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Vista K. McCroskey

BELZORA, TEXAS. Belzora was at a ferry crossing where Farm Road 14 now crosses the Sabine River in extreme northern Smith County. The site, originally part of the Juan Santos Coy survey, was settled in 1850 and named for Belle Ham of Tyler. On May 12, 1852, though only a ferry station, Belzora was granted a post office, with Radford Berry as postmaster. Berry had also owned the ferry for at least two years. In 1850 the county commissioners' court had allowed him to charge 2½ cents for ferrying sheep and hogs, five cents for a person or loose cattle and horses, ten cents for a person on horseback, and forty cents for a two-horse wagon. Because it was situated on the heavily traveled Dallas-Shreveport road, the town also included a combination stagecoach stop and store, owned by Thomas R. Swann.

Though the post office was discontinued in 1856, Belzora seemed ripe for development. In 1861 Swann and F. M. Bell bought all the land in the area and laid out town lots, but none was ever sold. Bell later sold his property to Swann. Efforts to open the port to major navigation also failed. The steamer Ben Henry made an unsuccessful attempt to journey downriver with local cotton and freight, and light steamers could maneuver upstream only six months of the year. Even the Patent, a flat-bottomed boat, was stranded at Belzora for ten days because of low water. Such navigational difficulties led natives to refer to the crossing humorously as the "Head of Navigation on the Sabine River."

During the Civil War a carding plant was located nearby, and according to local lore a Confederate commissary operated in Belzora. In the 1870s the Galveston News listed Belzora as a port, and area farmers often used flatboats and canoes to transport goods downstream from there when the river was high. Business ambitions proved futile, however, and Belzora began to decline with the construction of the International-Great Northern Railroad in Smith County. The settlement appeared on county maps as late as 1903 but by 1936 had disappeared from county records. Over the subsequent years a few houses, a church, and even an occasional business were located in the area. In 2004 nothing remained of the community except a historical marker.

Gladys Peters Austin, Along the Century Trail: Early History of Tyler, Texas (Dallas: Avalon Press, 1946). Howard O. Pollan, "1849–1850, Smith County's Formative Years: Abstract of the Commissioner Court Minutes," Chronicles of Smith County, Spring 1969. Smith County Historical Society, Historical Atlas of Smith County (Tyler, Texas: Tyler Print Shop, 1965). Donald W. Whisenhunt, comp., Chronological History of Smith County (Tyler, Texas: Smith County Historical Society, 1983). Albert Woldert, A History of Tyler and Smith County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1948).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Vista K. McCroskey, "BELZORA, TX," accessed March 28, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hvb37.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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