A pictorial history of Texas - Homer S. Thrall - ebook

A pictorial history of Texas ebook

Homer S. Thrall



The history of Texas possesses a peculiar interest. The contests for the possession of the country; the grand old mission structures erected for the conversion of the natives; the numerous changes of government, give to our history an air of romance. In the summary of events in this volume, all these interesting topics are not only briefly noticed;, but part of a thorough investigation into the heroic period of the history of Texas. In ten chapters Thrall tells the reader everything about the country, Spanish and Mexican domination, the Revolution, the Indians, noted personalities and many details more.

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A Pictorial History of Texas


From the earliest visits of European adventurers to A.D. 1879








A Pictorial History of Texas, Homer S. Thrall

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9



ISBN: 9783849652135



[email protected]































Among the newer States of our American Union, there is probably no one about which so much has been written and published as the State of Texas. In 1857, Frederick Law Olmsted published a volume of 516 pages, entitled “A Journey Through Texas; or a Saddle-trip on the South-western Frontier.” Mr. Olmsted mentions thirty-three bound volumes on Texas, by more than thirty authors. Seven of these were in two volumes each, making an aggregate of forty separate books, many of them large octavos of from four hundred to six hundred pages. Since that period the press has thrown off scores and even hundreds of publications—histories, biographies, descriptive pamphlets, addresses, etc. These have been scattered broadcast over the country by immigration agencies, railroad corporations, companies of land speculators, and others. The question arises, then, whence the necessity of another work on Texas? Partly because previous histories have been too brief in some particulars and too diffuse in others. Many of the descriptive pamphlets have been too highly colored; personal narratives too partial, and often defective in details; and the statistics too meagre and in some instances entirely unreliable. It needed another volume to give a complete history of the State down to the present time; and to condense, and classify, and give in a reasonable space the past history, present condition and prospective development of this, the great Empire State of the continent.

The design of the author is to give in the present volume a true picture of Texas, its soil, its climate, its people and their institutions, its resources, its capabilities for sustaining a dense population—a population to be counted by the million. We say a true picture, so that the immigrant entering the State may learn what part is best adapted to the business in which he proposes to engage. To the hardy poor man who expects to make his living by honest industry, and to raise his family where they will enjoy the advantages of good schools and churches, probably no portion of the American continent offers such advantages as Texas. Here labor is always in demand at remunerative price; provisions are cheap; here is land for those who wish either to lease or purchase; tenement houses are furnished to farm laborers; and a permanent home may be acquired upon accommodating terms. A homestead once secured, the man soon finds himself in possession of teams and tools, of hogs and cattle, and is surrounded with home comforts.

In the departments devoted to history, special pains have been taken to give facts and dates, with such reflections as will enable the reader to understand the controversies in reference to the ownership of the country, and the various questions which have from time to time agitated the people, producing, in some instances, revolutions, and changes in the form of government. These events are generally related in chronological order, though in some instances that order has been deviated from, to complete the narrative of one event before entering upon that of another.

In the notes, the reader will find a complete list of the executives of the State, and the personel of the various departments of the government; also the votes at the principal popular elections, showing the steady increase in the number of electors.

In the part devoted to the Indians may be found many interesting particulars of the aboriginal inhabitants of our prairies, and some thrilling incidents of frontier life and Indian warfare. It was not in accordance with the taste of the author to dwell long upon these barrowing scenes. Happily, such scenes now seldom occur, and we have good reason to believe that we shall hear no more of these Indian raids, and the barbarities inflicted upon the pioneers of civilization.

We think the reader will find the biographical department especially rich in interest. Arranged in alphabetical order are the names of more than two hundred of the men who have figured conspicuously in Texas history. Space is accorded to each somewhat in proportion to his historical importance, though the sketches of men still living are very brief, and mainly confined to the mere facts connected with their public life.

The historical notes and topographical descriptions of the counties of the State, arranged in alphabetical order, are necessarily brief, but will give the reader a correct idea of their location, the character of the soil, and other particulars necessary for those seeking homes in the State.

