Smith County
Historical Markers

Texas Brazos Trail Region

Map of Smith County

Topics (click on a topic to jump to that section).
Head of Navigation on the Sabine River, Belzora Landing | Bonner, Thomas R., Colonel | Camp Ford | Camp of the Army of the Republic of Texas | Camp of the Army of the Republic of Texas | Carnegie History Center | Douglas, Major James P. | Headache Springs, C.S.A. Medical Laboratory | Hubbard, Colonel Richard B. | Lott, Elisha Everett | Marsh, Colonel Bryan | Neches Saline, C.S.A. | Smith County as a 19th Century Legal Center | Smith County, C.S.A. | City of Tyler | Vial-Fragoso Trail | Wren, Nicholas

Head of Navigation on the Sabine River, Belzora Landing

Marker Title: Head of Navigation on the Sabine River, Belzora Landing
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1970
Marker Location: FM 14 ROW, 17 mi. north of Tyler
Marker Text: A thriving port for Tyler and East Texas, from 1850s until arrival of railroads in 1870s. One of many ports established when settlers (as in eastern states) turned to rivers for transportation. In Texas, river-freighting proved rather disappointing. The long, winding rivers were difficult for even small, shallow-draft steamers to navigate. Boats on the Sabine fared very well, however, because of abundant rainfall and favorable terrain. For several months each year, light steamboats could ascend the river to Belzora. The "Galveston News" for that period included Belzora in listings of ports. In dry seasons it was local practice to load goods on barges, flatboats and other craft and wait for a freshet to send them downstream. In addition to the boat landing, Belzora had a ferry used by travel on the Dallas-to-Shreveport Post Road. The town had a dozen businesses, a post office and a combination church-schoolhouse. Ambitious plans for greater inland navigation, deepening of river channel, and building of locks and dams never materialized. Belzora, like many sister ports, became an historic relic-- a ghost town.

Colonel Thomas R. Bonner

Marker Title: Colonel Thomas R. Bonner
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1963
Marker Location: Bonner Elementary School, 235 S. Saunders St.
Marker Text: (Star and Wreath) (1836-1891) Born in Mississippi. Came to Texas 1849. In Texas militia at start of Civil War. Elected captain Co. C, 18th Tex. Infantry, C. S. A., 1862. Commanded 18th as Colonel, 1863-65. Gallantly led unit in battles at Bourbeau, Mansfield, Pleasant Hill, La. and Jenkins' Ferry, Ark., all being vital actions to prevent Federal invasions of Texas. After the war, admitted to bar and practiced law in Tyler. Served in 11-15th Texas Legislatures and as speaker of the house in 1876. Founded the first bank in Tyler. Leader in building Tyler Tap Railroad. Established an insurance company. Trustee East Texas University. Grand Master of Masons in Texas, 1875. Texas made an all-out effort for the Confederacy after a 3 to 1 popular vote for secession. 90,000 troops, famed for mobility and daring, fought on every battlefront. A 2,000-mile frontier and coast were successfully defended from Union troop invasion and savage Indians. Texas was the storehouse of Western Confederacy. Wagon trains laden with cotton - life blood of the South - crossed the state to Mexico to trade for medical supplies, clothing, military supplies. State and private industry produced guns, ammunition, wagons, pots, kettles, leather goods, salt, hospital supplies. Wives, sons, daughters, slaves provided corn, cotton, cloth, cattle, hogs, cured meats to the army, giving much, keeping little for themselves.

Camp Ford

The March 4, 1865 edition of Harper's
Weekly featured an illustration of Camp Ford.
Texas Historical Commission

