Decembers to Remember

Our cousins in the more northern latitudes have a different relationship with December than we do here in East Texas. During a recent vacation in New Hampshire and Maine we found things starting to shut down "for the season" on Columbus Day. In North Carolina this week, I saw signs coming out in preparation for closing part of the Blue Ridge Parkway due to the coming weather. Here in Texas, even with a crazy one-day snowfall like we just had, winter is just now becoming the time to get outside.


In Texas Decembers past, much the same was true. The later months of the year, after all the harvests were completed, was a time for moving about the country. Reminders of those December moves are found all through the history I researched for Trammel's Trace.

In December 1820, Moses Austin arrived in San Antonio, working to gain permission to bring 300 Anglo colonists into Mexican Texas. A year later, Daniel Shipman and his family were on the move toward that new colony. Shipman and his family moved along with other Tennesseans to Arkansas in 1819, and then to Spanish Bluff on the Red River. They followed Trammel's Trace from Pecan Point to Nacogdoches on their way to Austin's colony.

By December 1824, Nicholas Trammell and his family had moved south as well, ending up on the Trinity River at a crossing of the El Camino Real. The land he occupied was part of an ownership dispute with an old Spanish landowner named Sartuche.  At the end of 1826, Trammell was chased off the land in a precursor to the Fredonian Rebellion.

Stephen F. Austin, in December 1826, wrote the Mexican governor to say there are "some bad and rebellious men, who must be expelled from our country." Those bad men issued their short lived Fredonian Declaration of Independence on December 21, 1826.

Weather made December travel more tolerable, but we all know winter to be the wet season at times, and snow can surprise us at any time. On a chilly Christmas Day in 1841, Josiah Gregg, a diarist and frontiersman, traveled up Trammel's Trace. A light snow fell on the group as they crossed the Sabine River at Ramsdale's Ferry. He noted the river was only a "half leg deep, so forded easily" (pause here to shiver).

As Mickey and I make our way up interstates and paved highways to Alto and Caddo Mounds State Historic Site today for a presentation, I'll be thankful for the temperature controls inside the truck and revisit all these December events warmly indoors.