In the miscellaneous department may be found a vast amount of information, condensed into a small compass—an account of our asylums, penitentiaries, educational institutions and churches—agricultural products and live stock—railways and commerce—statistical tables of wealth and population, etc.

In the preface to “Thrall's School History of Texas” issued by the University Publishing Company of New York, in 1876, the author said: “The history of Texas possesses a peculiar interest. The contests for the possession of the country; the grand old mission structures erected for the conversion of the natives; the numerous changes of government, give to our history an air of romance. In the summary of events in this volume, these interesting topics are only briefly noticed; but it is to be hoped this recital will stimulate many to a more thorough investigation into the heroic period of our history.” The present volume is sent forth not to supersede the school history, but to supplement and complement it. The former has its place and is adapted for the purpose for which it was prepared—use in the school room; but the teacher who, with that volume, introduces his pupils to an acquaintance with the elementary history of Texas, will need this to give the details and incidents in full which could not be incorporated in the smaller work.

In conclusion, the author returns his sincere thanks to the very large number of distinguished gentlemen—too numerous to mention—who have given him encouragement and assistance in his work.



SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, November 26, 1878.








THE name of Texas was derived from an Indian tribe belonging to the great Caddo family. The country now known as Texas has, at various periods, borne different names. In old maps that on the north is called Texas, or New Phillipines; while that farther to the west is marked as Coahuila or New Estremadura. For more than a century the territory was claimed both by France and Spain. The Spaniards were the first occupants. In 1522 De Narves traversed the country from the Rio Grande to Mobile. Again, in 1537, De Nisa visited the Rio Grande, entering the village of Isleta, then inhabited by Puebla Indians; and in 1540 Coronado took formal possession of the village, in the name of the Spanish crown. Under the ministrations of the missionaries, the inhabitants readily embraced the Christian faith. In 1585 another company of missionaries, under Espejo, took possession of El Paso and Santa Fe.

The claim of the French was based upon the landing of Lasalle, with his colony, on the coast, in 1685. On the old French maps Texas is put down as a part of Louisiana. The old Spanish maps, however, claimed it as belonging to New Spain. In those old maps, the different provinces of New Spain are marked as follows: The east line of New Mexico reaches to the Pecos River, including part of the present counties of Tom Green and Crockett. The Medina river is marked as the east line of Coahuila, though a narrow strip attached to Texas extended to the mouth of the Rio Grande. In these old maps the Calcasieu is put down as the boundary near the coast, and the Hondo, a tributary of Red River, near Natchitoches, as the line between the possessions of the French and Spanish crowns.*

The ownership of Texas had not been fully settled, when, in 1803, France sold Louisiana to the United States. The latter government wanted both Texas and Florida, neither of which Spain was willing to surrender. Finally, in 1819, February 22, an agreement was entered into between John Quincy Adams, on the part of the United States, and De Onis, on the part of Mexico, by which Spain transferred Florida to the United States, and the latter gave up her claim to Texas. At the period of the Texas revolution the northern boundary was still undefined; several large settlements on the south side of Red river were claimed both by Arkansas and Texas. In a final adjustment in 1849, in which C. W. Smyth represented Texas, and J. W. Overton the United States, the most of this disputed territory, including portions of Bowie and Red River counties, were conceded to Texas.

At the period of annexation the boundaries of the republic, as estimated by Mr. Smyth, the Commissioner of the General Land Office, were as follows:


The distance from the mouth of the Rio Grande along our coast to the mouth of the Sabine

375  miles

From mouth of Sabine, by the river, to 32d parallel 299 miles

Up Sabine river to Red river, due north 106 miles

From point of intersection with Red river to 100th degree of longitude west 620 miles

On the meridian of 100th degree due north to Arkansas river 250 miles

Along Arkansas river to source of Rio Grande 640 miles

Entire eastern and northern boundary 1,915 miles

From source of Rio Grande to its mouth 2,240 miles

Making the entire boundary of the Republic 4,530 miles



By the sale of Santa Fe, in 1850, Texas parted with 98,360 square miles of territory; equal to 56,240,640 acres.

