Van Zandt County Historical Markers

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Texas Lakes Trail Region

Map of Van Zandt County

Topics (click on a topic to jump to that section).
Asbury Cemetery | Bowles, Cherokee Chief | Dallas-Shreveport Road | Edgewood Heritage Park Museum | First Monday Trades Day | Grand Saline C.S.A. | Liberty Cemetery | Martin, Site of Burial of Neal | Battle of the Neches | Reagan, John H. | Shelby Expedition through Van Zandt County | Tyler-Porter's Bluff Road | Van Area Oil and Historical Museum | Van Zandt County Courthouse, Site of 1896 | Van Zandt, Free State of
Asbury Cemetery

Marker Title: Asbury Cemetery
City: Edom
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1998
Marker Location: FM 2339, 4 mi. W of Edom
Marker Text: The first recorded burial on this site was that of Asbury Lowery (1836-1855). The new burial ground was named in his memory. In 1863, Prairie Flower (1858-1863), the young daughter of celebrated Comanche Indian captive Cynthia Ann Parker and Comanche Chief Peta Nocona, was interred here when she died while living with relatives of her mother. In 1965 her remains were removed to the post cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to be re-interred near the graves of her mother and brother, Chief Quanah Parker, during ceremonies attended by both Comanche and Anglo descendants. A Texas Ranger named Adren Anglin (1796-1865) also was buried here in the early years of the graveyard. H. W. and H. L. Walker donated two acres including the existing Asbury Chapel and Cemetery to trustees of the Methodist Episcopal church, South, in 1879. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, family members and descendants of the deceased observed a cemetery memorial day by coming together to clean the grounds and share food and fellowship. Eventually, Asbury Chapel merged with the Edom Methodist Church. The first cemetery board of directors was organized in 1945 while John W. Miller (1884-1975) was caretaker. Maintained by an association, the cemetery contains almost 400 recorded and marked burials and approximately 30 unmarked graves. Among the unmarked graves is believed to be that of pioneer Van Zandt County settler Esable Lindsey and six of her children. The Asbury Cemetery continues to be a chronicle of the pioneers of Van Zandt County. (1998) Incise on base: Researcher: Iona Pinckard Miller

Bowles, Cherokee Chief

Marker Title: Bowles, Cherokee Chief
Address: 19 mi. SE to CR 4923, 2.5 mi. N
City: Canton
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1936
Marker Location: From Canton, take SH 64 about 19 mi SE to CR 4923, follow signs N about 2.5 mi to marker.
Marker Text: On this site the Cherokee Chief Bowles was killed on July 16, 1839 while leading 800 Indians of various tribes in battle against 500 Texans. The last engagement between Cherokees and whites in Texas. More

Dallas-Shreveport Road

Marker Title: Dallas-Shreveport Road
City: Wills Point
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1995
Marker Location: CR 3415 & SH 64
Marker Text: A trail established by Caddoan Native Americans and later used by French traders who traversed this area is known today as the Dallas-Shreveport Road. The trail emerged in the mid-1830s as a main route into North Texas for emigrants and cargo from the river port of Shreveport, Louisiana. Van Zandt County's first courthouse was built along the route at Jordan's Saline in 1848. Used extensively for troop movements during the Civil War the route remained active with emigrants and ox teams into the 1900s. The route has greatly influenced settlement patterns in this area. (1995)

Edgewood Heritage Park Museum

Museum Name: Edgewood Heritage Park Museum
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 765
City: Edgewood
Zip Code: 75117
Street Address: N. Houston and Elm
Area Code: 903
Phone: 896-1940
County: Van Zandt
Types of Exhibits/Collections: Interactive, Historical, Local/Pioneer History

First Monday Trades Day

Marker Title: First Monday Trades Day
City: Canton
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1973
Marker Location: Capitol at Groves St.
Marker Text: On the first Monday of each month in the early 1850s, Judges Oran M. Roberts and Bennett H. Martin held court in Canton, an event attended by townspeople and country folk alike. With large numbers of people present, court day also became the occasion for the common practice of auctioning stray horses. Within a short time horse trading and selling were prevalent and the day called "Hoss Monday." After a few years the First Monday Trades Day expanded to include all kinds of goods. In 1965, the city purchased these grounds for the monthly event. (1973)

Grand Saline C.S.A.

