San Patricio Trail

By: Robert H. Thonhoff

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: September 1, 1995

The San Patricio Trail, first beaten out by the Irish in 1830 to connect San Patricio and San Antonio, was one of the main thoroughfares of South Texas until the 1880s. Beginning at the Santa Margarita Crossing of the Nueces River near San Patricio, the trail at various times followed either its wet-weather route along the west bank, or its dry-weather route along the east bank of the river as far northward as Oakville; thence, the trail followed a natural course across the prairie to the San Antonio River, which was followed to San Antonio. Due to unsettled conditions which prevailed before, during, and after the Texas Revolution, the trail fell into disuse. For the Mexican War the route was reopened by Gen. Zachary Taylor, whose army of advance was stationed on the Nueces. The trail was used extensively during the war for the movement of troops and supplies. In 1846 a regular line of wagons began transporting goods from Corpus Christi through San Patricio to San Antonio. A stage line was established as early as 1850. To protect settlers, travelers, and traders along the trail the United States government established Fort Merrill on the west bank of the Nueces, thirty miles upstream from San Patricio. As a result of the tight federal blockade during the Civil War, the San Patricio Trail became one of the main contraband trade routes of the Confederacy. Large amounts of arms, ammunition, supplies, and cotton were transported over the trail to and from the neutral port of Matamoros, Tamaulipas. After the war the trail continued to be used as a stage and post road until 1881. At different times stages of the J. J. Ellis Corpus Christi and Laredo Line and of the Rio Grande Stage Company operated daily between San Antonio and Corpus Christi and connected at Oakville with the coaches of the Oakville and Brownsville Stage Company. Place names along the trail at various times were Graytown, Fairview, New Hope, Rock Spring, Tordilla Mound, Tordilla, Rountree's Ranch, Belle Branch, Oakville, Fox Nation, Gussettville, Fort Merrill, Casa Blanca, Lagarta, Peñitas, Santa Margarita, and Echo. The coming of the railroad to South Texas caused the demise of the old San Patricio Trail. The International-Great Northern Railroad from San Antonio to Laredo and the Texas-Mexican Railway from Corpus Christi to Laredo were both completed in 1881. Abandonment of the trail was precipitated by the completion of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway from San Antonio to Corpus Christi in 1886.

Corpus Christi Gazette, January 8, 1846. Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States (Edinburgh and London: Blackwood, 1863). Hobart Huson, Refugio: A Comprehensive History of Refugio County from Aboriginal Times to 1953 (2 vols., Woodsboro, Texas: Rooke Foundation, 1953, 1955). San Antonio de Béxar Western Texian, November 17, 1848. San Antonio Daily Express, December 9, 1879, November 15, 1881. San Antonio Daily Herald, May 3, 1879. Robert H. Thonhoff, History of Karnes County (M.A. thesis, Southwest Texas State College, 1963).

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

Robert H. Thonhoff, “San Patricio Trail,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995