Texas is bounded on the south by the gulf of Mexico; on the east by the Sabine river, up to the thirty-second parallel of north latitude; thence due north to Red river, thence along said river to the meridian of one hundred degrees west from Greenwich; thence due north to the intersection of parallel of thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes, north latitude; thence due west to the meridian of one hundred and three degrees west from Greenwich; due south to the thirty-second degree of north latitude; thence along said line to the Rio Grande; (these lines separate Texas from Louisiana, Arkansas, the Indian Territory, and New Mexico.) thence down said Rio Grande to its mouth, separating Texas from Mexico. According to Disturnell's treaty map, published in 1850, Texas had, after the sale of Santa Fe, 237,321 square miles of territory, equal to 151,885,440 acres. Later estimates from our own land office give the State 268,684 square miles; this exclusive of Greer county. It extends from about twenty-five and one half degrees to thirty-six and one half, north latitude, and from ninety-three and a half to one hundred and seven degrees of longitude west from Greenwich. Its greatest extent from north to south is nearly one thousand miles, and it is but little less from east to west.

Texas, thus situated on the Gulf of Mexico, stretches half-way to the Pacific Ocean, in a climate where snows are almost unknown, and lies right in the track along which the vast commerce from the East to the West must ultimately flow. The great continental railway is destined inevitably to traverse this territory, and some of its eastern termini must be at some of its seaports.

In those portions of the State devoted to agriculture, a large proportion of the land is susceptible of cultivation, and immense bodies are as rich and fertile as can be found on the continent. This is true, not only of the alluvial bottoms, but also of a considerable proportion of the prairie lands of the interior.

Writers speak of the stock region; of the sugar belt; of the cotton belt, and the wheat region; but in truth every kind of stock, such as horses, mules, cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, etc., do well in all parts of the State, and can be raised with profit anywhere by giving the necessary attention to them. So of the soil products. Every arable acre of ground in the State will produce corn, cotton, sorghum, potatoes, Irish or sweet, peaches, grapes, etc. Sugar from the ribbon cane may be profitably cultivated anywhere south of the thirtieth parallel of north latitude; and wheat, rye, oats, apples, etc., anywhere north of that latitude.

The coast counties for a distance of fifty to one hundred miles interior are quite level, but beyond, the country becomes rolling, with alternate gradual elevations and depressions, and this inequality of surface increases as we proceed towards the northwest, until it finally becomes hilly and then mountainous in some of the northwestern counties. In fact the whole of Texas is an inclined plane, with a gradual descent from the northern or western boundary to the Gulf. Austin and San Antonio are six hundred feet above the Gulf surface, and the country farther north is still more elevated. The highest of the mountains do not, however, exceed two thousand feet above their base.

It seems to be a general impression with people abroad that Texas is unhealthy; that the climate is excessively hot; and that foreigners especially run a great risk in coming to a State so far south. Nothing can be more remote from the truth, as thousands of foreigners from all parts of Europe can testify. The temperature in Texas in the hottest days of summer is nearly always several degrees below the greatest heat at the North, and while many deaths in most of the Northern cities occur every year from sun stroke, there is not, perhaps, a well authenticated instance in Texas of a single death from this cause. But a comparison of the range of the thermometer there and here removes all doubt on that subject. In winter the difference in temperature between Texas and the Northern States is still more manifest the severity of the cold being many degrees greater there than here. The fact is established beyond doubt that Texas has the most uniform, equable and mild temperature of any State in the Union, neither the heat or the cold being so excessive, and, other things being equal, this exemption from the extremes of heat and cold is prima facie evidence of a more healthful climate. But this evidence is corroborated by experience, for although certain diseases are prevalent in many parts of Texas, yet the general health of the country is not surpassed, if equaled, by any other State, while for salubrity of the climate all Western Texas is proverbial. The whole sea coast, for more than a hundred miles interior, is fanned by a most delightful and health-giving breeze from the Gulf during all the summer months.

It is true that in the heavily-timbered bottoms, and on the margins of the sluggish streams and lowlands, people are liable to chills and fevers and other malarial diseases; but these generally yield readily to proper treatment. The interior, especially of Western Texas, is annually visited by thousands of invalids seeking health; and those who come before disease has fastened itself too firmly upon the system are generally greatly benefitted.