Marker Title: Grand Saline C.S.A.
City: Kleer Park
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1963
Marker Location: At intersection of US 80 and FM 857 in Kleer Park.
Marker Text: The large saline deposit was a major source of salt in Texas during the Civil War. Salt was first obtained by the Indians. In 1854, works were built Sam Richardson, the owner in 1861, went to war and left his wife to run the works until the Confederate government took over production. Because salt was considered a strategic industry, salt workers were exempt from army service for a time and many wells were sunk to obtain the more than 10,000 pounds of salt made daily for the civilians and army west of the Mississippi River. Mule-powered pumps drew the brine from the wells. Gum logs, hollowed out and pinned together formed a pipeline to huge iron evaporating kettles. Salt was then sacked, purchased and hauled away on horseback, in wagons and oxcarts. During the Civil War, the demand for salt, the only known way to preserve meat, increased to supply the southern army. Meat was salted, smoked and then packed in salt for the long, hot trips to army camps. Horses and mules used by cavalry, artillery, and quartermaster units required the vital mineral, too. Salt also preserved hides for making shoes, harnesses and saddles. When the Confederate government levied a meat tithe on farmers, the demand for salt increased and often cattle and cotton were exchanged for salt which itself became a medium of exchange. When salt became scarce, women dug up smokehouse floors to extract salt from the soil, and other Civil War salt works were operated along the coast and in other east, central and west Texas counties. Erected by the State of Texas 1963

Liberty Cemetery

Marker Title: Liberty Cemetery
City: Edom vicinity
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 2001
Marker Location: 11.3 miles west of Edom on FM 2339
Marker Text: Located along the Tyler-Porter's Bluff Road, a major route for pioneers coming through Texas from eastern and southern parts of the United States, this burial ground is a reflection of 19th- and 20th-century settlement in this area of Van Zandt County. Liberty Cemetery is located within acreage obtained by pioneer David Riley in 1851. According to local tradition, Riley was a charter member of the Liberty Baptist Church, which served the local community for about ten years in the mid-19th century. Riley may have sold or donated part of his land for use by the church and for this cemetery, but a missing volume of county deed records prevents clear documentation of such a land transaction. The earliest documented grave is that of Watson McWilliams, who died in December 1855. Another gravestone, inscribed simply "first", provides no name or date, and a number of grave sites along the western boundary of the cemetery bear native red sandstone markers with no inscriptions. By 1874 there were 25 known graves in the Liberty Cemetery, and at the turn of the 21st century, it contained more than 450 grave sites. The Liberty Cemetery Association maintains the burial ground and holds an annual reunion for friends and relatives of those buried in the pioneer cemetery. (2001) Incising on base: Historians Doug Reynolds & John Beall

Site of Burial of Neal Martin

Marker Title: Site of Burial of Neal Martin
City: Wills Point
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1968
Marker Location: about 3 mi. N of Wills Point on SH 47 marker is on Stony Point Cemetery Rd.
Marker Text: (1777-1879) Came to Texas from Kentucky in 1816. Hunted buffalo in Van Zandt County about 1839 and settled here later. Fought in Battle of San Jacinto during Texas War for Independence. Was later a member of Texas Rangers. Fought in Indian campaigns. Served in U.S. Army during Mexican War. (1968) Incising on base: Marker placed by great-granddaughter, Mrs. Edna Martin Pollard.

Battle of the Neches

Marker Title: Battle of the Neches
City: Colfax
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1968
Marker Location: Roadside park on Hwy. 20, 5 mi E of Colfax.
Marker Text: (Site 15 miles southeast) Main engagement of Cherokee War; fought July 15 and 16, 1839, between 800 Indians (Including; Delawares and Shawnees) and 500 troops of the Republic of Texas. An extraordinary fact is that David G. Burnet vice president of the Republic; Albert Sidney Johnston, secretary of war; and two other high officials took active parts in the fighting. When killed, Chief Bowles, aged Cherokee leader, carried a sword given him by Gen. Sam Houston. After the defeat of the tribes, they scattered, thus virtually ending Indian troubles in the settled eastern part of Texas. (1968) More

John H. Reagan

Marker Title: John H. Reagan
Address: West side of courthouse, Buffalo Street
City: Canton
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 2002
Marker Location: West side of courthouse, Buffalo Street.
Marker Text: John H. Reagan John Henninger Reagan was born in 1818 to Timothy Richard and Elizabeth Reagan in Sevier County, Tennessee. He worked at his father's tannery and on the family farm, attending school sporadically, until leaving the state in 1838. Reagan came in 1839 to Nacogdoches, Texas, where he met with Martin Lacy, Indian agent for the Cherokee Tribe in present day Cherokee and Smith Counties. He helped deliver a message from Texas President Mirabeau Lamar to the Cherokees, threatening force if the tribe did not move north of the Red River. Reagan was assigned to Gen. Thomas J. Rusk's regiment of the Texas militia, which engaged the Cherokees in July 1839. The last skirmish was the Battle of the Neches, fought in today's Van Zandt County, resulting in the deaths of Chiefs Bowles and Big Mush, and the removal of the Cherokees to Indian Territory. After his work with the militia, Reagan studied surveying, working in the Nacogdoches Land District. As part of his survey work, he petitioned the creation of Henderson, Van Zandt and Kaufman Counties, suggesting the names for each. Reagan also studied law and became a state representative and then district judge in East Texas, presiding over the court in Canton from 1853 to 1857, after which he was elected to congress. During the Civil War, Reagan served as Postmaster General for the Confederacy. He was captured and imprisoned, as was Pres. Jefferson Davis, in 1865. After returning to Palestine, Reagan was reelected to congress in 1875 and helped frame the 1876 Texas constitution. He served as U.S. Senator, 1887-1891, then became first Texas Railroad Commissioner, a position he held until 1903. He died in 1905 and was buried in Palestine. (2002)

