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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

SHACKLEFOOT

by Bob Bowman
"Today, Shacklefoot’s remains rest beneath a forest of oaks and pines beside the winding river road known as Farm Road 276."
Bob Bowman
Shacklefoot is an East Texas name sprinkled with myths, legends and an occasional morsel of actual history.

The community existed two centuries ago as a robbers den perched on the Texas side of the Sabine River somewhere near the present-day settlement of Patroon Bay on Toledo Bend Reservoir.

Pirate chieftain Jean Laffite supposedly picked the spot on the river and built a community of crude cabins where his band of plunderers and highwaymen would have a commanding view of the river. The town supposedly was about four miles up the Old Spanish Road from Carter’s Ferry, which was long ago flooded by Toledo Bend Reservoir. Less than a mile to the west was Patroon Bayou, which flowed into the Sabine.

History does confirm that General Andrew Jackson called on Laffite and his men in 1815 for help in repulsing the British at New Orleans, rebuffing an earlier offer by the Redcoats.


The most diverse myths surround the town’s name.

One story goes that it was named for an old caretaker who looked after the cabins while the pirates were off on their raids. The caretaker had a wooden leg which made a particular shackling noise as he walked.

Another says the settlement earned its name for the iron shackles placed around the ankles of men taken as prisoners by Laffite’s pirates.

While Shacklefoot appeared on the first maps of Sabine County, nothing remains of the old community except a hard-to-find community well. The only other printed reference to the place was found in a diary of an Englishman who passed this way around 1800. He took care to mention that travelers should avoid the place because it was a “den of thieves and pirates.” Years ago, before the river bottomlands were flooded, an old mine existed in the river banks. While myths claim Laffite and his men dug gold from the mine, there is no evidence that a gold source ever existed in East Texas. However, during the latter part of the 1800s, there was a discovery of lead, which was used to mold bullets, in Sabine County.


Shacklefoot also has a story of romance. Laffite supposedly captured a beautiful Spanish women in one of his forays against a Spanish vessel carrying riches. Enthralled by her beauty, he enthroned her as his queen at Shacklefoot and named her Polly Crow.

When Laffite left for New Orleans to help General Jackson, he abandoned Shacklefoot and Polly. Months later she bore the pirate chief’s son and made her way into Louisiana to establish a new life.



As a young man, the late Herman Bragg lived next door to Shacklefoot, where he once chunked rocks into the settlement’s community well. Bragg worked the fields around Shacklefoot and often plowed up pieces of iron pots and pottery -- remnants apparently used by Shacklefoot’s residents.

Today, Shacklefoot’s remains rest beneath a forest of oaks and pines beside the winding river road known as Farm Road 276. The only pirates you’ll find today are occasional buzzards who swoop down to feast on a dead armadillo beside the road.
All Things Historical
April 3, 2005 Column
Published with permission
(A public service of the East Texas Historical Association. Bob Bowman of Lufkin is a former president of the Association and the author of more than 30 books about East Texas.)

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