NECHES RIVER BOUNDARY CLAIM
NECHES RIVER BOUNDARY CLAIM. The Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 defined part of the boundary between the United States and Spain as the Sabine River from its mouth to the thirty-second parallel and thence due north to the Red River. The boundary was shown on the Melish Map of the United States, which marked the Sabine as the more eastern and the Neches as the more western of the two rivers flowing into Sabine Bay. The Neches River did not reach the thirty-second parallel. Despite the apparent definiteness of the boundary between 1819 and 1836, American speculators of the Southwest insisted on several occasions that the Neches River was the eastern boundary of Texas. Their purpose was to claim the area between the two rivers. The basis for their argument was that the Neches had been called the Sabine (or Cypress) because cypress trees grew along it, whereas cypress trees were not found along the Sabine. This contention was expressed in a letter of Dr. John Sibley in 1821. The claim was revived in 1829, when Anthony Butler suggested to President Andrew Jackson that the Neches might be claimed as the Sabine, and Jackson wrote Joel R. Poinsett that it would be profitable to the United States to claim the more western river. Again in 1832 Jackson wrote Butler that the United States could not agree to Mexico's contention that the boundary line ran up the eastern river because it would take from the United States two populous counties. In 1834 Gen. Juan N. Almonte, on orders from the Mexican government, inspected Texas and was successful in dispelling the fears of settlers who would lose property rights held under Mexican law if the Neches were to be made the eastern boundary of Texas. Almonte also convinced the commandant at Fort Jesup that the Mexican interpretation was correct, but during the Texas Revolution in 1836 new significance was given to the claim when Jackson gave Gen. Edmund P. Gaines discretionary orders to march west of the Sabine. Jackson's critics maintained that he was inviting war with Mexico and was prepared to aid Sam Houston if the Mexican army pursued Houston and his army into the contested area. Jackson might conceivably have claimed that he had not sent American troops to Mexican soil but to neutral soil claimed by both countries. When Texas independence was won and when American troops were withdrawn from Nacogdoches in December 1836, the Neches claim was ended.
Helen W. Harris, The Public Life of Juan Nepomuceno Almonte (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1935). Richard R. Stenberg, "Jackson's Neches Claim, 1829–1836," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 39 (April 1936).