Almost everyone who has lived in this area for any time at all has heard about the Shawnee Trail Ride that for many years started near Pottsboro and followed Preston Road, the Texas extension of the Shawnee Trail to Dallas for the opening of the Texas State Fair. That ride no longer takes place, and I’m sure traffic had something to do with its demise. The Shawnee Trail crossed the Red River at Rock Bluff,
But I wonder how many of those people know that before Denison was settled there was an Indian village called Shawneetown near the present bridge on Highway 69-75 over the Red River.
Kirleen Hiett of Denison sent me a report written by Kenneth Jones of Pottsboro a number of years ago that gives a lot of information about this Indian village that existed in 1836 (more than 180 years ago). This was just one of many villages and crossings that existed in those days as white settlers began heading west.
The location of Shawneetown is seen on 1853 and 1859 land maps located in “Ancestors and Descendants, Grayson County, Texas” and “A History of Grayson County Texas — 1936.” It was located less than a mile upstream from Colbert’s Ferry.
Information on Shawneetown is found in Jones’ report made in 1993 for proposed U.S. Highway 75 road and bridge construction, including the Texas Travel Information Center.
Shawneetown was purchased by Col. W.D. Young and was where a landing for cotton barges and a ferry existed, according to the report. Nothing is left of the village except a few mentions in history books and on old land maps. There’s no doubt that anything that was left of the village has washed down the river.
Known history of the area goes back to 1542 when an explorer named Luys de Moscose, who followed DeSoto, left from what now is known as Arkansas and crossed Red River near Texarkana. He followed the north headwaters of the Sulphur River heading west and came through the southeastern part of what now is Grayson County, according to the report.
For 150 years the area was pretty much uninhabited until 1700 when the Tonkawa Indians lived here. In the years following, various foreign explorers came through, and, by 1816, Americans were beginning to settle on the south bank of the Red River.
John Hart who took furs from the mouth of the Washita River to New Orleans probably was the first English-speaking person to visit the area now known as Grayson County. In 1834 Capt. James Dean cut out a supply road from Hugo, Oklahoma, to the mouth of the Washita River and established Camp Washita.
Then, in 1835, Andrew Thomas and Davy Crockett exchanged guns while in Honey Grove and Thomas settled south of Kentuckytown. Crockett’s gun that went to Thomas remains in their family who still live on the same property near Kentuckytown. It was in the family of Laverne and Tootie Darwin for many years and at one time the property was recognized for being in the same family for over 100 years. Laverne directed the Camp Fire Girl Program in Denison for a number of years.
Abel Warren opened a trading post on the south bank of Red River in 1836 where Ambrose now stands. In 1837, Holland Coffee and Silas Colville settle at Preston Bend and became partners. At that time Shawneetown was north of Denison and the Delaware Indians had a village at Delaware Bend.
In 1840 Col. William Cook was sent by the Republic of Texas to lay out a military road and establish outposts from Austin to Coffee’s Station. The northern part of the trail became known as Preston Road, named for William G. Preston, a young officer who was in charge of service and supply at Fort Preston. The trail north of Red River was known as Shawnee Trail.
When Coffee and Colville split up their partnership Colville became associated with James A. Caldwell at Shawneetown. In 1841, Colville killed John Hart in a brawl, and in 1844, Caldwell died and Colville was killed.
By 1845, thousands of wagons were crossing Red River into Texas and Grayson County was created from Fannin County in 1846.
In 1850 there were five settlements in the area: Preston, Pilot Grove, Shawneetown, Old Warren and Sherman.
The Shawnees, an Algonquin tribe, according to the article, occupied the Cumberland Valley in Tennessee in 1650 and became incorporated with the Cherokees in 1869.
It’s really a shame that so little is known about Shawneetown. Since the area where it was located has probably washed down Red River now, nothing of the village has been found.
A booklet containing Jones’ entire report that includes a lot of other Grayson County history, such as the Red River Bridge War and Sophia Porter’s story, is available at Grayson County Frontier Village Museum.
Donna Hunt is a former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.