SWANSON'S LANDING. Swanson's Landing, one of the first inland ports in Texas, was on the south shore of Big Lake (Caddo Lakeqv) in Harrison County. Peter Swanson, his wife, Amelia, and most of their children moved to Texas in 1833 from Giles County, Tennessee. They settled on a twenty-acre tract on the south shore of Caddo Lake. One side of his property adjoined the boundary between Texas and the United States; Swanson's Landing was thus the first port of entry through the lake. In accordance with an act of the Texas legislature, Swanson's location entitled him to 640 acres; the state therefore added 620 acres in Smith County to his twenty acres. Swanson was a civil engineer and a surveyor. The twenty-acre lake property he had chosen and surveyed had many valuable qualities. The harbor was of a comfortable depth for large riverboats. While the Caddoes and Cherokees were on the warpath in the Northeast Texas area, Swanson had the protection of the Texas Militia stationed nearby at Post (Port) Caddo. The military unit was commanded by Hugh McLeod. In addition, the Swansons had but to step across the boundary line to find sanctuary in the United States. Swanson constructed a dock and warehouses and opened a general store. Later he built a gristmill. Soon settlers began arriving by boat, by oxcart, on horseback, and by foot. Before many months passed the warehouses were filling with cotton, hides, and corn, all en route to New Orleans. On December 29, 1845, Texas became the twenty-eighth state of the Union. Swanson's landing was a port of entry for the resultant population surge, and Peter Swanson prospered. He invested in land, slaves, and livestock. In April 1849 he and his wife made a joint will that revealed their ownership of 6,800 acres of land, slaves, and livestock. Swanson died on December 14, 1849, and was buried in the family plot on his plantation. Thomas F. Swanson took over his father's work.
In 1857 Swanson's Landing was the starting point for the Southern Pacific Railroad, one of the earliest of all Texas railroads. The rails, cars, and other railroad accoutrements were brought in by riverboats. Swansons made the ties. The young people of Marshall began riding the Southern Pacific to Swanson's Landing, where they would swim, dance, picnic, and go boating. At day's end they would board the train for home. In 1861 Texas joined the Confederacy. Among the first units to muster was the Marshall Guards, commanded by Capt. Frederick Bass. That year C. E. Hynson, superintendent of the railroad, reported that the railroad had transported to Swanson's Landing 33,000 sacks of corn and 4,274 bales of cotton. With the fall of Vicksburg, Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith ordered the rails to be taken up between Jonesville and Swanson's Landing and used as an extension from Jonesville to Shreveport. On February 12, 1869, the palatial sidewheeler, the Mittie Stephens, burned and sank near the landing. Out of 107 passengers and crew (not knowing that they were in wading distance from the shore) sixty-one men, women, and children perished. The ship was also carrying a large amount of gold to pay the federal troops occupying Jefferson. With the removal of the track from Swanson's Landing, the shifting of the riverboat to the boomtown of Jefferson, and the clearing in 1873 of the great raft from the Red River, the demise of Swanson's Landing as a port was inevitable. In 1990 most of the land owned by Peter Swanson still belonged to his descendants.
A. E. Armstrong, "Origins of the Texas & Pacific Railway," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 56 (April 1953). Randolph B. Campbell, A Southern Community in Crisis: Harrison County, Texas, 1850–1880 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1983). V. H. Hackney, Port Caddo-A Vanished Village and Vignettes of Harrison County (Marshall, Texas: Marshall National Bank, 1966). Sallie M. Lentz, "Highlights of Early Harrison County," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 61 (October 1957). Marshall News Messenger, May 15, 1943, June 30, 1950. M. M. McClung, Caddo Lake: Mysterious Swampland (Texarkana, Arkansas: Southwest, 1974). Harold B. Simpson, The Marshall Guards: Harrison County's Contribution to Hood's Texas Brigade (Marshall, Texas: Port Caddo, 1967). Fred Tarpley, Jefferson: Riverport to the Southwest (Austin: Eakin Press, 1983).