When thinking about going to Texas, immigrants had to weigh the various benefits and hazards of the various routes into the region. Many journeys to Texas began with a steamboat trip to various landings either on the Arkansas, Mississippi, or Red rivers. Others went to New Orleans and hazard a trip on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico to land at Galveston, Velasco, Matagorda, or Copano hoping all the while that the skipper could navigate the shoals so common on the Texas coast.
Travelers coming by way of Arkansas would have passed through Washington, in Hempstead County, home to a blacksmith famous for making hunting and fighting knives. After crossing the Red River and passing into East Texas, the immigrant would have braved the dense dark woods en route to Nacogdoches.
Likewise, a sojourner from Natchitoches would have passed along the historic Camino Real, coming withing two miles of the US post at Fort Jesup, and would have crossed the Sabine at Gaines’s Ferry before heading into Texas. The scrappy and rough settlement of San Augustine sprang up on this road. Once the traveler reached Nacogdoches she would have had options for how to proceed.
Immigrants heading toward Texas from Alexandria, Louisiana, would have taken a dangerous route through the pine hills west of that town. It proceeded through what had been the Neutral Ground between Spain and the US, and a favorite haunt of desperate men. This route, sometimes referred to as Nolan’s Trace (for Philip Nolan), crossed the Sabine River at Burr’s Ferry. The route passed into the thick woods of East Texas before intersecting the better traveled La Bahia Road.
The Atascosito Road traveled along the level Attakapas Prairie of southwestern Louisiana. This road, too, passed through the bandit country of the old Neutral Ground but was an easier road, although some of the bayou crossings could be tricky. Once across the Sabine River near Niblett’s Bluff, these hardy adventurers would have level roads ahead on the way to Harrisburg and San Felipe.