The Sabine River, first named the "Rio de Sabinas", is the 33rd longest river in the United States. The word 'sabinas' (Spanish for cypress) refers to the cypress trees that grow in abundance along the banks of the river. In its earliest history the river valley was inhabited by a first nation people called the Caddo. The Caddo culture thrived there for over 500 years but by the time the first European explorers arrived in the 1500s only scattered remnants of their civilization were still visible. Very few Caddo people were still inhabiting the area. It is unknown when the name officially changed to the Sabine River but a map from 1721 identified it as Rio de Sabinas.
The river flows for 510 miles through parts of Texas and into Louisiana. It rises in northeast Texas and as it winds past Mineola, Gladewater, Big Sandy and Longview, it forms the Texas-Louisiana border. The middle course of the river valley has supported both forestry and oil industries. The Sabine is still described as the line of division between the "New Southwest and the Old South". It flows in a meandering southeastern direction into Lake Sabine and then through the Sabine Pass, finally draining into the Gulf of Mexico.
Transportion and Migration Route
Although the Sabine was too deep and quick to ford with wagons, it proved to be navigable and crossable by ferry. The first recorded ferry use dates back to 1794 when Louis Chabinan built a river ferry called "Paso Del Chaland" near where Texas State Highway 21 and the Louisiana State Highway 6 now meet at the Pendleton Bridge. By the 1820s American settlers had arrived in the river valley, soon outnumbering Mexicans 10 to 1. The first steamboat journey was made in 1843 in the steamboat "Sabine". After that time steamboats were common on the river traveling from Sabine Lake north to Logansport. This provided an easier way for settlers to reach new wilderness frontiers and afforded a significant amount of missionary work to be done in that vicinity. After the Republic of Texas was declared independent from Mexico in 1836, the Texas and United States boundary was set at the Sabine River in accordance with the Adams-Onis Treaty. Until Texas was annexed by the US in 1845 the river was the accepted western boundary of the United States.