Though much has been written in this column about the Bidai Indians formerly of our area, another tribe also made an impact, The Coushatta. Before describing their impact upon our county and region, let’s review the Coushatta role in the three Republics of Texas.
In 1813, Gutierrez de Lara fronted as leader of an army of mixed race and nationality to conquer San Antonio, elect a president and write a constitution for what was termed the “Green Flag Republic”. The strength of its army lay in the mixture of several races, primarily the Spanish and the Anglo American. However, also performing a key role was a group of three hundred Coushatta Indians. Unfortunately, this first Texas Republic lasted only from April to August of 1813.
On the heels of the defeat of the first Republic, that republic’s president, Gutierrez de Lara, became the first vice president of President James Long of the second Republic of Texas which republic lasted in stages from 1819-21. Playing a pivotal role in the early success of this Revolutionary Movement was a Coushatta Village on the Trinity River.
As we come to the third and successful Republic of Texas, 1836-1845, again we see a crucial role for the Coushatta. Succumbing to the charm of Sam Houston, the Coushatta became a part of the Indian support of the drive for Texas Independence from Mexico. They were scouts and guides for Houston’s Army while also providing aide for Texans in the “Runaway Scrape”, fleeing the oncoming forces of Santa Anna.
The link of the Coushatta to Sam Houston was long as the Coste Tribe, ancestor to the Coushatta, lived on Hiwassee island in Tennessee in the 1500s. This was the island on which Sam Houston lived for three years as a teen-ager with the Cherokee.
On the long historical road from Hiwassee, a group of Coushatta arrived by 1780 at the eastern border of Texas, off the Sabine. From there, they marked a major trail referenced as the Coushatta Trace, all the way to La Bahia Refuge near the Matagorda Bay. Linking to this master trace were numerous others. Three especially impact on our area.
One of these, the Long King Trace, named after a Coushatta Chief, ranged from near Tyler, south to join the master trace in present eastern Montgomery County. Along the way, it reached through Walker County. Spinning off this, and arched to the west, was a trace linking the present towns of Shiro, Roans Prairie and Anderson on to a rendezvous point at the Brazos.
Below this Upper Coushatta Trace a trace termed the Lower Coushatta Trace ranged from Long King Trace to near Montgomery and on to the Brazos. In Stagecoach days, passengers on the line from Houston could link at Montgomery to travel the lower trace to places east.
Indicative of the affinity of citizens of Huntsville to the Coushatta lies in the welcome from the Walker County Historical Commission to the Alabama-Coushatta each March 2nd at the gravesite of Sam Houston. At the program, a prominent member of the tribe annually makes a presentation.
Hear more about the Coushatta on Saturday, November 16th at the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County in Conroe, just northwest of Candy Cane Park. Here, from 10-12 AM. the Coushatta from the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation will perform and relate their great history.
Robin Montgomery PHD is the former chairman of the Walker County Historical Commission.