Coushatta Trace

By: Howard N. Martin

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: December 1, 1994

The Coushatta Trace was a road from Louisiana into Texas that was used by the Coushatta Indians in their hunting and trading activities. It was an important middle road between the better-known and Spanish-patrolled Atascosito Road along the Texas coast and the Old San Antonio Road farther inland. The first group of Coushattas migrated to Louisiana in approximately 1766, following a group of Alabamas who had established a village on the Opelousas River and soon thereafter established a large village on the Sabine River near the mouth of Quicksand Creek. They opened a path from their village southwestward to La Bahía, and perhaps farther, known to early American settlers as the Coushatta Trace. This trail was not much more than a narrow path barely suitable for riders on horseback. In the field notes for a survey of a tract of land now in Polk County a Mexican surveyor called a section of this trail a sendal or footpath. It led to the best crossings of streams or rivers and proceeded straight across the country. Gen. Sam Houston chose the route at its crossing of the Brazos in his retreat in 1836. Trains of packmules loaded with merchandise in transit from Louisiana to Mexico used the route, and field notes for some of the surveys along the Coushatta Trace refer to it as the "contraband trace." There is no indication that the Coushatta Trace was ever patrolled by Spanish or Mexican military units, and it probably was a favorite route for contraband traders. Also, the trail was used by several early settlers coming into Stephen F. Austin's colony. Jared E. Groce, one of the Old Three Hundred colonists, moved to Texas in 1821 and established a settlement in the area that is now Waller County at the crossing of the Coushatta Trace and the Brazos River. Francis Holland also traveled the Coushatta Trace from Louisiana to Austin's colony in 1822 with a large party of relatives.

In organizing the Austin colony for governmental purposes, the ayuntamiento of San Felipe used portions of the Coushatta Trace to establish boundaries of the Bastrop and Viesca precincts. Titles or grants to land, beginning in 1821, frequently refer to the Coushatta Trace to establish location. For example, Merrit M. Coates, on July 19, 1824, received title to a square league of land on the east side of the Brazos, 2½ linear leagues above the Coushatta crossing. The deed records of Austin County for July 13, 1824, show that land about a quarter league above the Coushatta crossing of the Brazos was granted to William Smeathers (see SMOTHERS, WILLIAM).

Although the Coushatta Trace and the Atascosito Road were the most important roads through Austin's colony, the actual route of the Coushatta Trace has been discovered only generally and recently. After tracing indications of the route on surveyor's field notes for 3,000 land grants in the Texas counties along the probable route, Howard N. Martin identified a map of the trace. The trail extended from the Coushatta village on the Sabine River through the area of ten present Texas counties and merged with the Atascosito Road in Colorado County. From the Coushatta village on the Sabine River, one major trail led eastward to Opelousas, Louisiana, and another, the Coushatta-Nacogdoches Trace, extended northwestward to the post of Nacogdoches, where the Coushattas traded and received presents from the Spanish. The Coushatta Trace began at the village on the Sabine and proceeded through the area of present Newton and Jasper counties, using the same path as the Coushatta-Nacogdoches Trace, to the Kisatchie Wold. It then turned westward along this ridge, crossed the Neches River near the mouth of Shawnee Creek, and passed through the Alabama Indian villages of Cane Island and Peachtreeqqv in what is now northwestern Tyler County. Continuing to follow the Kisatchie Wold westward, the Coushatta Trace moved through the site of present Moscow in Polk County, crossed the Trinity River near the Battise Village of the Coushattas, and passed through the area of present San Jacinto County and the southeastern corner of Walker County.

In the area of present Montgomery County the Coushatta Trace passed along the eastern side of the San Jacinto River, crossed this river near the Iron Mound league, and turned west. It ran south of the site of present Montgomery and then passed through what is now Waller County to the Coushatta crossing of the Brazos River. A General Land Office map of Austin County shows the Coushatta Trace extending from the William C. White survey at the Coushatta crossing to the James Cummins five-league mill tract south of Bellville, through the Miles N. Allen survey, and from there across the San Bernard River to merge with the Atascosito Road at the Rawson Alley survey, on the east bank of the Colorado River in Colorado County. The merged Atascosito Road-Coushatta Trace traversed the area of several Texas counties en route to La Bahía or Goliad.

This trail became so traveled that the Mexican government erected Fort Teran in 1831 at the Coushatta Trace crossing of the Neches River as a means of controlling the movement of settlers into Texas. Later, stagecoach and horse mail routes were established along sections of this trace. When new counties were organized in Texas after 1845, one of the principal responsibilities of the commissioners' court in each county was to "view" and establish new roads, and these new roads gradually replaced the Coushatta Trace. Only a few sections of this trail remained in use in the 1990s: an example is the paved ten-mile section of Farm Road 350 west of Moscow in central Polk County.

Eugene C. Barker, ed., "Minutes of the Ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin, 1828–1832," 12 parts, Southwestern Historical Quarterly 21–24 (January 1918-October 1920). Leland C. Bement, Buried in the Bottoms: The Archeology of Lake Creek Reservoir, Montgomery County, Texas (Texas Archeological Survey, University of Texas at Austin, 1987). E. L. Blair, Early History of Grimes County (Austin, 1930). Julia Kathryn Garrett, "Dr. John Sibley and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1803–1914," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 45–49 (January 1942-April 1946). Thomas Clarence Richardson, East Texas: Its History and Its Makers (4 vols., New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1940). Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Trails and Traces

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

Howard N. Martin, “Coushatta Trace,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994