The next town I want to write about, located on the bank of the Trinity River, was called Buffalo. This is not the Buffalo located in Leon County on Interstate 45 nor is it the little farming community which once existed to the north of Bazette. This farming community was centered around the frame schoolhouse which had the name of Buffalo. The town of Buffalo which I am writing about today was located on the east bank of the Trinity River in Henderson County.

Just like many of the other early settlements along the Trinity, Buffalo was designed to be an inland port city and a river crossing from Henderson County into Navarro County. The town was laid out by John H. Reagan who thought the community would grow to be a dominant population center in northeast Texas due to its location and access to the river transportation system. The town was laid out to include a public square, courthouse, other public buildings, a school, and a Protestant church. For a brief period, Buffalo was the county seat of Henderson County. In 1848, the state legislature decided to divide Henderson County into two counties. Kaufman County was created during this division. When this happened, Buffalo was no longer in the center of the county so the county seat was moved eastward to Centerville. Note, this is not the town of Centerville located on I-45 near Madisonville.

Mr. Reagan must have been a very active person in those days. In the Kaufman County Historical book, they state he first lived in 1841-1842 at Kings Fort which was an early fort in the original Henderson County. The site of this fort is on the northern edge of downtown Kaufman overlooking Kings Creek. Then Mr. Reagan lived in the Kemp area for several years before he moved to Centerville. Besides being a surveyor, Mr. Regan became a well known lawyer and politician from Henderson County.

Two years later, in 1850, the legislature decided to once more divide Henderson County and the county seat was once more relocated to the town of Athens where it remains today. With all of these developments occurring in rapid succession, the community of Buffalo was short lived in duration. In 1849, Buffalo had a county clerk’s office and one store. By the early 1850s, however, the town was almost abandoned.

Today the site of Buffalo is in a pasture with little or no evidence visible on the surface. During the preliminary archeological survey for the giant Tennessee Colony Lake, archeologists with Southern Methodist University visited the location. Three clusters of ceramics and glass dating to the 1850s were recorded but no excavation work was performed at the site. It is interesting to note all three clusters were recorded as house sites rather than commercial structures. On three separate occasions, I walked across the site with the archeologists from SMU but at the time I was more interested in the bluff or land form and its relation to the Trinity River.

One ferry is documented as being located at Buffalo. It was operated by a Mr. Acker but I am not aware of how many years the ferry was in operation nor if Mr. Acker was the only operator of the ferry. This ferry crossing was not as good as the two ferries which operated at Taos/Porter’s Bluff located only a few miles upstream from Buffalo. This is because there is a very wide floodplain blackland bottom on the west side of the Trinity River at Buffalo. Blackland bottoms were very difficult to cross during rainy periods with a wagon and a team of mules, oxen or horses. There are several descriptions where someone wrote about having to take his team into the bottom to help someone make the crossing. Several years ago, we were walking around on a piece of property located east of Chatfield. On the back side of a fairly high hill, we discovered two old abandoned road beds placed about 20 yards apart. We could tell one of the old road beds had been cut deeper in the clay subsoil so they moved over and created a newer road. Keep in mind a team pulling a loaded wagon could not go straight up a hill. Instead they had to climb the hill at an angle to help reduce the weight factor. Today, the same principal applies if you were to visit Pikes Peak or the extinct volcano located in northeast New Mexico, you have to go around and around before you reach the top.

Downstream from Buffalo was another ferry crossing known as the Bazette crossing. To our knowledge, there was not any settlement located on the banks of the river at this location. However Bazette crossing was another major ferry crossing from Henderson County into Navarro County. Exactly when this ferry was established is not known at this time but the crossing must date to a very early time period. The community of Bazette is one of the four oldest towns recorded in Navarro County according to the “Lone Star State, The History of Freestone, Limestone, Anderson, Navarro, Leon and Henderson Counties” published in 1893 by Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago. The archeologists with SMU did not mention the crossing and ferry at Bazette for some unknown reason.

Since the archeologists did not mention the Bazette crossing, this gives me the opportunity to briefly discuss crossings, ferries and landings. Many of the crossings and ferries located up and down the Trinity River were there for one reason, to get people across the river for a fee. I would imagine handbills and notices were posted in many of the East Texas towns telling migrating settlers just how good a certain ferry was and how easy it was to cross the Trinity at this specific location. Ferries and crossings must have been in competition with each other. A landing is a different story. It was a place where a steamboat could get close enough to the bank to load and offload goods. Many of the landings were not associated with any settlement; instead most of the landings were privately owned and were meant solely for the purpose of loading goods, especially cotton and timber meant for the markets in Houston and Galveston. We will never know just how many landings were located along the Trinity River. As a landowner in the 1850s with several bales of cotton ready for the market, if you heard a steamboat making its way up or downstream, you might try your best to get the boat captain to stop and take your goods to market. It would be similar to trying to hail a cab in downtown Dallas. The more money you flashed, the better the chance of getting someone to stop!

Next week: The saga of navigation on the Trinity continues

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Bill Young is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears Sundays.

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