The community of Toledo Bend, one of the earliest entry points into Texas, has made worthwhile contributions throughout its history, and continues to be an outstanding place in Newton County. The entry way into Texas from the Louisiana side was by ferry boat. The first ferry was called Bevil’s Ferry and later known as Hadden’s Ferry, both named for their owners. The ferry for public use was discontinued in 1925 when it was sold to R. Ferguson of Leesville, Louisiana. He used it for private concerns.
The first settlers probably came as early as 1820. A nearby ferry, Steele and Barker was licensed, operating as early as 1847.
The first postmaster was William C. Lenahan who kept the office in his house. Other postmasters were R.L. Odom, Mrs. Sallie Thompson, and Mrs. R.H. Snell. The office was discontinued in 1936.
One outstanding contribution that the community made to the natural history of Newton County was the cultivation of pecan trees. The first trees were planted by Mrs. W.A. Steele, in 1849. It was R.L. Odom, however, who made Toledo the center of the pecan industry in southeast Texas. Odom came to Toledo in 1907. He established the Sabine Valley Pecan Nursery which was in operation until 1925. He developed and patented the Sabine and the Odom varieties of pecans. They were a fine grade of paper-shell pecan. The commercial crop of pecans averaged 25,000 to 30,000 pounds annually.
When tourists or newcomers visit East Texas they arc usually curious about the names of the places. How did Toledo Bend get its name?
J. Cullen Browning noted in a 1963 article in the Orange (Texas) Leader that the massive horseshoe-shaped curve of the Sabine River near the Toledo Bend dam is identical to contours of the Tagus River as it flows past three sides of the ancient city of Toledo, Spain. The best known portrait of that city is a painting, shown here, by the 16th Century artist Domenico Theotocopuli, known as El Greco – The Greek. Browning suggests that an unremembered 16th century explorer who chose Toledo as the name for an early East Texas settlement may have been a native of the Spanish city. The settlement, mentioned in early Texas records, was on the Sabine River which marked the boundary between what was then Spanish territory in Texas and French territory in Louisiana. Toledo Bend took its name from that settlement.
Another explanation might be one that is found in history books of an incident involving a General by the name of Toledo.
In June the Americans and their Mexican armies defeated near San Antonio a. Spanish army of sixteen hundred men that was sent against them, but in August came the news that another army was approaching from Laredo, commanded by General Arredondo. They determined not to wait for its arrival. Under the command of Colonel Toledo, eight hundred and fifty Americans, a hundred Indians, and some fifteen hundred Mexicans marched out to meet it on the way. General Arredondo learned that they were coming and planned an ambuscade.
The Mexicans broke and fled in terror, but the Americans and the Indians fighting desperately died on the field. Less than a hundred of the Americans escaped to carry the tiding to the Neutral Ground.
Those retreating troops from Toledo’s forces may have camped at the bend in the river and the name came from him.