The Nacogdoches-Neches Saline Road, although relatively unknown, greatly facilitated the settlement of East Texas between the Neches and Angelina rivers. The ancient Indian trail led from the Caddo Indian villages near the site of present Nacogdoches, crossed the Angelina River east of the site of present Alto, and traveled the length of Cherokee County northwest to the Brooks Saline on the Neches River, seven miles west of the site of present Bullard in Smith County. Stephen F. Austin indicated the salt springs on his 1840 map of Texas. Before recorded history animals and aboriginals had made a path to the salt licks near the river. The earliest land surveys in Cherokee County use the old trace as a reference point. A survey map of Cherokee County prepared for the Texas Land Commission (see GENERAL LAND OFFICE) in 1851 marks two segments of the road. The old highway, commonly called the Saline Road as noted on the 1851 map, once traveled through Dialville, Jacksonville, Lakeview, and Larissa. In 1765 Spanish Franciscan José F. Calahorra y Saenz , with other Spaniards and 100 Indian warriors on a peace mission to the upper Sabine River, traveled the road from the Hainai Indian village on the Angelina River northwesterly. Calahorra mentions the salines near the Neches River in his journal. By the 1820s Texans learned to manufacture salt by boiling salt water in huge iron pots until all the water evaporated. Cherokee chief Bowl, Martin Lacy, George Bays, and Dr. E. J. Debard were early salt makers. A White settlement was begun at the Neches Saline about 1830. At the beginning of the Texas Revolution about forty people lived in or near the Saline village, seventy-five miles northwest of Nacogdoches. During the Runaway Scrape all the residents fled down the Saline Road to Lacy's Fort on the San Antonio Road. William Y. Lacy, Martin's son, later described that trip through the Cherokee Indian territory.
The Killough clan, including the Williams and Wood families from Talladega County, Alabama, established a settlement southeast of the Neches Saline in what is now Cherokee County in the winter of 1837. During the summer of 1838, when the Córdova Rebellion started in East Texas, the Killoughs traveled the Saline Road to Nacogdoches to wait out the trouble. Córdova and his renegade forces were chased by Maj. Henry W. Augustine's 150 Texas soldiers up the old road to the Neches Saline, where the trail was lost. Gen. Thomas J. Rusk and the Texas militia later found and defeated the renegades at the battle of Kickapoo in Anderson County on October 16, 1838. Meanwhile the refugee Killoughs returned to their home near the Saline about the first of October to gather their crops. On October 5, 1838, renegades attacked the settlement and killed or captured eighteen people. Again survivors of the massacre fled down the Saline Road to Lacy's Fort. The Cherokee Indians were conveniently blamed for the massacre and ordered by Republic of Texas president Mirabeau B. Lamar to leave Texas. In July 1839 Chief Bowl, who lived near the Saline Road northwest of Alto, called his Indians to rendezvous at a site north of the Neches Saline. After several days of unsuccessful negotiation with Republic of Texas officials, who accompanied the pursuing Texas army, the Cherokees were defeated in a two-day battle in Henderson and Van Zandt counties.
During the Mexican War the First Regiment of Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry marched from the Sabine River to Robbins's Ferry on the Trinity River, part of the way on the Saline Road. The soldiers had to widen the road to allow passage of the large supply wagons. One of the officers, Maj. Pollard Gaines, declared in his diary that the Kentucky regiment built the Texans sixty miles of good road. The Cherokee County Commissioners Court noted the road improvement on February 10, 1847, and authorized the Saline Road, with a new-cut detour to the county seat, as a stage route from Rusk to Tyler in Smith County. Near the Saline Road in Jacksonville, just east of the Southwestern Electric Service Company warehouse and north of the Union Pacific tracks, was a strong spring. When the International Railroad built through in 1872, the watering hole was enlarged to furnish water for steam locomotives. The spring was used as a recreational area by local residents; a big political rally was held there in 1855, at which some of the state's most able speechmakers were present. Among them were Louis T. Wigfall, Malcolm D. Graham, Richard B. Hubbard, Thomas J. Rusk, A. T. Rainey, and F. W. Bowden.
In 1874–75 the Rusk Transportation Company chartered and built a tram railroad from the Cherokee county seat to the International-Great Northern Railroad at Jacksonville. The Rusk Tramway closely followed the Saline Road from south of Dialville to Jacksonville. The route afforded not only the best right-of-way, but the old road facilitated the movement of supplies and convict labor alongside the construction line. Financially, however,the Rusk Tram was a failure. In 1882 the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad Company (Cotton Belt), building south from Tyler, utilized parts of the tram right-of-way and from Dialville to Rusk faithfully followed the Saline Road. Only two sections of the old highway were preserved by 1989. Farm Road 347 from Dialville north to Jacksonville follows the old trail with little deviation. Farther to the northwest the Larissa Road from near Lake Acker to the Killough Massacre Monument site parallels the Saline Trace to the west. See also SALT INDUSTRY, and NECHES SALINE, TEXAS.