*By a royal charter, dated Sept. 14, 1712, Louis XIV granted the whole of Louisiana to Anthony Crozat. Mr. Yoakum and other historians have asserted that this grant included all the country to the Rio Grande; whereas the language of the charter included only the country watered by the Mississippi and its tributaries.





FOR convenience in describing our great State, we divide it into districts. I. North Texas. II. East Texas. III. Middle Texas. IV. West Texas. V. Northwest Texas. VI. Southwest Texas. VII. The Mineral Region. VIII. The Pan Handle or Staked Plains.

I. NORTHERN TEXAS.—This includes a double or triple tier of counties on the south side of Red river, as far west as the counties of Wise, Montague, Erath, etc., some thirty counties or more.

An area of about twelve counties of the eastern part of this division would more properly have been included in the division of East Texas, as it much more nearly corresponds in all its characteristics with the entire body of timbered country lying east of the Trinity than with any part of the prairie to which this division attaches it. The two subdivisions can not be described together, as they are as different from each other as day from night in every characteristic.

This eastern body of country, generally denominated Northeastern Texas, is one of the most interesting and important subdivisions of the State, whether considered with reference to its population, its capacities for agricultural production, or its location with regard to the necessities of trade and travel, and the consequent construction of thoroughfares. An imaginary irregular line drawn from the town of Clarksville, in Red River county, through the northwest corners of Titus Wood, and Van Zandt counties, and the southeast corner of Kaufman county to the south line of this division, will sufficiently indicate the western or outside line of this subdivision.

All east of this is a timbered country, and presents the same general features. The face of the country is rolling and hilly. The soil is generally sandy, mixed with loam in varying quantities in different localities, and productive in porportion to such admixture. The exceptions to the sandy soil are the ferruginous red soils, quite productive with plenty of rain; the post-oak flats, and swamps along the streams, the latter two valueless for cultivation but covered with fine timber. The streams are sluggish and discolored, and the low bottom-lands which border them are subject to overflow; but many of them are covered with cane and various grasses, which afford fine shelter and food for stock, especially horses, which keep fat the year round without food or attention, but are liable to the contingent dangers of an overflow, in which numbers are sometimes lost. The most productive lands lie between the sand-hills and the swamps, and frequently up to the margins of the smaller creeks, and are a kind of irregular second bottom. They will produce, the season being favorable, a bale of cotton or forty bushels of corn per acre, while the upland sand-lands will produce about one half that amount, but are preferred by many on account of the greater ease with which they can be cultivated, and the advantage they have in wet seasons. These lands are in some places underlaid with a stiff clay at the depth of a foot, while in other places in the same field one may dig forty feet through sand alone.

The timber of this section is very valuable, especially the pine, which abounds; extensive steam saw-mills being found in the pineries of these counties, from which lumber is hauled on wagons more than two hundred miles westward to supply the constantly increasing wants of the prairie section. The other timber is mostly post-oak, interspersed with hickory, black-jack, etc. The bottoms abound in all kinds of oaks, ash, hackberry, and many other kinds of timber.

Water in this section is abundant and generally good—entirely freestone. Springs pure as crystal are frequent, breaking out from the base or sides of the sand-hills, and good water can generally be obtained, by digging, at from twenty to thirty feet; the exceptions to this being in the post-oak flats, where good water is scarce, either above or below the surface.

Immediately west of this imaginary line commences the great prairie region of Northern and Middle Texas. The “divide,” or water-shed between Red river and the Gulf of Mexico is distant from a half to forty miles from the former. Along Red river is a border of a rather rugged country from one half to twelve miles wide, mostly covered with timber, and abounding in springs of water; but mostly with a thin sandy soil adapted to small farmers, except the Red river bottoms, which are extensive and exceedingly fertile, and subject to occasional overflows. South of this fringe of timber, and with a northern front of from Lamar to Clay County, (one hundred and fifty miles on an air-line,) inclining westward on its eastern border, as before laid down, lies the great prairie, extending to the south line of this division, its unity broken only by the timber borders along the streams and by the two very remarkable bodies of timber called “THE CROSS TIMBERS,” which are worthy of a brief description.

