Carthage – This stop is one of simplest and smallest historical sites we’ve seen in the Lone Star State but it’s definitely one of the coolest. And it didn’t hurt having one Texas’ most honored historians along for the ride, Bill O’Neal.
Most days you can find Bill sitting in his Carthage home researching or writing about things that happened long ago. This former football coach still has his booming voice and presence but back in 1970, Bill’s life forever changed when he decided to take a job at Panola College. Over his lifetime, Bill has published 53 books and in 2011 he called it a career at Panola. His first plan for retirement was to write some more books but then Governor Rick Perry had another idea for Bill.
So when you got the call from Governor Perry to be the official State Historian of Texas, what’d that make you feel? “Well, my goodness, I was just simply delighted to serve in that. I’d been a Texas history nut all my life and now I could really get into it. Basically, I turned myself in ambassador for Texas history,” said Bill.
For six years, Bill served as the State Historian of Texas thanks to his wealth of knowledge about the Lone Star State. Being an expert at anything is tough but Bill has a method to making sure he understands the whole story when it comes to history. “My feeling is I can’t write about it until I see it, experience it, see what the place looks like, really looks like, what the wind feels like, what the sounds are like, and so forth. So I always go everywhere I write about,” said Bill.
That includes a small marker in the middle of the woods that not many folks know about out. This curious stone that sits on the border of Louisiana and Texas isn’t a big mystery, but it is one of kind. “It is the only international boundary marker that is in the contiguous United States of the 48-state area,” said Bill.
Now if you’re asking yourself, why is there an international border marker between Texas and Louisiana? Because any proud, card-carrying Texan can tell you that we were a country once. But this border dispute started back when it was an issue between Spain and France. Once Texas won its independence from Mexico, it came time to establish the state’s eastern border, that took a little work between Texas and the United States. “When the Republic of Texas began to work that out with the United States of America, the United States had made the Louisiana Purchase, the Republic of Texas joined a commission with the United States and they came up the Sabine River and these commissioners had surveyors with them,” Bill told me.
This marker on the side of Farm to Market Road 31 South was set on April 23, 1841. From here you can see Louisiana and you can see Texas. Facing east on the marker, you find U.S. engraved on the stone, making the United States side. On the west side of the marker you’ll see an RT for the Republic of Texas.
While the Republic of Texas ceased to be nearly 180 years ago, that chapter in our state’s history seems to stick with us through the years proving once again that Texas history is one of kind. So if you’re adamant at seeing all the history that the Lone Star State has to offer, a stop at the very last Republic of Texas international border marker is well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List!