Wood County, 1850-1900 Page: 7
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The chief difficulty in early Wood County was in-
adequate transportation. The first roads were little
more than trails cut through the woods. In wet weather
early settlers were more or less isolated depending on
their place of residence. Streams were forded, and in
some sections sand became so deep with usage it was
hardly possible to haul heavy loads except by oxen.
Most of the goods were transported by ox-wagons. This
was called "wagoning" or "freighting" and created a
need for experienced teamsters.
Jefferson was the principal market, and for a
period of time known as the second largest "seaport" in
Texas. It took weeks to haul cotton to Jefferson and
return. Some farmers hauled their own cotton and
other products; others used the regular freight wagons
which traveled the old Jefferson to Quitman road.
Private travel was accomplished by private con-
vevance or by means of stage coaches drawn by four-
ho ;e teams. The fare was generally ten cents a mile.
Some Wood Countians shared the advantages of
BE :ora, a small shipping point on the Sabine River
about three miles southeast of present Hawkins, with
Smith County farmers and sawmillers. From the 1850's
to the arrival of railroads in 1873, Belzora was the head
of navigation on the Sabine River. For several months
in the year light steamers could ascend as far as
Belzora and the Galveston News of that period listed
the various ports between Sabine Pass and Belzora giv-
ing mileage, rates, etc.
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In the early days of Belzora, an optimistic group of
men built a steamboat which they hoped would solve
the problem of shipping to the Gulf Coast. Given the
name of "Ben Henry", the boat set out on the long
journey loaded with cotton and other produce. There is
no record of its return to Belzora. In dry seasons the
river was often too shallow for navigation, and boats
that succeeded in making their way back to Belzora
usually had to remain several days for the river to rise
sufficiently before returning southward.
The coming of the railroads was actually the
beginning of prosperity for Wood County. Railroad
building had begun in Texas between 1850 and 1860,
but because of financial difficulties only about 500
miles of track had been completed before the outbreak
of the Civil War. Active building began again in 1868,
and in the fall of 1873 the Texas & Pacific and the
International & Great Northern built lines through the
southern part of Wood County. Later, the Missouri,
Kansas & Texas built a line running from Mineola to
Greenville. In 1876-1878 the East Line & Red River
built through Winnsboro. This later became a part of
the Louisiana, Arkansas & Texas railroad. According
to an early account of county history written by James
L. Ray, Wood County once had five railroads within its
borders. This included the Texas Shortline running
from Alba to Grand Saline. At that time the county
had five railroad towns, Mineola, Winnsboro, Alba,
Hawkins and Golden, and cotton production became
an important industry.
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OLD IRON BRIDGE over LAKE FORK between Quitman and Mineola.
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Wood County, 1850-1900 (Book)
This text gives an overview of Wood County, Texas from roughly 1850 to 1900. It includes historical sketches of various aspects of life in the county as well as anecdotes. Genealogical information and documentation are also included for pioneer families in the area.
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Wood County Historical Society. Wood County, 1850-1900, book, 1976; Quitman, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth91051/m1/15/: accessed October 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .