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NEW COLUMBIA, TX

NEW COLUMBIA, TEXAS. New Columbia was on the Sabine River eight miles east of Burkeville and seventy-five miles northeast of Beaumont in eastern Newton County. It was laid out in the early days of the Republic of Texas and became a thriving riverport town, with a store, several warehouses and homes, a gin, and a racetrack. Accounts in 1865 describe the Sabine River crossing at New Columbia as good. The pine forests, however, made agriculture difficult, and New Columbia struggled until the rapid expansion of the East Texas lumber industry at the turn of the twentieth century.

By the end of the first decade of the 1900s the brothers J. Polk and A. A. (Jack) McMahon had organized the McMahon Handle Company at New Columbia. J. Polk, aged thirty-three in 1910, had been Newton county treasurer; Jack, three years younger, was a real estate agent. The McMahons sent handles by mule to Rosepine, Louisiana, a stop for the Kansas City Southern Railroad. They also produced railroad ties, which they floated down the Sabine River to Bon Wier. Though most of the unskilled labor force came from the surrounding area, the skilled workers had to be imported, and an old plantation home was turned into a hotel. Kerrdale, the local post office three miles west across steep hills at Spear's Chapel, proved inconvenient for New Columbia. The McMahon brothers persuaded the postmaster at Spears Chapel, J. J. Kerr, to liquidate the stock of his general store and move to New Columbia to become their store manager.

Finding the name New Columbia unavailable for their use, the McMahons called the new office Jack's, after A. A.'s nickname. However, the New Columbia mill closed by 1915, and the post office ceased operation shortly thereafter. The lack of direct access to a railroad, along with a general decline of lumbermills in Newton County, probably combined to seal the community's fate. A few families remain at Spears Chapel, a short distance west of the former riverport of New Columbia.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Madeleine Martin, "Ghost Towns of the Lower Sabine River," Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record 2 (1966). Newton County Historical Commission, Glimpses of Newton County History (Burnet, Texas: Nortex, 1982).

Robert Wooster

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Robert Wooster, "NEW COLUMBIA, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hvn19), accessed August 01, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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