About Trammel's Trace

Trammel’s Trace was the second major route into Spanish Texas from the United States and the first route from the northern boundaries along the Red River. In the early 1800’s Trammel’s Trace was a smugglers’ trail, but later became a path for immigration to Texas. It was an historic corridor connecting travelers from Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas with the El Camino Real at Nacogdoches.

"Sketch Map of Trammel's Trace" by James W. Dawson, 1944. Arkansas Historical Commission, Southwest Arkansas Regional Archive, Washington, Arkansas.

Episode 54, "Trammel's Trace," is part of a made-for-radio series presented by Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin. This one is based on my article for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.

Trammel’s Trace ran to Nacogdoches from two points on the Red River - Fulton, Arkansas and the early Pecan Point/Jonesboro settlements to the northwest of Clarksville, Texas. In Nacogdoches, it connected with the El Camino Real, also called the Old San Antonio Road, running east and west. Its history from the early 1800’s through Texas’ statehood is the history of migration, lawlessness, and conflict that defined that period. It is those stories about the land through which it passed and the people who traveled it which I hope to convey to the reader.

The road’s namesake, a Tennessean named Nicholas Trammell (1780-1856), is the subject of much myth and legend. Though Spanish and Mexican authorities attempted to control trade in the region, smugglers found a way around the patrols. Nicholas Trammell was such a key part of much of the trade and early migration that a series of old trails linked together by his frequent travel were named after him in the early 1800’s.

While the later stories of Trammell as a murderous outlaw are not supported by evidence, his life of smuggling and racing horses, operating taverns, gaming operations, and other opportunistic business dealings placed him on the fringes of frontier culture.

Remains of Trammel's Trace can be found in Bowie, Cass, Marion, Harrison, Rusk, Panola, and Nacogdoches counties in East Texas. It extended into Little River, Miller, and Hempstead County, Arkansas but the terrain there is not conducive to preservation of road ruts. The Great Bend of the Red River at Fulton, Arkansas is where Trammel's Trace connected with the Southwest Trail across Arkansas.