Traveling West on The Old Spanish Trail Highway

Texas:  From the Sabine River to Houston


In 1926, travelers driving into Texas from Louisiana or into Louisiana from Texas had to take Long Ferry across the Sabine River.  The bridge would not be completed for a few more years although funding had been obtained by the time Harral Ayers and the OST Association published the second and final issue of The Old Spanish Trail Magazine (Louisiana Issue) .  He wrote in that issue of the magazine, in an article entitled "Orange and Her Work" that "the greatest single achievement in the linking of the Old Spanish Trail is the conclusion of all arrangements for the building of the Sabine River bridge at Orange. This was made possible only by untiring efforts of of the broad visioned business men of Orange and the ceaseless efforts of the Chamber of Commerce."

The route through Orange has been obscured slightly by the travelers having, now, to take the IH-10 bridge over the Sabine.  Travelers need to turn into the city and south to Green Street which takes travelers through most of Orange, after a short detour to the right, cars can continue east on U.S. 90.  After leaving Orange, the old road bed is still an active road, but travels slightly east of the combined IH-10/U.S. 90 highways though those highways have been built on top of OST for most of the route to Beaumont, Texas. 

The original bridges over the Sabine and Neches Rivers are gone now.  You can drive down some of the old highway from Rose City to Beaumont, but the highway comes to an end at the Neches River.  You can still spot a small bit of the structure of the old bridge at that point.  You have to get back onto IH-10/U.S. 90 to cross the river into Beaumont.  The city council of Beaumont, Texas (as promotion-minded as all of the cities along the highway were in the days of the highway's construction), has marked the highway with special historic shields that indicate that the streets the road follows through the city are parts of "The Old Spanish Trail" which the sign labels as the route of the Spanish Conquistadors as they headed east to Florida.  Actually, it is the route of the highway and many citizens along its route (not just in Texas, but across the country)are not aware of how that highway came into being.  There is ample evidence that the Spanish conquistadors may have gone to Beaumont along the route the highway would eventually take, but there is also ample evidence that they took ships from Mexico to Mobile Bay.   The route through Beaumont requires turning off IH-10 to the south on Pine Street, turn onto Main and then turn back east on College Street.  College Street leads the traveler out of town and then on to Houston.

Aside from map makers like Rand McNally and the various auto clubs, oil companies had begun to produce maps for travelers as early as the 1920s.   Not much larger than the Rand McNally maps in the "junior" atlases, the maps normally listed all of the locations of the map provider's service stations in the individual states, as did this Gulf Oil map of 1930.

The Old Spanish Trail highway from Beaumont to Houston was mostly paved or graded by the midpoint of the 1920s, but there was a twenty-mile or more stretch between China and Dayton, Texas, that was still primarily a dirt road.  The problem lay in the way roads were financed.  The federal government did pay some money (matching funds in those days) for road construction, but most of the funds required county elections to pass a road bond issue and some counties, as of the mid-twenties were reluctant to do so. By 1931 all of the roadway was paved.

Most of the route of the OST through Texas runs fairly close to the Southern Pacific railroad line and travelers can almost always see the tracks or freight trains as they drive the Texas stretch of the road.  By 1931, maps available from the Automobile Club of Southern California (and printed in their travel brochure (Eastern Coastal Highway and Old Spanish Trail) shows that the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers had been bridged and travelers could move through Houston fairly easily.

Getting through Houston on the OST:  The 1930 Airways, Highways, Waterways of Texas booklet, published by Humble Oil and using Rand McNally maps, is a very useful tool for locating passageways through the major cities of Texas. The Houston city map is reproduced below with the OST route in pink.

Starting with a brief turn onto Wayside Drive the trip through Houston is fairly direct and is, once again, the Main Street the highway planners loved to trace.  From Wayside Drive (going west) the traveler turns right onto Navigation Boulevard and then left on Main Street.  The street goes past Rice Institute (now Rice University) and out of town towards Sugarland.  The street named "Old Spanish Trail" was not actually a part of the highway as it ran through Houston.