Ghost Town Under Sam Rayburn Lake - Zana, Texas




We have been hearing rumors about a Sam Rayburn ghost town under Lake Sam Rayburn, and decided to do the research and answer the question for our readers: Is there a Sam Rayburn underwater town? 

Yes, there is a ghost town under Lake Sam Rayburn. A town named Zana, Texas was a thriving community on the Angelina River in the late 1800s, complete with a cotton gin, grist mill and river steamboats.

 

Where is Zana, Texas?

Zana, Texas, a now East Texas Ghost Town, would have been established because of navigation of the Angelina River for transportation of goods and then the railroads later arriving in San Augustine County, and the Angelina River provided for the transportation of cotton. Cotton and corn were the major crops grown near the Angelina River. Indeed, Zana had a cotton gin and a grist mill. Broaddus, Texas, was approximately 6 to 8 miles north or northwest of Zana.

Sam Rayburn Reservoir swallowed up one ghost town in San Augustine County on the north side of the Angelina River. Zana, Texas, established a post office in 1886. Zana was a small community like many towns in San Augustine County after the Civil War, with a small population of 50 by 1896. Zana was on or close to the Angelina River. 

The first European Explorers found the Hasinai Tribe, a branch of the Caddo Tribe. First Spanish and then French explorers competed for the resources in Texas and traveled along the Angelina River banks. Spanish missionaries called a Hasinai Indian girl Angelina. The legend has it that the Angelina River was named for her.

 

Zana’s Founding Fathers

An 1879 plat map where Zana used to be lists several large plats of land owned by B. F. Fallow/T. June, B. W. Harvey, Andrew Caldwell, Peter Galloway, Jacob Garmoth, and Chichester Chaplin/T. May.

  1. W. Harvey received a land grant that included the mouth of the stream February 20, 1835, .Harvey Creek ran southwest for 11½ miles to its mouth on the Angelina River rising up near Broaddus. Harvey Creek supported agricultural use of the land surrounding it.

We know more about Chichester Chaplin than any of the other founding fathers of Zana, Texas. Chichester began reading law at a young age. Born in 1800 in Ireland, he ended up in Louisiana between 1810 and 1820 and married his first wife, Tabitha Beall Edwards Aydelot in 1824. He followed his father-in-law after his first wife’s death to the Nacogdoches Texas, region around 1826.

Chichester quickly became caught in the pre-Texas War of Independence, for Tabitha’s brothers caused the Fredonian Rebellion in 1826, a dispute between the Mexican government and the Edwards brothers, Haden and Benjamin, over Mexican and Spanish land grants which allowed the brothers to settle as many as 800 families in Texas. Chichester eventually became a powerful judge in Texas and Louisiana.

 

What Zana, Texas, Witnessed on the Angelina River

While no records show that Chichester lived in Zana, he definitely helped lay the way for Zana’s establishment. We do not know when the community of Zana first became populated. Zana residents would have seen changes happen quickly after the Civil War, and more slowly before 1916, when its post office closed. The Angelina River, long used by natives and early explorers, first saw navigation for the transport of agricultural products in the 1840s.

Two brothers, Moses and Robert Patton, loaded 192 bales of cotton on a barge named the Thomas J. Rusk at Pattonia Landing on the Angelina River southeast of Nacogdoches, Texas, by way of the Neches River to Sabine Pass on the Texas side of the Texas-Louisiana border. Texas became a country in 1836, then a State in 1845, and Angelina River traffic increased during the Civil War.

The largest boat on the Angelina River, the 115-foot Laura, operated with a forty-horsepower steam engine, and could carry 525 bales of cotton or 1,700 barrels of product. When the railroads arrived in the 1880s, Angelina River traffic significantly decreased.

Taxes rose high, people lost their land, and farmers experienced soil exhaustion in the 1870s. Crop production turned to sugar cane. People raised a lot of hogs during this decade. 

Yet, Zana received its post office in 1876. This was an exciting development for a small community surviving on the economics of a river.

By 1900, navigation on the Angelina River had ceased. By this time, the lumber industry had clear-cut its way to the erosion of its watershed along with farming practices. Silt built up until sandbars plagued the Angelina River. Zana supported Christian and Baptist churches and two livestock agents. 

Soon, Zana’s population decreased steadily. The post office closed in 1916. Zana was not on the highway maps and there were only a few buildings left by the 1930s. Sam Rayburn Reservoir swallowed Zana in 1965 when its McGee Bend Dam began impounding water.

 

Location of Zana, Texas Ghost Town

Well, it’s hard to say exactly where Zana, Texas, is today. Going over historical maps, today’s maps, and historical records proves fallible in locating Zana. There is a bay running northeast on the north side of Sam Rayburn Reservoir that possibly swallowed Harvey Creek too.  

Zana was southeast or south of Broaddus, Texas, which still exists today. The 1907 Post Map puts Zana on SH 147 which crosses Sam Rayburn Reservoir into Angelina County to Zavalia, Texas. SH 147 runs northeast/southeast. A bay located on the south side of Broaddus on Sam Rayburn Reservoir swallowed the southern end of Harvey Creek.

There is a Harvey Creek Baptist Church in Broaddus, but no Harvey Creek near Broaddus. The 1907 map would place Zana under the SH 147 bridge in the lake today. But given the cotton gin, grist mill, and livestock agents all doing business Zana during its heyday, that location makes little sense. It was too far from the Angelina River with no available waterway to load goods on a boat.

Before the railroads came to San Augustine County, a town that survived on transporting large quantities of agricultural products had to be on a waterway by necessity. Zana more than likely would be under that bay located south of Broaddus on Harvey Creek. Harvey Creek comes out of the north end of that bay 2.21 miles southeast of Broaddus and runs northeast through the Bannister Wildlife Management Area, which surrounds Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

If you know where Zana, Texas, is, please leave us a comment!

 


 

Photos of Zana, Texas

1907 Post Map of Zana, Texas

1907 Post Map of Zana, Texas, Today

Broaddus to Angelina River

More Probable Location of Zana, Texas, Today

 

Sources

https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth31215/m1/1/sizes/xl/?q=St.%20Augustine%20County%20Texas

https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/zana-tx

https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/san-augustine-county

https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/harvey-creek

https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/chaplin-chichester




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Good. Water stained; 81 degrees; .03 feet high. Fishing should really pick up in the next couple of weeks. Largemouth bass are good shallow flipping in the bushes, and on points and ledges using topwater frogs and jigs. Black bass are schooling chasing the shad around the lake. Crappie are good in the 14-22 feet of water working brush piles using jigs, but most success comes with shiners.

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