Marker Title: Camp Ford
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1957
Marker Location: 2 mi. NE of Tyler on US 271
Marker Text: On this site during the Civil War was located Camp Ford, the largest prisoner of war compound for Union troops west of the Mississippi River. Named in honor of Col. John S. "Rip" Ford who originally established a training camp here in 1862. It was converted in the summer of 1863 to a prison camp. It first consisted of four to five acres enclosed by a stockade sixteen feet high. In the spring of 1864 following the Confederate victories at Mansfield, Louisiana and Mark's Mills, Arkansas, the enclosure was doubled to accommodate the large influx of prisoners. Approximately 4700 Federals were confined here during this period. This overcrowded condition was somewhat relieved through a series of prisoner of war exchanges between the North and the South. Union soldiers representing nearly one hundred different regiments plus sailors from gunboats and transports were confined here. In addition there were imprisoned Union sympathizers, spies and even Confederate deserters. The prisoners constructed their own shelters ranging from log huts and burrows called "shebangs" to brush arbors and tents made of blankets. A spring, located about 100 yards southwest of this marker, furnished an ample supply of good water. Their meager rations, essentially the same as that of their guards, usually consisted of beef and corn meal and were sometimes supplemented by vegetables purchased from nearby farms. Although escape attempts were frequent, very few were successful due to the long distance to Union lines and the difficulty in eluding the tracking hounds used by the Confederate guards. Even though conditions were primitive it compared favorably with the other Civil War prison camps. Camp Ford continued to serve as a prison until the surrender of the Trans-Mississippi Department in May, 1865. It was later destroyed by Federal occupation troops.

Camp of the Army of the Republic of Texas

Marker Title: Camp of the Army of the Republic of Texas
City: Lindale
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1975
Marker Location: US 69 at intersection w/ CR 431 (Old Lindale-Mineola Rd.), 7 mi. north of Lindale.
Marker Text: Last Cherokee War. Under Gen. Kelsey H. Douglass, Gen. Thomas J. Rusk, Gen. Edward Burleson, and Col. Willis H. Landrum. Texas Secretary of War Albert Sidney Johnston ordered the army mustered out after its decisive victory in Battle of the Neches against Chief Bowles of the Cherokees and associated tribes on July 16, 1839, in Van Zandt County. From the Burleson Lake Camp, the soldiers departed for their homes on July 15, 1839.

Camp of the Army of the Republic of Texas

Marker Title: Camp of the Army of the Republic of Texas
City: Flint
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1936
Marker Location: on FM 346 about 1 mi. north of the intersection of FM 346 and FM 344, about 12 mi. SW of Tyler.
Marker Text: At this site was the camp of the Army of the Republic of Texas under Generals Edward Burleson, Thomas J. Rusk, Albert Sidney Johnston, Hugh McLeod, Kelsey H. Douglass and Colonel Willis H. Landrum just before they engaged Chief Bowles of the Cherokees and associated tribes in the decisive battle of July 16, 1839, by which the Indians were forever driven from East Texas.

Carnegie History Center

Museum Name: Carnegie History Center
Street Address: 125 S College
City: Tyler
Zip Code: 75702
Area Code: 903
Phone: 592-5993
County: Smith
Types of Exhibits/Collections: Military, Photos, Historical, Local/Pioneer History, Archives

Major James P. Douglas

Marker Title: Major James P. Douglas
Address: 1508 N. Haynie St.
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1963
Marker Location: Douglas Elementary School
Marker Text: (Star and Wreath) (1836-1901) School named for Texas Confederate. Born in South Carolina. Came to Texas 1848. Led 50 Tyler men, 1861, to join 50 in Dallas to form Good-Douglas Battery - only Texas artillery serving east of the Mississippi. At Chickamauga, Battery shoved its big guns to edge of Federal rifle pits. Gallantry of Douglas was praised. In 1865 he returned to editing Tyler "Reporter." Became a lawyer. Was in Texas Senate, 1876-80. Joined leadership of Tyler Tap Railway. Was president of Cotton Belt Railroad. Led in Tyler's fruit and vegetable growing, canning industry. Was an organizer and trustee of East Texas University, Tyler. Good-Douglas Texas Battery - marched out of Texas July 9, 1861, after much romantic fanfare in Dallas.

Headache Springs, C.S.A. Medical Laboratory

Marker Title: Headache Springs, C.S.A. Medical Laboratory
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1965
Marker Location: SH 64, 2.9 mi. SE of downtown Tyler
Marker Text: A quarter mile north of this site is "Headache Springs," noted for its healing mineral waters. During the Civil War, as sea blockades cut off imports, a Confederate medical laboratory operated here. One of nine, and only one west of Mississippi River. For the government it made medicines and whiskey. The army at this time was buying medicinal herbs, including poke root, snakeroot, mullein, jimson weed, Jerusalem oak, nightshade, mistletoe and cherry bark. With mineral salts, these were the medicines of desperation.

