Liberty-Nacogdoches Road

By: Howard N. Martin

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: November 22, 2020

The Liberty-Nacogdoches Road, an important early north-south route that passed through six East Texas counties, was established by Spanish authorities as a line of communication between the post of Nacogdoches and the settlement of El Orcoquisac, on the east side of the Trinity River near its mouth. Here the Spanish in 1756 built San Agustín de Ahumada Presidio and Nuestra Señora de la Luz Mission, one league east of the Trinity River and two leagues from Trinity Bay. The road connecting Nacogdoches and the Trinity River settlement was described by the Marqués de Rubí. Rubi's engineer and mapmaker, Nicolás de Lafora, kept a diary of this tour, which included a visit to El Orcoquisac in 1767.

The approximate route of the Liberty-Nacogdoches Road was indicated on a map of Texas prepared by Stephen F. Austin and published by Henry Schenck Tanner of Philadelphia in 1837. In a research report presented at the annual meeting of the Texas State Historical Association in April 1961, Howard N. Martin described his use of surveyors' fieldnotes to trace the road through the Texas counties of Nacogdoches, Angelina, Tyler, Polk, Liberty, and Chambers. The total length was about 132 miles. From Nacogdoches the trail went southeast to the crossing of the Angelina River later designated the Marion Ferry crossing, and from there southward through eastern Angelina County. It passed to the east of the site of present Huntington, continued south on the high ground east of Shawnee Creek, and crossed the Neches River near the mouth of that creek at what the Spanish called the "pass to the south." This crossing provided easy access to the continuation of the road across the Kisatchie Wold in northern Tyler County and was the location chosen for the construction of Fort Teran in 1831.

South of the Neches River the Liberty-Nacogdoches Road passed two Alabama Indian villages in northwestern Tyler County: Cane Island Village, about four miles south of the Fort Teran site, and the Fenced-In Village of the Alabamas, on the Harmon Frazier survey in northwestern Tyler County. Next, the road passed through the surveys of William Wilburn, William Solomons, George Allen, and Benjamin Lanier in northwestern Tyler County before crossing into Polk County at the James B. Woods survey, 1½ miles north of what is now U.S. Highway 190. The road then went southwest in Polk County, passed east of the present Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation, merged with the Alabama Trace at the Menard Creek crossing, and turned south at Colita's Village on the Trinity River. It continued south along the Trinity River into Liberty County, passed a Coushatta village in the Edward Tanner survey, went through what is now the site of Liberty, Texas, and continued south to El Orcoquisac in Chambers County.

In 1771 El Orcoquisac was abandoned, and attempts to reestablish this mission and presidio were unsuccessful. On November 4, 1804, José Joaquín Ugarte, commandant at Nacogdoches, indicated in a letter to the Spanish governor of Texas the need for a military detachment at El Orcoquisac or at Atascosito (near what is now Liberty) to prevent contraband trade in horses along the coast. He deemed the detachment necessary because parties sent out from Nacogdoches to intercept traders were rendered useless by fatigue by the time they reached this region. The Atascosito site was preferred for a military detachment because a nearby spring furnished water for horses and because it was nearer than El Orcoquisac to the road leading to Attakapas and Opelousas, along which the contraband traders frequently traveled. In 1805 the military post of Atascosito was established, and the Spanish resumed extensive use of the road connecting this post and Nacogdoches. This road was also heavily used by members of the Alabama and Coushatta Indian tribes, who began entering Texas in the 1780s. The Alabamas and Coushattas settled along the Neches and Trinity rivers, respectively, and they adopted the Liberty-Nacogdoches road for trips to Nacogdoches to trade and to receive gifts from the Spanish.

The road was also used by White settlers entering East Texas. Samuel T. Belt established a ferry at the Fort Teran crossing in the 1830s, and stagecoaches began operating on parts of the road to deliver mail and passengers to Liberty, Nacogdoches, and San Augustine. A succession of ferry operators at the Fort Teran crossing provided ferry service continuously until 1917, when a state highway connecting Woodville and Lufkin was built through this area, crossing the Neches River near Rockland.

Herbert E. Bolton, "Spanish Activities on the Lower Trinity River, 1746–1771," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 16 (April 1913). Mattie Austin Hatcher, The Opening of Texas to Foreign Settlement, 1801–1821 (University of Texas Bulletin 2714, 1927). Nacogdoches Archives, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University; Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin; Texas State Archives, Austin.

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Trails and Traces
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

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

Howard N. Martin, “Liberty-Nacogdoches Road,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995
November 22, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: