 31, 1961

 


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