Burr Ferry

Burr Ferry was one of the earliest settlements in the Vernon Parish area. Settlers on their way to Texas had to cross the Sabine River and many believe the location was used as a crossing point both before and after the Louisiana Purchase by adventurer Phillip Nolan who made several trips into the then Spanish territory of Texas to capture horses which he drove back to Natchez to sell.

The first person to have a ferry here was Antoine Jonker, a Dutch man. He is believed to have established the ferry on behalf of John Baptiste LeComte, who was probably the first European to settle in the area. LeComte operated a stock farm on the 2 leagues square which included "the whole of the plains of Lianacucu", and was given the authority to issue "passports", charge a toll for travelers using his roads, and operate ferries.

Because of a boundary dispute after the Louisiana Purchase, the area became part of "No Man's Land", a neutral section of land between the United States and Spanish Texas. When the boundary was finally settled at the Sabine River, settlers poured into the area. Ferries allowed these pioneers to enter Texas with their stock, household goods, and other property and several were located on the stretch of river that borders Vernon Parish today. It was also used as one of three crossings on the Old Beef Road which led from Central and West Texas to the beef markets in Louisiana.

Dr. Timothy Burr, 2nd cousin to U.S. Vice-President Aaron Burr, first visited the area in 1809. By the 1820's he had returned from Ohio and built a home for his family on the high ground along Pearl Creek, which empties into the Sabine near the ferry location. He practiced medicine from his home plantation, although his fields and slave quarters were located across the river in Texas. From articles in the Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record by Mrs. Madeleine Martin of Kirbyville, Texas, we know that in 1840 this crossing was known as Hickman's Ferry, but by 1847 it had come to be known as Burr's Ferry.

Overland travel to and from the area had always been very difficult. Both before and after the Civil War, small flatboats and steamboats traveled up and down the river during the rainy seasons, bringing supplies to the residents and carrying cotton and other goods to market. Burr's Ferry was a shipping point for the surrounding area as far west as Burkeville, Texas, and as far east as Leesville. A fair sized community grew up at the site with warehouses, a gin, watermill, hotel, and saloon. Several steamboat captains made their home there.

Much of the earliest logging in what is now Vernon Parish was done along the Sabine. Loggers would cut and mark the trees, leaving them near a creek until rising waters during the rainy season carried them downstream to the large sawmills of southeastern Texas. The arrival of the Kansas City Railroad heralded the end for the steamboats, the Old Beef Road, and the thriving community on the river.

The Confederate Breastworks at Burr Ferry are some of the few remaining earthen fortifications in Louisiana and the only Civil War site in Vernon Parish. It was built in 1864 during the Red River Campaign, to defend against an expected Union invasion, though none came and no battle was fought here. Today it is owned by the Son of Confederate Veterans who maintain the park with its pavilion and picnic tables.

Today, Burr Ferry is a rural community in West-Central Louisiana. The Burr's Ferry Bridge (as of Feb, 2013 the only named bridge within Vernon Parish) still serves as a major crossing point on the Sabine. It was built from 1936 to 1937 with emergency relief funds. The design addressed difficult site conditions and employed innovative solutions and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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