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  • Texas | Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

    A UNIQUE LANDMARK

    by Bob Bowman
    Bob Bowman
    Travelers who take the time to wander down Farm Road 31 between Deadwood, Texas, and Logansport, Louisiana, will find a one-of-a-kind historical landmark.

    A granite shaft set into the ground on April 23, 1841, marks the only international boundary existing within the continental United States.
    Only US International Boundary  Republic of Texas FM31 Granite block and Marker
    International Boundary Republic of Texas-United States Marker
    Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, February 2009
    International Boundary Republic of Texas  site on FM31
    FM 31
    Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, February 2009
    The marker established the boundary between Texas and Louisiana, but there was a time when the border underwent contests between France, Spain, the U.S. and the Republic of Texas.

    Before there was a Texas, both France and Spain claimed the region on both sides of the Sabine River -- an area known as the “neutral ground” or “no man’s land” because of early explorations by both nations.

    French explorers claimed all land drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries as Louisiana Territory. Spain claimed all southern lands beginning with the first watershed west of the Mississippi. The dispute arose over claims that the “first watershed” was the Sabine or the Atchafalaya River. As a result the land between the two rivers was claimed by both nations. When the U.S. purchased the Louisiana territory in 1803 and inherited France’s claims, the U.S. and Spain agreed that the disputed strip would be neutral territory until an agreement could be reached by the two nations.

    The strip soon became a refuge for outlaws and deserters seeking to avoid the laws of any government, leading to the violent Regulator-Moderator War in Shelby and surrounding counties.

    The boundary was further confused in 1819 when the U.S. purchased Florida from Spain and a new, tentative agreement established the Sabine as the international boundary. Texas, at the time, was still Spanish territory, but became a part of Mexico when Mexico won its independence from Spain.

    When the Republic of Texas was born in 1836, it became a matter of urgency to mark the actual boundary between the Republic and the U.S.

    A joint commission was established in 1838 to survey and map the land along the boundary. W.J. Stone, a young engineer, was commissioned by President Martin Van Buren to perform the task “with all speed and accuracy.” The work was scheduled for completion in 1840, but wasn’t actually finished until 1841.

    The western bank of the Sabine was mapped and marked as the boundary from its mouth to the 32nd parallel, just north of Logan’s Ferry (today’s Logansport).
    Only US International Boundary  Republic of Texas Granite Block
    Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, February 2009
    Only US International Boundary  Republic of Texas Granite Block
    The granite block marking the International Boundary
    Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, February 2009
    To establish the line, a granite shaft was driven into the ground near the river. Three miles north, a second shaft was set. Each mile between the two shafts was marked by an earthen mound containing bottled information and a wooden mileage pole.

    With the passage of time and a crumbling river bank, the shaft on the Sabine was lost.

    The remaining marker on Farm Road 31 was damaged in the 1920s by loggers, but was repaired and still stands about 50 yards off the highway between Deadwood and Logansport.

    The landmark carries three simple inscription. On the south side are the words, “Merid. Boundary Established 1840.” On the east side, it reads: “U.S.” and on the west side are the words, “R.T” for Republic of Texas.
    International Boundary Historical Marker, Republic of Texas
    International Boundary Historical Marker
    Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, February 2009

    An illegal trophy collector tried to dig up the marker in the 1970s, but gave up when he discovered it had a concrete foundation of ten to fourteen feet.

    Apparently, someone in the past wanted to make darned sure the marker wasn’t going anywhere.

    © Bob Bowman February 1, 2005 Column, modifies April, 29, 2012
    More Bob Bowman's East Texas >
    A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers

    Related Article:
    Last Remaining International Boundary for The Republic of Texas by Gerald Massey

    (Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of almost 50 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
    Bob Bowman's East Texas >
    "All Things Historical" archive >

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