The “lower cross timber” is a body of timbered country embracing, at its northern extremity, the eastern half of Cooke county and western edge of Grayson, and being about fifteen miles wide. Running southward, it passes, gradually becoming narrower, through the east parts of Denton, Tarrant and Johnson, and west part of Hill county, to the Brazos river at Fort Graham. This body of land is rolling and sandy, and assimilates very nearly to the timbered section before described; but this is generally of a poorer soil than that, and abounds less in springs and water generally. The timber is the same, except there is no pine, and the growth is shorter as we go westward. The soil is adapted to the growth of corn, cotton, sweet potatoes, etc., but not to small grains nor grasses, nor to stock raising, except in the eastern section.

The “upper cross timber” begins on Red river, some thirty miles above the lower, and is about the same width, running south through the middle of Montague county, near the south line of which it breaks up, the eastern portion running through Wise and Parker counties, while the western extends irregularly, and frequently in patches and mots or small groves, through Jack, Young, Palo Pinto and Erath, affording abundant timber (such as it is) to those counties. This timber is, on the uplands, almost exclusively post-oak and black-jack, and is short and scrubby. In the bottoms, pecan, ash, hackberry, cotton-wood, etc., are common.

The entire prairie east of the upper cross timber is a beautiful and very gently rolling country, scarcely broken by rocks, stumps, gullies, or anything else which could impede or interfere with the progress of gang-plows, reapers and mowers, or any other agricultural labor-saving machinery, whether propelled by steam or other power. Indeed, the cultivation of wheat has for years been done by the use of such implements, propelled by horse or ox-power.

Near the south line of Montague and Clay counties commence the “mountains,” which though not so “stuck up” as their distant-relations, the Alleghany, Blue Ridge, Rocky Mountains, etc., which hold their heads much higher, are still fully entitled to the appellation of mountains; as, though only moderate hills in point of altitude, they are mountains in character, with rocky precipices and ledges and spurs, and abounding in the necessary number of wild beasts and rattlesnakes. Many of these mountains are isolated mounds or cones, either perfect or truncated, rising from a base of table land, on which, in many places, travel by wagons is easy through the entire range to the level prairie on the other side. Some of these hills and ridges are covered with timber, while others are bald and bare. This range is from thirty to sixty miles wide, and extends southwardly to near San Antonio, the cities of Austin and New-Braunfels being on its eastern border; and the rivers of San Marcos, Guadalupe and San Antonio break out from its base. But this is out of our present latitude. Between these mountain ridges are many valleys of great fertility and beauty, some of them large enough for farms of 640 acres, arable land, but most of them smaller. Much of the prairie adjacent to this region is covered with stones, so as to render it unfit for cultivation, but furnishes material for building and fencing, which, in the absence of good timber, will be much used as the country is settled. These mountains, further south, are covered with cedar in many places, which is the most valuable fencing timber known. This mountain country forms the western line of settlement along its whole extent.

II. EAST TEXAS includes about twenty counties, lying between the Trinity river and the State line on the east, and extends from the southern boundary of Northern Texas to the Gulf of Mexico. This is the great timber region of the State. Immense tracts are covered with the finest forests of pine, and other valuable timber growths. The counties bordering on the coast, and as far inland as Liberty, are generally flat, and considerable portions of this region are prairie, and admirably adapted to stock raising. Numerous rivers and creeks traverse all parts of East Texas. Many of these are navigable, and furnish means of transporting their lumber to market. Further inland the surface becomes, first gently undulating, and then hilly; but still heavily timbered, and possessing a rich soil. During the early period in our history the red lands, as they were called, in Nacogdoches, San Augustine and adjoining counties, were considered equal to any in Texas.

III. MIDDLE TEXAS lies below Northern Texas, and embraces all the territory to the Gulf between the Trinity and Colorado rivers. It has some twenty-five counties. This has been called the garden of Texas. For fertility, the alluvial bottom lands of the Brazos, the Colorado and other rivers and creeks of this division, have been compared to the delta of the Nile. The coast region is flat, and stretches out into broad and beautiful prairies, intersected with a perfect net-work of creeks and bayous, along which are skirts of valuable timber. In the tier of counties bordering on the Gulf is found the best land for the production of sugar in the State; while in the more rolling counties of the interior, cotton is the staple product. This district has the two large commercial cities of Galveston and Houston, and Austin, the State capital.