Colonel Richard B. Hubbard

Marker Title: Colonel Richard B. Hubbard
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1963
Marker Location: Hubbard High School, 1300 Hubbard Dr.
Marker Text: (Star and Wreath) (1832-1901) School named for Texas Confederate. Georgia-born, came to Texas 1853. Tyler lawyer, politician. State legislator. Raised 5th Tex. Inf. Bn., merged 1862 in Hubbard's Regt., 22nd Tex. Inf. In 1863 campaign to stop split of South on the Mississippi River, unit helped relieve Vicksburg Siege. Interrupted supplies for Federals, gave military support to drovers pushing cattle across river to Confederates. Regt. fought in 1864 Red River campaign to stop invasion Texas. Governor R. B. Hubbard.

Elisha Everett Lott

Marker Title: Elisha Everett Lott
City: Winona
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1991
Marker Location: 2 mi. south of Winona on SH 155 ROW
Marker Text: (February 24, 1820 - January 17, 1864) Moved to Harrison County, Texas in 1840. Elected to the Republic of Texas Congress in 1842, he helped open this area of Texas for settlement. He moved here in 1845, and in 1846 was instrumental in the organization of Smith County and the selection of Tyler as the county seat. He helped promote steamboat navigation of the Sabine River and in 1853 was elected to the State Senate. A Confederate veteran of the Civil War, Lott died at his Starrville home in 1864 and is buried near this site in the Lott Family Cemetery.

Colonel Bryan Marsh

Marker Title: Colonel Bryan Marsh
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1963
Marker Location: Marsh Elementary School, 700 block N. Bois d'Arc at Bow St.
Marker Text: (Star and Wreath) School named for Texas Confederate. Alabama native, came to Tyler, 1854. 1861 was captain Co. C, 17th Texas Cavalry. In 1863 Confederate campaigns to prevent split of South along Mississippi River. He was one of 4,500 C. S. A. men attacked by 30,000 Federals at Arkansas post in Jan. 1863. Taken prisoner there, he was exchanged in May. Put into Bragg's army in Tennessee. Later, in Atlanta fighting lost right arm. Returned to fight until Lee surrendered. In 1880s was captain of Co. B., Frontier Battn., Texas Rangers. Quelled riot between town and soldiers at Fort Concho. Ended gunplay in railroad construction towns. Fought Indians. Was Smith County sheriff for 20 years.

Neches Saline, C.S.A.

Marker Title: Neches Saline, C.S.A.
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1965
Marker Location: SH 155 in Dogwood City about 13 mi. SW of Tyler
Marker Text: Now covered by the waters of Lake Palestine, the Neches Saline was the source of salt for early settlers from over a wide area of East Texas. As early as 1765, the Spanish missionary Calahorra recorded the presence of salines in the area. An early manufacturing process for extracting salt from the saline involved drawing water from shallow wells and boiling it to the evaporation point, leaving the salt behind. The possibilities for commercial development of the Neches Saline became evident to the early settlers, and a small isolated settlement developed here before the Texas revolution. Local salt making declined throughout the South between 1850 and 1861 as salt began to be imported from England. With the Federal embargo during the Civil War, salt began to be made locally again. It was reported that James S. O. Brooks, who had come to Texas from West Virginia, had twelve furnaces operating at the Neches Saline during the war and manufactured 100 bushels of salt per day to meet the needs of the Confederacy. Brooks leased the salt works to his son, William Bradford, in 1865. W. B. Brooks, who purchased the operation in 1871, apparently was the last owner and operator of the salt works at the Neches Saline.

