Ghost towns of The Piney Woods

 

Deadwood site of only international boundary

By Bob Bowman
Special to the Journal

Travelers who take the time to wander down Farm Road 31 between Deadwood, Texas, and Logansport, Louisiana, will find a one-of-a-kind historical landmark.

A granite shaft set into the ground on April 23, 1841, marks the only international boundary existing within the continental United States.

The marker established the boundary between Texas and Louisiana, but there was a time when the border underwent contests between France, Spain, the U.S. and the Republic of Texas.

Before there was a Texas, both France and Spain claimed the region on both sides of the Sabine River--an area known as the "neutral ground" or "no man's land" because of early explorations by both nations.

French explorers claimed all land drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries as Louisiana Territory. Spain claimed all southern lands beginning with the first watershed west of the Mississippi. The dispute arose over claims that the "first watershed" was the Sabine or the Atchafalaya River. As a result the land between the two rivers was claimed by both nations.

When the U.S. purchased the Louisiana territory in 1803 and inherited France's claims, the U.S. and Spain agreed that the disputed strip would be neutral territory until an agreement could be reached by the two nations.

The strip soon became a refuge for outlaws and deserters seeking to avoid the laws of any government, leading to the violent Regulator-Moderator War in Shelby and surrounding counties.

The boundary was further confused in 1819 when the U.S. purchased Florida from Spain and a new, tentative agreement established the Sabine as the international boundary. Texas, at the time, was still Spanish territory, but became a part of Mexico when Mexico won its independence from Spain.

When the Republic of Texas was born in 1836, it became a matter of urgency to mark the actual boundary between the Republic and the U.S.

A joint commission was established in 1838 to survey and map the land along the boundary. W.J. Stone, a young engineer, was commissioned by President Martin Van Buren to perform the task "with all speed and accuracy." The work was scheduled for completion in 1840, but wasn't actually finished until 1841.

The western bank of the Sabine was mapped and marked as the boundary from its mouth to the 32nd parallel, just north of Loga's Ferry (today's Logansport).

To establish the line, a granite shaft was driven into the ground near the river. Three miles north, a second shaft was set. Each mile between the two shafts was marked by an earthen mound containing bottled information and a wooden mileage pole.

With the passage of time and a crumbling river bank, the shaft on the Sabine was lost.

The remaining marker on Farm Road 31 was damaged in the l920s by loggers, but was repaired and still stands about 50 yards off the highway between Deadwood and Logansport.

The landmark carries three simple inscription. On the south side are the words, "Merid. Boundary Established 1840." On the east side, it reads: "U.S." and on the west side are the words, "R.T" for Republic of Texas .

An illegal trophy collector tried to dig up the marker in the 1970s, but gave up when he discovered it had a concrete foundation of ten to fourteen feet.

Apparently, someone in the past wanted to make darned sure the marker wasn' going anywhere.

Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 30 books about East Texas and the author of a forthcoming book, "he Forgotten Towns of East Texas."He can be reached by email at bobb@consolidated.net

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