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Texas | Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

The Chief's Sons
Natchitoches and Nacogdoches

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman

It is a story that has been told and retold in Texas and Louisiana--one that almost every school child has learned in the classroom.

Twin sons were born to an old Caddo Indian chief living on the banks of the Sabine River. Natchitoches was swarthy with black hair and flashing black eyes. Nacogdoches was fair with yellow hair and blue eyes.

As their father neared the end of his days, he called his sons into his presence to receive his final blessings.

He commanded that, upon his death, Natchitoches should gather his wife and children, turn his face to the rising sun, and after traveling three days he should build his home and rear a tribe.

Nacogdoches was instructed to face the setting sun, walk three days with his family, and establish a new home where he, too, would rear his children and his children’s children.

Thus, the twin tribes of Nacogdoches and Natchitoches were born 100 miles apart--one in what would become Texas and one in the place we know today as Louisiana.

The two tribes were located a sufficient distance apart to prevent friction over their hunting grounds, so they remained on friendly terms as the decades passed.

The friendship and trade beat out a well-traveled path between the two tribes, a route that eventually became a highway known as El Camino Real by Spanish travelers.

The story is such an engaging tale that it has been printed, reprinted, told and retold in so many places that most of us have lost count. But the trouble is, the story isn’t true.

It was apparently concocted in 1939 by historian R.B. Blake of Nacogdoches as part of a booklet produced by the Nacogdoches Historical Society.

There were, however, Indian tribes known as Nacogdoches and Natchitoches. And, yes, there are towns by the same name. And, of course, there is an El Camino Real.

While Nacogdoches has adhered to Blake’s original story, Natchitoches uses a different twist. In its version, as reported by the Chamber of Commerce, the Indian chief banished his twin sons to the east and west.

The Chamber manager said the legend is so ingrained in Natchitoches’ history that “folks around here would run me out of town if I said it wasn’t true.”

Regardless of the story’s veracity, it will remain a beloved part of the fabric of East Texas.


© Bob Bowman July 10, 2006 Column, updated April 22, 2012
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

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