FORT TERAN. Fort Teran was a Mexican military encampment or station established in 1831 at a Neches River crossing that Spanish government representatives in Nacogdoches at the beginning of the nineteenth century had referred to as the "pass to the south." Three important trails crossed the Neches River at this point, underscoring the significance of this strategic site. The fort was named in honor of Gen. Manuel de Mier y Terán, commandant general of the eastern division of the Provincias Internas (which included Texas), and constructed at this location as part of a program to control the flow of smugglers and illegal immigrants into Texas.
The site was in what is now Tyler County about a half mile downstream from the mouth of Shawnee Creek and three miles west of Rockland. The crossing at this point provided access to a feasible route across the Kisatchie Wold, a ridge that extends from the Mississippi River to the lower Rio Grande valley of Texas and that was a formidable obstacle for north-south travel. In northern Tyler County this ridge reaches heights of 400 to 450 feet above sea level at several of its peaks and has forced the Neches River to run eastward along the northern boundary of Tyler County.
Construction of a fort on the Neches River was a result of General Terán's inspection tour of East Texas in 1829. He observed that immigrants and smugglers were coming into Texas from Louisiana by using unguarded trails such as the Coushatta Trace, the Alabama Trace, and the Nacogdoches-Orcoquisac Road, all of which crossed the Neches River at the future site of Fort Teran. When Terán returned to Mexico, he helped to draft Anastasio Bustamante's Law of April 6, 1830, forbidding American immigrants to settle in Mexican territory.
Responsibility for enforcing this law was assigned to a "director of colonization," and Terán was the first to hold this office. His program for closing Texas to immigrants from the United States included establishing garrisons on the Neches and several other rivers. He chose Peter Ellis Bean, a colonel in the Mexican army, to construct Fort Teran on the Neches. On September 25, 1831, Bean departed from Nacogdoches to establish the fort. Apparently construction proceeded very slowly, since the military commandant at Nacogdoches, José de las Piedras, on April 19, 1832, reported the need for additional carpenters and other craftsmen to assist in building the fort. When completed, this project consisted of approximately ten wooden cabins to provide housing for Colonel Bean and his small garrison. The Mexican government, however, found itself unable to support its Texas forts adequately, and later in 1832 transferred most of the troops.
After Fort Teran was abandoned by the remaining troops in 1834, the population in the immediate area was about a dozen persons. Samuel T. Belt opened a trading post at the fort site. A post office operated there in 1856–66, and this small community, sometimes called Fort Turan, continued as a trading and shipping point until the railroads came to Tyler and Angelina counties in the 1880s. Until 1878 steamboats continued to land near the fort, which was at the head of navigation on the Neches River. When Texas counties were organized after 1845, Fort Teran was used as a point of reference in describing the boundaries of Angelina and Jasper counties.
Another of Belt's enterprises was the operation of a ferry at the Fort Teran crossing. Stagecoaches used this crossing for many years. The ferry operated first as Belt's Ferry, then Boone's Ferry and Duncan Ferry, until the completion of a state highway through Rockland in 1917.
Juan N. Almonte, "Statistical Report of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 28 (January 1925). Wallace W. Atwood, The Physiographic Provinces of North America (Boston: Ginn, 1940). Eugene C. Barker, Readings in Texas History (Dallas: Southwest Press, 1929). David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982). James E. Wheat, "The Story of Fort Teran on the Neches," It's Dogwood Time in Tyler County, March 1951. James E. and Josiah Wheat, "Tyler County under Mexico," It's Dogwood Time in Tyler County, March 1966. Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).