Smith County as a 19th Century Legal Center

Marker Title: Smith County as a 19th Century Legal Center
Address: Courthouse, Broadway at W. Erwin St.
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1992
Marker Text: Soon after its establishment in 1846, Smith County became an important legal center in East Texas. The first legal proceeding to take place in the county was a district court session held in an abandoned one-room log cabin in Tyler in December 1846. In 1850, after the State Legislature decided the Supreme Court should meet not only in Austin but throughout the state, Tyler was made one of the court's three seats. The Supreme Court began meeting here the following year. In 1851 Tyler was also made a U. S. District Court seat. It has served as such since that time, interrupted only by the Civil War when Confederate District Court was held here. Because the Supreme Court was overworked hearing both civil and criminal appeals, the new Texas Constitution of 1876 established the Court of Criminal Appeals to relieve the Supreme Court of its criminal jurisdiction. Rotating at the same time and to the same places as the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals met in Tyler from its inception. Years later, state laws were passed that moved the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals permanently to Austin. The courts continued to operate in Tyler until 1891 and 1908, respectively.

Smith County, C.S.A.

Marker Title: Smith County, C.S.A.
Address: Courthouse lawn, Broadway at W. Erwin St.
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1963
Marker Text: Major center of Confederate activity during Civil War. Many distinguished men and military units served south. The largest ordnance plant west of the Mississippi River manufactured "Tyler Rifles" near here. Camp Ford located east of town was the largest prisoner of war compound in the western Confederacy. Other military activities here included a quartermaster depot, training camps, transportation depot, foundry, general hospital and medical laboratories. Two large salt works produced daily thousands of pounds of this vital commodity. At home, women, children, old men, loyal slaves raised cotton and grain for army. Women made all their own clothes, used parched okra and yams for coffee and made hats out of shucks and straw. Tyler-Smith County C. S. A. Men and Units. Elements of the following Confederate Texas military units were recruited from or organized in Tyler and Smith County: Douglas' Battery, 1st Texas Infantry, 3rd Texas Cavalry, 11th Texas Infantry, 15th Texas Infantry, 22nd Texas Infantry.

City of Tyler

Marker Title: City of Tyler
Address: Courthouse lawn, Broadway at W. Erwin St.
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1968
Marker Text: In area opened 1839 to white settlers by Republic of Texas victories over Cherokee Indians whose trails led the way to good springs, fine farmlands, useful salines. The first Legislature of the state of Texas named the town (founded 1846) for President John Tyler, who signed the resolution annexing Texas to the United States. Originally a farm market, Tyler in early years had few men of wealth, but by 1860 was known for good schools, churches and cultured citizens. Several men here raised and commanded troops in Civil War. After mid-1863 this was transportation headquarters for Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy. It had an ordnance factory and was site of Camp Ford -- the largest P.O.W. post west of the Mississippi. In 1870s important as site of railroad shops and roundhouse. Developed industries, manufacturing, fruit and vegetable packing, shipping, expanding economy. Furnished Texas with statesmen, including Governors Richard B. Hubbard (in office 1876-1879), O. M. Roberts (1879-1883) and James Stephen Hogg (1891-1895). Upon discovery of nearby East Texas oil field in 1931, became investment, banking, servicing center. Home of Tyler Junior College; Annual Rose Festival.

Vial-Fragoso Trail

Marker Title: Vial-Fragoso Trail
City: Lindale
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1936
Marker Location: intersection of CR 431 (Old Mineola-Lindale Rd.) and CR 452, about 6 mi. north of Lindale.
Marker Text: Blazed in 1788 by Pierre Vial and Francixo Fragoso on their way from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Nicholas Wren

Marker Title: Nicholas Wren
City: Tyler
County: Smith
Year Marker Erected: 1968
Marker Location: from Tyler, take US 271 N 2 mi. to FM 2015; go north 5 mi. to "T" in road, go east to CR 336, go south to church (Marker is in churchyard of Harris Creek Baptist Church.)
Marker Text: (1807-1859) Came to Texas, 1833. Became a soldier in the Texas army, 1836. Was commissioned Lieutenant of Rangers by Sam Houston, President of Texas. Fought for Texas during the Vasquez and Woll invasions. Had horse shot from under him in Battle of the Hondo. Resided in Smith County at its organization, 1846. His wife Mariah was a charter member of Harris Creek Baptist Church. Wren died here in Mount Carmel community August 28, 1859. Incise on back: Erected by grandsons of Nicholas Wren.


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