Stephen F. Austin State University

The History of Burr's Ferry (November 2014)

The History of Burr's Ferry
By Jonnie Miller

Burr's Ferry was once known as Hickman's Ferry (1840) was a point on the Sabine River where invasion by Federal forces were expected during the Civil War. Extensive breastworks were established and may be seen today north of Louisiana Highway 8, a short distance from the bridge. All timber was removed from the Texas bank at Burr's Ferry so that there would be an unobstructed view of anything approaching by water. After the fall of Vicksburg in 1863 the United States War Department ordered Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks to invade Texas. This never came to pass, however, since one Union invasion was halted at Sabine Pass and another planned against Niblett's Bluff was deemed impossible because of inadequate supplies.

Burr's Ferry was a shipping point for the area as far west as Burkeville, TX, and as far east as Leesville, La. It had a gin, warehouses, and a watermill and was the home of Captain John M. Liles, master and part owner of the Neches Belle, a well-known river steamboat.

The town and the ferry were named after Dr. Timothy Burr, a second cousin of Aaron Burr. According to family stories, Dr. Burr left his home in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1809 with six other men and floated by houseboat down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. At some point he established his home at the mouth of Pearl Creek and returned to Ohio for his bride. The earliest date in the family cemetery is on a marker at the grave of Henry Burr, in 1828. He was fourteen years old. Dr. Burr was an early settler in Newton County and at some point was the owner of a plantation on the Texas side of the Sabine River. The town itself was never large on the Texas side but became an important business center for pre-Civil War Newton County on the Louisiana side.

Burr's Ferry eventually included a wire cable and pulley enabling it to serve automobiles. It discontinued operations in 1936 when a highway bridge connecting Texas Highway 63 and Louisiana Highway 8 was completed. However, the site is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites.