If a group of Tatum-area citizens had their way, Martin Creek Lake State Park would have been named Trammel's Trace State Park.
Not long after Martin Lake was built to supply the lignite-based power plant, efforts to get the state to build a park got underway. In June 1975 while the park idea was gathering steam, Rusk County Judge James Porter was given a petition from 84 Chapman area residents suggesting the park be named after Trammel's Trace. Judge Porter and State Representative Ben Z. Grant had both heard from others in Tatum, led again by Cecil Williams, long-time publisher of the Trammel Trace Tribune, the weekly paper for Tatum. The Tatum Garden Club and the Tatum Kiwanis Club were both in support.
It certainly made sense since the old trail followed the eastern edge of the lake. In some places it was just beyond the dam and in others the lake covered the former route.
A year later, in July 1976, the new park was ready for opening but still had not been finally named. The group promoting Trammel's Trace State Park was still beating the drum, but a smaller group had begun suggesting Harmony Hill State Park, named for the old settlement just to the north of the lake.
When Williams personally carried his the petition to the state, Texas Parks & Wildlife spokesman, Mike Herring, told him there were priorities in naming. In order they were prominent geographic features, outstanding natural resources, significant historic events or people, and several other lesser options. The Martin family, descendants of earlier settlers whose land was inundated by much of the lake, lobbied for the name it would end up with. The Martin family cabin salvaged from the area to be flooded is now at the Depot Museum in Henderson. Even though the Trammel's Trace name seemed to fit the bill, the park was instead named Martin Creek Lake State Park.
Honestly, the name has always confused me a bit. Is it a creek, or is it a lake? Yes, I know it is a lake made from a creek, but still. Same feeling when I see streets named such-and-such Parkway Drive Circle or something like that. Pick one! :)
There was a Trammel's Trace Marina for a time, where boaters and bank fishermen could buy bait for some fine crappie fishing. But then there was discussion about closing the lake due to selenium releases from the power plant. Now that things have settled down and miles of Trammel's Trace have been dug up due to lignite mining, maybe its time to start that petition again.
Regardless of the name, Park Superintendent Nic Maloukis has been working to better interpret the history of the region and provide visitors with more information about Trammel's Trace. You can even walk part of the old Stagecoach Road from Tatum to Henderson. Martin Creek Lake State Park is a fine place to visit whatever it is named.
Longview News-Journal, June 9, 1975, p 7C
Longview News-Journal, June 20, 1976, p 11a
Remains of old county line road along route of Trammel's Trace that had to be relocated when the lake was built. This is looking south from Martin Cemetery. Photo by Gary Pinkerton.