Shelby Expedition through Van Zandt County

Marker Title: Shelby Expedition through Van Zandt County
City: Canton
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1998
Marker Location: SH 243, 8 mi. E of Canton
Marker Text: Gen. Joseph O. Shelby's command refused to surrender at the close of the Civil War. Shelby's men, the First Missouri Cavalry of the Confederate States of America, marched via Clarksville to Van Zandt County, proceeding through Grand Saline to Canton and on to Stone Point soon after learning of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender. From about April 22 to May 29, 1865, Shelby's troops camped at Stone Point while their leader attended a Confederate conference at Marshall, Texas. Determined to continue the war, Shelby's men journeyed to Mexico, stopping where they were needed to enforce the peace in a ravaged postwar Texas. (1998) Incise on base: Researched by Donald K. Plemmons

Tyler-Porter's Bluff Road

Marker Title: Tyler-Porter's Bluff Road
City: Edom
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1997
Marker Location: On FM 2339 at intersection with FM 279 .25 mi. W of Edom.
Marker Text: First mapped in 1846 and 1849 by state surveyors John Lawler and Samuel Huffer, this trail may pre-date Mexican rule. Used as a military road and a cattle trail, it extended from Tyler in Smith County to Porter's Bluff in northwestern Navarro County. By 1870, the Memphis and El Paso Stage Line made twelve mail stops along that route, nine of them in Van Zandt County. Much of the old trail near Edom was included when State Highways 64 and 279, as well as local farm roads, were created. In 1997, vestiges of the Tyler-Porter's Bluff Road were still visible in some locations. (1997) Incise on base: Historian: Neill S. Hays.

Van Area Oil and Historical Museum

Museum Name: Van Area Oil and Historical Museum
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1221
City: Van
Zip Code: 75790
Street Address: W Hwy 16
Area Code: 903
Phone: 963-5435
County: Van Zandt
Types of Exhibits/Collections: Photos, Historical, Local/Pioneer History

Site of 1896 Van Zandt County Courthouse

Marker Title: Site of 1896 Van Zandt County Courthouse
City: Canton
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1986
Marker Location: In front of courthouse, 100 Blk Dallas, Canton.
Marker Text: In 1894, the Van Zandt County Commissioners Court approved construction of a new brick courthouse at this site. Built between 1894 and 1896, it replaced a frame courthouse that had served the county since shortly after the Civil War. The noted San Antonio Architect J. Riely Gordon designed the 1896 courthouse in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Built on a Greek cross plan, it features a three-story main structure and a six-story central tower with a copper eagle statue at the top. The building was torn down in the 1930s. Texas Sesquicentennial 1836-1986.

The Free State of Van Zandt

Marker Title: The Free State of Van Zandt
City: Van Zandt
County: Van Zandt
Year Marker Erected: 1968
Marker Location: West bound IH-20 rest area 2 mi W of Van Zandt
Marker Text: Pioneer nickname appropriate to this area's many freedoms-- particularly from want and fear. (Food was obtained with little effort; and although the Indians fought white men here as late as 1842, the settlers by 1847 slept in the open with no dread of Indians or wild animals.) According to tradition, Van Zandt County (created 1848) also by a legal accident had freedom from sharing debts of its parent county, Henderson-- and was proud of that unusual advantage. Other parts of Texas share "Free State" traditions. An 1826 "Republic of Fredonia" was proclaimed in Nacogdoches and endured for a few weeks. Along the Mexican border, citizens maintained in 1839-1840 the "Republic of the Rio Grande." Because it developed great self-reliance in recurring border troubles, Hidalgo County called itself a republic, 1852-1872. A Panhandle County formed the secessionist "Free State of Ochiltree" in the 1890s. All secessions have been brief. When Texas in 1845 voted to become a part of the United States, it was given (but declined) the right to become five states. Such movements as "The Free State of Van Zandt" soon lost force. Memories of the ten proud years of the Republic give the people unusual loyalty to Texas. (1968)

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