IV. WEST TEXAS.—In common language, West Texas includes all west of the Colorado river; but in this division we include the country between the Colorado at Austin on the north-east, and Bexar county on the south-west; and the Colorado and San Antonio rivers to the Gulf. This division has about twenty counties. It has Indianola as a sea-port, and the old cities of Victoria, Goliad and San Antonio. The physical features are very similar to those of Middle Texas, already described.

V. NORTH-WEST TEXAS.—This includes about forty counties lying north of Bexar, and extending to the western line of Kimble county, and thence to the Red river, including the county of Greer, and all eastward to North Texas. The general description of the western division of Northern Texas answers as well for this division. It is a region of vast extent, and inexhaustible, though as yet undeveloped resources, mineral and agricultural. No portion of our great State is filling up so rapidly, and no country on the globe offers greater inducements to immigrants.

VI. SOUTH-WEST TEXAS.—This includes all the country south of Crockett county, between the San Antonio and Rio Grande rivers, to the Gulf; about twenty counties. Corpus Christi and Brownsville are the principal cities. The following description of this division is taken from the Texas Almanac of 1868. It is from the pen of ex-Governor E. J. Davis, who was, for a number of years, judge of the Brownsville district:

“A sketch of the history, climate, topography and productions of that part of the State termed South-western Texas, being the country between the Rio Grande and San Antonio rivers, and south-east of the road from San Antonio to Eagle Pass, on the Rio Grande, embracing about thirty thousand square miles, is what I propose to give you.

“Its history is not interesting. After the establishment of San Antonio, (named Bexar by the Spaniards and Mexicans,) a great many years seems to have elapsed before any permanent settlements were attempted in the country between that port and the towns and garrisons of the Spaniards west of the Rio Grande. The first, I believe, in point of time, was that of Barrego, who shortly before the middle of last century planted a stock-raising hacienda at the place called ‘Dolores,’ on the Rio Grande, twenty-five miles below Laredo. He received at this place from the King of Spain a large grant of lands, some seventy-five leagues. This hacienda was afterward destroyed.

“In the year 1757, the town of Laredo was founded. This place was a sort of “Presidio,” where the citizens were armed occupants of the soil, and it proved the only permanent settlement of the Spaniards on the lower Rio Grande. After the establishment of Laredo, ranches and haciendas were gradually extended over the country between the Nueces and Rio Grande, and during the first quarter of this century very extensive herds of cattle and horses and flocks of sheep were pastured on and between those rivers. The remains of the stone buildings and the wells and water-tanks are still to be seen. The troublous times following the attempts of the Mexican people to separate from Spain invited the savage tribes of the North—which had been kept in better subjection under the system adopted by old Spain than they have ever been since—to make raids upon the frontier settlements. The Texas revolution and subsequent border warfare gave the finishing touch to this country, and when our troops, under General Taylor, marched from Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande, in 1846, there was not an inhabitant to be found between that river and the Nueces. It had the appearance of a desert to the officers and soldiers of that army, unused as they were to these treeless pampas. The herds of cattle and horses, left to take care of themselves, had become wild, and greatly increased, and “mustangs,” grazed over these plains in almost countless numbers.

“In the year 1850, the re-population of this country fairly commenced. The ‘mustangs’ were killed or caught and tamed, and this ‘so-called’ desert has been steadily filling with a hardy and active race of stock-raisers.

