Preston Trail, later known as the Old Preston Road, was a road created by the Republic of Texas in 1841 from Preston, Texas on the Red River south to Austin, Texas. This road closely followed an existing trail that led across the area that had been used for centuries. This road was a main transportation artery from Central Texas to North Texas in the latter half of the 19th century. Today Texas State Highway 289 follows near this former road.
The Preston Trail followed an ancient Indian trail extending from Mexico through central Texas all the way to what is now St. Louis, Missouri and even on to Ohio where the Shawnee Indians lived. Parts of this old trail became known as the Chihuahua Trail.
The original Preston Trail crossed almost no streams from the Red River to Cedar Springs. It followed a geographic spine of topography that still exists today where rainwater draining to the west flows into the Elm Fork of the Trinity and rainwater draining to the east flows into the East Fork of the Trinity until the rivers merge below Dallas, Texas. Preston Trail followed this ridge that separates the East and Elm forks of the Trinity River.
The route of the Preston Trail followed the earlier cattle trail that came to be known as the Shawnee Trail. Cattle drovers in the 1850's referred to this trail as the Kansas Trail. This trail was later known as the Shawnee Trail; the name appeared in print by at least 1874.
The Shawnee Trail was in use in the early 1840's.
Preston Trail became part of the first official Texas military road in 1839.
In Fall of 1839 Albert Sidney Johnston, Secretary of War for the Republic of Texas, had sent soldiers under the command of Colonel William G. Cooke to create a military road from the Brazos to the Red River and establish frontier forts to protect settlers from Native American attacks.
In 1840 the 23 year old William Preston was the commander in charge of a group of Republic of Texas soldiers stationed at a newly founded Fort Preston near Preston, Texas on the Red River. These soldiers were responsible for creating a road from Preston, Texas to Austin, Texas.
The road had been surveyed in 1840.
In Dallas the route north to the Red River was known as the Preston Road.
Today Texas State Highway 289, also known as the modern Preston Road, closely follows the path of the original Preston Trail.