Gone but Not Forgotten: Old San Antonio Road

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The holiday season for many people includes an interstate highway or two. While these roads have shortened travel time, getting to this point in transportation has involved many forged paths. One such historic, and now defunct, roadway is Old San Antonio Road, which ran through 540 miles of Texas and 47 miles of Louisiana.

Part of El Camino Real, which stretched from present-day Guererro, Mexico to Natchitoches Parish in Louisiana, El Camino Real evolved into four main routes: El Camino Real de los Tejas, Lower Road, Old San Antonio Road, and Laredo Road. While en route to establish missions, Spanish explorer Alonso de León followed various Indian and buffalo trails in 1690. The next year, Domingo Terán de los Ríos took missionaries to East Texas following much the same course as traveled by De León. In 1693, Gregorio de Salinas Varona further defined the road while bringing relief supplies from Monclova. Not an actual single road, rather, Old San Antonio Road was a network of trails with differing routes for various challenges such as adverse weather and Native American threats.


Photo: Facebook/El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association

When Texas had won independence from Mexico in 1836, trade between Mexico and Texas waned while Mexico’s trade with the United States began to increase and north-south routes increased in importance. The old route from San Antonio to Louisiana was still a vital link for Texans to the United States and eventually was called Old San Antonio Road. The appearance of the railroad around the 1870s caused the roadway between San Antonio and Mexico to all but disappear.

Plus a historical marker
Facebook/Amy Jo Wagner

In 1915, the State of Texas and the Daughters of the American Revolution funded a project to place markers at approximately five-mile intervals along Old San Antonio Road. Professional surveyor V.N. Zively mapped and marked the routing in 1915 and 1916, with officially inscribed pink granite markers installed and presented on March 2, 1918. On October 18, 2004, President Bush signed a bill designating The El Camino Real de Los Tejas, of which the Old San Antonio Road is a part, a National Historic Trail. As of February 2006, all but nine of the 123 markers survive, but many are moved from their original locations as new highway construction intervened. Today, many of the markers in South Texas are now on private ranches.

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