“The climate of this country is very similar to that of the same longitude as far north as Kansas and Colorado. It is decidedly an unfavorable climate for agriculture, and unless some system can be devised for irrigation, the main dependance must always be upon the flocks and herds. It is unseasonable, but this is not so much for want of rain, because, on taking the average fall of rain for a number of years through the district, it is shown that we have ample supplies for all purposes, could they come at the right time and in proper quantities. In the usual planting season of the year, from the first of January to the end of May, we have our dry season. Often it happens that scarcely enough rain falls during those months to ‘wet a pocket-handkerchief,’ while, on the other hand, the torrents that are let down on us during the other months will give us an average of twenty-five to thirty inches of water throughout the year. ‘When it rains, it rains’ in this country; sometimes with a quantity and suddenness only equalled, I suppose, in the mountains of California and Nevada. There are no mountains, or even respectable hills, in Nueces county; yet several instances have occurred of a flood of water rolling down a narrow ravine with such rapidity as to take off a flock of sheep, and in one instance the shepherd with it.

“If it should ever be possible to utilize this water in some, as yet, undiscovered way, this country would be the finest in the world. The climate, owing to the dryness of the winter and spring, is as healthy as could be desired. Perhaps something may be done by making tanks on a large scale, and thus collecting the surplus rains for use in the dry seasons. One of these has been made by Hipolito Garcia, the owner of the Hacienda called ‘Arendado,’ in Zapata county. He has, by throwing a dam across a ravine, created quite an extensive lake, capable not only of supplying water for his thousands of cattle, sheep and horses, but of being used for irrigating purposes.

“But our wet and dry seasons are not distinctly defined, nor are the rains equally distributed over the whole of this region. Sometimes general rains fall during the dry season; and on the other hand, it happens that we do not in the wet season have the usual share. It is also noticed that more rain falls in the neighborhood of the San Antonio valley, and near the Gulf coast. The rule is, that less rain falls as you proceed north and west.

“In other respects, our climate is such as might be expected in this latitude. While it is exceedingly hot on the Rio Grande, the thermometer in summer sometimes going up to 110° or even 114° in the shade, still a constant strong breeze and invariably cool nights render the climate rather pleasant, even in the hottest part of summer. Near the coast, the heat is very much tempered by the Gulf, and at Corpus Christi or Brownsville, the heat rarely goes above 90 °.

“In some respects the peculiarities of the surface of this district are singular. Near the mouth of the San Antonio river, and thence down to Corpus Christi bay, we have the usual low and flat ‘hog-wallow’ formation, which prevails generally along the coast of Texas, at from ten to forty miles from salt water. At Corpus Christi bay the high lands of the interior come down to the bay, and part of the town of this name is built upon a bluff near fifty feet above the water level. I believe this is the highest land anywhere on the Gulf coast within the territories of the United States. About twenty miles southwest of Corpus Christi commence the famous sands which border the Laguna Madre down to the ‘Sal Colorado.’ These sands are quite remarkable. Extending in a northwesterly direction from the coast, they reach within twenty miles of the Rio Grande. They lie across the country in a wedge shape, of which the base lies on the Laguna. In many places these sands form bare hills, rising fifty to a hundred feet above the surrounding grassy plains; and being of a light yellow color, are landmarks of the country and visible at great distances. The sands have evidently been formed by the prevalent southeasterly winds, which have blown them across from Padre Island. Like similar formations in England and other parts of the world, where history aids the observer in accounting for them, it is likely that they constantly progress inland under the influence of the south-east wind, and will probably reach or cross the Rio Grande in course of time.

“After we leave the sands, going towards the Rio Grande, we come into the alluvial bottoms of that river. The Sal Colorado, which appears on the maps as a river, is in reality an outlet of the Rio Grande during high water. The bottoms of this river are, on the west side, from thirty to sixty miles wide as low down as Brownsville. They decrease gradually up to Edinburgh, ninety miles from the coast, (in a straight line,) where the first hills come to the river.

“This district, after leaving the coast-country just described, becomes rolling and gradually hilly. On the extreme north-west, it borders on the outlying hills or mountains of the ‘Staked Plain,’ (Llano Estacado,) but within its limits there are no very high elevations, though the general level of the north-western part is nearly one thousand feet above the sea. There is a distinctly marked range of hills crossing the territory from north-east to south-west, which deserves special notice, not only because it presents an interesting natural feature of the country, but because of the indications of valuable minerals found in the range, of which more will be said hereafter. This range commences in the western side of Karnes county, at the place called ‘Rocky.’ It passes across the Nueces a short distance above Oakville, and strikes the Rio Grande a few miles below Carriza, in Zapata county. The ‘Zancajo’ hill (or mountain) in Duval county is part of the range; and in the southern part of that county, and in Zapata county, it presents quite a marked feature, and is called by the Mexicans ‘La Sierra.’

