"Today, Shacklefoot’s remains rest beneath a forest of oaks and
pines beside the winding river road known as Farm Road 276."
is an East Texas name
sprinkled with myths, legends and an occasional morsel of actual history.
The community existed two centuries ago as a robbers den perched on
the Texas side of the Sabine
River somewhere near the present-day settlement of Patroon Bay
on Toledo Bend Reservoir.
Pirate chieftain Jean Laffite
supposedly picked the spot on the river and built a community of crude
cabins where his band of plunderers and highwaymen would have a commanding
view of the river. The town supposedly was about four miles up the
Old Spanish Road from Carter’s Ferry, which was long ago flooded by
Toledo Bend Reservoir.
Less than a mile to the west was Patroon Bayou, which flowed into
History does confirm that General Andrew Jackson called on Laffite
and his men in 1815 for help in repulsing the British at New Orleans,
rebuffing an earlier offer by the Redcoats.
most diverse myths surround the town’s name.
One story goes that it was named for an old caretaker who looked after
the cabins while the pirates were off on their raids. The caretaker
had a wooden leg which made a particular shackling noise as he walked.
Another says the settlement earned its name for the iron shackles
placed around the ankles of men taken as prisoners by Laffite’s
While Shacklefoot appeared on the first maps of Sabine
County, nothing remains of the old community except a hard-to-find
community well. The only other printed reference to the place was
found in a diary of an Englishman who passed this way around 1800.
He took care to mention that travelers should avoid the place because
it was a “den of thieves and pirates.” Years ago, before the river
bottomlands were flooded, an old mine existed in the river banks.
While myths claim Laffite
and his men dug gold from the mine, there is no evidence that a gold
source ever existed in East
Texas. However, during the latter part of the 1800s, there was
a discovery of lead, which was used to mold bullets, in Sabine
also has a story of romance. Laffite
supposedly captured a beautiful Spanish women in one of his forays
against a Spanish vessel carrying riches. Enthralled by her beauty,
he enthroned her as his queen at Shacklefoot and named her Polly Crow.
When Laffite left for
New Orleans to help General Jackson, he abandoned Shacklefoot and
Polly. Months later she bore the pirate chief’s son and made her way
into Louisiana to establish a new life.
As a young man, the late Herman Bragg lived next door to Shacklefoot,
where he once chunked rocks into the settlement’s community well.
Bragg worked the fields around Shacklefoot and often plowed up pieces
of iron pots and pottery -- remnants apparently used by Shacklefoot’s
Today, Shacklefoot’s remains rest beneath a forest of oaks and pines
beside the winding river road known as Farm Road 276. The only pirates
you’ll find today are occasional buzzards who swoop down to feast
on a dead armadillo beside the road.
3, 2005 Column
Published with permission
(A public service of the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman
of Lufkin is a former president of the Association and the author
of more than 30 books about East Texas.)
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
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