Travel Accounts and Emigrant Guides to Texas
A few weeks ago, we highlighted several German-language travel accounts, novels, and emigrant guides for Texas from our collection. There was also a great deal of interest in Texas in the youthful United States, and numerous travel narratives and emigrant guides to Texas were published in English for American readers. A few examples of these from UTSA’s John Peace Collection are listed below, with descriptive notes based on Basic Texas Books by John E. Jenkins (1983).
Pike, Zebulon Montgomery. Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi, and through the Western Parts of Louisiana, to the Sources of the Arkansaw, Kans, La Platte, and Pierre Juan Rivers; performed by order of the government of the United States during the years 1805, 1806, and 1807. Philadelphia : Published by C. & A. Conrad, & Co., 1810. [JPeace F592 .P637 1810]
Everyone has heard of the Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the western portions of the Louisiana Purchase and reach the Pacific Ocean. Less famous, however, are the expeditions President Jefferson sent to explore the southern portions of the new territory. Zebulon Pike’s expedition set out from St. Louis towards Colorado and then circled southward towards the Red River on their return trip. Whether accidentally or purposefully, he missed the Red River and continued traveling to Rio Grande. At that point, Spanish authorities arrested the expedition, but after some time in Santa Fe and Chihuahua, Pike apparently convinced the Spanish that he had entered New Spain by accident and the expedition was escourted through Texas via San Antonio and released at the Sabine River. Pike’s narrative of both the Southwestern expedition and his earlier trip up the Mississippi was published by the Philadelphia firm of Conrad, Lucas, & Co. in 1810. Basic Texas Books 162.
Holley, Mary Austin. Texas : Observations, Historical, Geographical and Descriptive, in a Series of Letters, Written During a Visit to Austin’s Colony, with a View of a Permanent Settlement in that Country, in the Autumn of 1831. Baltimore : Armstrong & Plaskitt, 1833. [John Peace F389 .H76 1833]
The first book entirely on Texas by an Anglo-American, this account by Stephen Austin’s cousin Mary focuses primarily on Austin’s Colony. She describes Texas as, “a tract of surpassing beauty, exceeding even our best western lands in productiveness, with a climate perfectly salubrious, and of a temperature, at all times of the year, most delightful”(6). Her enthusiasm for the area may well have been a significant force in encouraging immigration from the U.S. Basic Texas Books 94
Parker, Amos Andrew. Trip to the West and Texas : Comprising a Journey of Eight Thousand Miles, Through New-York, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas, in the Autumn and Winter of 1834-5. Interspersed with Anecdotes, Incidents and Observations. Concord, N.H. : Printed and published by White & Fisher, 1835. [John Peace F353 .P23 1835]
Lawyer, judge, and writer Amos Andrew Parker traveled through Texas just prior to the Texas Revolution. He spent a little over a month in Texas, visiting San Augustine, Nacogdoches, Hall’s Ferry on the Brazos, and Brazoria, among others. He gives particular attention to the land, noting the types of crops that could be grown, and also discusses various animals of Texas, including alligators, panthers, bears, deer, buffalo, and mustangs. In 1936, a new edition was released, in which sections about the Midwest were removed and a 56 page “Sketch of the Texian Revolution” was added. Special Collections also holds the 1836 edition. Basic Texas Books 159
Lawrence, A. B. Texas in 1840: or, The Emigrant’s Guide to the New Republic; Being the Result of Observations, Enquiry, and Travel in that Beautiful Country. New York : W. W. Allen, 1840. [John Peace F390 .T38 1840]
This guide for prospective immigrants to Texas was written by a Presbyterian minister who visited Texas in 1839-1840. Although he asserts that he plans to settle in Texas himself, it does not appear that he ever did so. He describes his tour through Galveston and Houston to Washington-on-the-Brazos, Rutersville, La Grange, and Bastrop, as well as to Austin, where he stayed for an extended time, gathering information on Texas from Austin’s residents. This book contains one of the most detailed and extensive contemporary descriptions of early Austin, and the frontispiece provides a visual record of the new capital. Basic Texas Books 120
Olmsted, Frederick Law. Journey through Texas ; or, A saddle-trip on the Southwestern frontier. New York : Dix, Edwards & Co., 1857. [John Peace F391 .O51 1857]
Olmsted and his brother traveled through the South in the 1850s to improve their health and report on their journey to the New York Times. Journey Through Texas is the second of three volumes Olmsted wrote about the South, collectively titled Our Slave States. The first was A Journey in the Seaboard Slave States (1856) and the third was A Journey in the Back Country(1860). His account has been widely admired. James Russell Lowell considered it one of the most important contributions to American history in its time, and Harriet Beecher Stowe praised it for its description of slavery in the South.
The Olmsted brothers traveled to Nachitoches in December of 1853 and from there to San Augustine, then continuing by mule for 2,000 miles across Texas. Olmsted describes the farmhouses they visited and their frequent meals of the staple Texas meal of pork, corn-bread, and sweet potatoes. He says, “The meals are absolutely invariable, save that fresh pork and sweet potatoes are frequently wanting”(61). Olmsted’s account includes descriptions of cattle ranches, hoe-downs, army posts, rattlesnakes, and attitudes towards Sam Houston. Basic Texas Books 157