Burr's Ferry - Newton County - Texas

A detailed account of the history of Burr's Ferry was written in an article "Ghost Towns" in the Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record, November, 1966 and November, 1967. It was written by Mrs. Madeleine Martin of Kirbyville, Texas. From it we learn that Burr's [Burr's] Ferry was an old crossing of the Sabine. It was known as Hickman's Ferry in 1840, but when the Commissioners Court of the newly organized Newton County had its third meeting in January, 1847, Burr's Ferry, not Hickman's, was designated the beginning point for Road Precinct No. 1. The town was not on the Texas side but across the river on the higher ground at the mouth of Pearl Creek. The Beef Road that led from Central and West Texas across the upper parts of Jasper and Newton Counties from Morris' Ferry on the Angelina River forked between Burkeville and Toledo; one fork went northeast to Bevil's [Hadden's] Ferry, the other southeast to cross at Burr's Ferry, then on to the market at Alexandria, Louisiana.

Burr's Ferry was a point on the Sabine River where invasion by Federal forces was expected during the Civil War. Extensive breastworks were thrown up, and these may be seen today north of Louisiana Highway 8 a short distance from the bridge. To give an unobstructed view of approaches by water, all timber was removed from the Texas bank, but it is doubtful if gun emplacements were anywhere but on the Louisiana side. A chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at Leesville, Louisiana, has established a small park around the old fortifications where the grounds, long overgrown with pines, are protected from erosion by the trees.

Burr's Ferry was a shipping point for the surrounding area as far west as Burkeville, Texas, and as far east as Leesville. It had a gin, warehouses, and a watermill, and it was also the home of Captain John M. Liles, master and part owner of the Neches Belle.

Both the ferry and the town were named for Dr. Timothy Burr, a second cousin of Aaron Dr. Burr, according to the story handed down in the family, left his home in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1809, and with six other men, floated by houseboat down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Whether Dr. Burr left his companions in Arkansas and came overland to Natchitoches is not known, but at some time he visited what was known then as the Neutral Ground. He selected a site for a home and returned to Ohio for his bride. It is not certain when he brought his family to the site at the mouth of Pearl Creek, but the earliest date in the family cemetery is on a marker at the grave of Henry Burr, who died in 1828 at the age of fourteen,

It was never a bustling city, but the relative importance of the town in the period from 1850 until 1910 was considerable when compared with its status today. It has no school, no post office, no commercial enterprise except for a small restaurant on the bank of the river.

The first post office was established July 1, 1873, with John M. Liles as postmaster. On March 5, 1892, when James Cavanaugh was in charge of the office, the name was changed to Burr Ferry; the office was discontinued November 30, 1918, reestablished for a few months in 1922; then reestablished March 29, 1929. It was finally discontinued July 31,1933.

The Texas Official State Marker at the site of Burr's Ferry on the Sabine River (now spanned by a splendid concrete bridge) has this inscription:

Site of Old Burr's Ferry (Highway Bridge) An important communications point between Texas and the United States, Especially during settlement era of early 1800s. Named for Dr. Timothy Burr (1790-1852), second cousin of U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr.

Dr. Burr is said to have come to the Sabine area in 1809, but moved his family down from Ohio in 1820s. He practiced medicine from his home plantation on the Sabine. His son, G. B. Burr, lived on Texas side. The family operated the ferry in the 1840s. Their name was given to town of Burr's Ferry, across the river.

"This crossing (earlier called Hickman's Ferry) gave pioneers the means to enter Texas with their stock, household goods, and other property. It was one of four main points of entry on Texas-Louisiana border. Besides the famous El Camino Real (King's Highway) from Natchitoches, other entry roads were "Upper Route, from present-day Shreveport; "Lower" Route, from Opelousas; and this one, called "The Old Beef Trail" because it was used to drive thousands of cattle from Texas to Alexandria for shipment to such cities as New Orleans, as early as the 1820s and 30s.

In the Civil War this crossing was fortified, to protect Texas against Federal invasion. Breastworks for defense were built on the Louisiana shore.