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Pasar a la Carretero Hacia el Sud, one of Texas’s ancient passes, trails to the south

Special to The Leader

The Spanish called it “Pasar a la Carretero Hacia el Sud”, or Pass to the South Road. This old major Indian, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo pioneer road (trail) led south from the oldest town in Texas, Nacogdoches, (a part of it probably followed along the old Shawnee Road for some distance) and proceeded to near present Rockland, then further southward. It crossed the Neches River at the only ford in the area. This ford was so important that three separate ancient Indian trails also intersected at this same crossing. The reason for this ford’s popularity was that a bluff, or rise in the earth, runs back eastward across several states. It is a rare natural phenomenon called a “wier” which makes river crossings few and far apart.

This very important road was used by French smugglers, early cattle and horse drivers, and illegal immigrants who were coming to East Texas to “squat”. The Spanish tried to stop this illegal traffic over this old north to south trail by sending their cavalry soldiers from the Nacogdoches presidio to police it, but because of their long ride to reach another ancient east-west trail called the Old Spanish Trail (O.S.T) that traveled eastwards towards Opelousas (founded 1720), they quickly became exhausted. Spanish officers asked the Viceroy in Mexico to build a halfway station along the trails, but this request was refused. Opelousas was a major trading post, and the Old Spanish Trail continued on to the port at New Orleans. Traveling west it went as far as into California, if one had wizened Indian guides. Both these trails were notorious for the illegal traffic over them.

After Mexico came to power in 1821, it finally did decide to build a midway point and named it Fort Terán, after their general Major Mier y Terán, who was in charge of this area of the state called ‘The Eastern Provinces.’ The fort was built near the previously mentioned famous old crossing on the Neches River, but high upon the bluff (wier) so that any activity below could be seen by the soldiers.

The Fort is now a ghost town that once had ten houses, a post office, a ferry and a stage coach stop. It was actually built and commanded by Mexico’s new East Texas Indian agent, Peter Ellis Bean, who was an Irish trader that first illegally drove Livestock to Louisiana and was imprisoned by the Spanish. He became a hero to the Mexicans and a shoulder to shoulder citizen of the republic while living in and around Nacogdoches.

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