“On the Rio Grande, from the commencement of the hills, the country is much more broken than anywhere east of it. From Rio Grande City (Ringgold) up to Eagle Pass, as your road winds along the river, high mountains, the offshoots of the Sierra Madre of Mexico, are never out of sight on the western horizon.

“As was said at the beginning, this is not an agricultural region. In nothing is the increasing dryness of the climate, as you proceed west and south, more noticeable than in the growth of vegetation. The cyprus, magnolia, dog-wood, and other trees of a moist and temperate climate, common in Eastern Texas, pretty much disappear on the Colorado. The pine reaches the river near Bastrop, and the cedar is seen on the hills north of San Antonio. But none of these trees are found in the country I am describing. Post-oaks and live-oaks are found between the San Antonio and Nueces rivers, and the latter is common in the ‘Sands’ south of Corpus Christi, but they go no further southwest. I believe the only trees on the Rio Grande which are indigenous to Eastern Texas are the ash, elm, cotton-wood and hackberry. The eastern man who goes southwest will find another system of vegetation gradually supplanting that to which he has been accustomed. The mesquite-tree, which in the desert can send its roots far down in search of moisture, with its bright pea-green leaves, becomes a prominent feature of the landscape. The ‘Spanish Bayonet,’ an endless variety of the cactus, and a dozen or more species of scrubby, thorny shrubs, known under the general designation of ‘chaparral’ the products of a climate of great droughts, form in many parts an almost impenetrable jungle. On the Rio Grande the ebony tree becomes common, and is a handsome tree when full grown. There is also found a very ornamental and graceful tree called the ‘Tepajuaque,’ which is nowhere found north of the Rio Grande valley.



“All the trees and vegetation, and even the native animals, birds, and insects, seem especially adapted to a dry climate.

“But if this country is too dry for planting purposes we are compensated in another way. Many years’ experience has shown that Texas is the best stock-raising State of the Union, and for the same business this country is certainly the best part of Texas. The very dryness of the climate, in preventing the growth of trees to shade the soil, enables fine and nutritious grasses to abound. It is the paradise of horses, sheep, and cattle. I have spoken of the numbers of cattle and horses that formerly ran wild under the name of ‘mustangs.’ There is little doubt that the present numbers of tame animals are even greater; but still there is room for more, and probably South-western Texas will alone one day export a half-million of beeves. Of the health and fecundity of the sheep, an instance within the knowledge of the writer will give a fair idea. A friend living in Webb county commenced raising sheep with two hundred and fifty ewes in the winter of 1854–55. In the year 1860 he sold out three thousand head, the result of this flock. He followed the Mexican plan of breeding twice a year.

“In so extensive a region it is reasonable to presume that valuable mines must exist. However, very little scientific investigation has yet been made, and therefore little is known of this—perhaps less even than of other regions not so near the centres of civilization.

“On the Rio Grande it is well known that several beds of coal, of an inferior quality, exist, and have been worked. It is reported that extensive beds of coal (equal to cannel) have recently been discovered on the Nueces river. The locality of these beds has not been divulged, but the report has it that they are situated at from one hundred to one hundred and forty miles from Corpus Christi.

“In the range of hills called ‘La Sierra,’ of which I have made mention, indications of silver and lead have been found in several places. The writer has in his possession a very rich specimen of lead ore which was found in this range, about eighty miles from Corpus Christi. If it should develop that there are indications of silver or lead in sufficient quantities to pay for the working, their proximity to a sea-port will be an important consideration. I believe that neither silver nor lead has anywhere else within the United States been found so near the coast.

“I suppose most people in Texas are aware of the great natural salt-works along the margin of Corpus Christi bay and Laguna Madre. During the late war, Texas was altogether supplied from here. The Laguna Madre (so called by the Mexicans because of the many smaller lagunas that open up into the interior from it,) as it will be seen from the map, is a bay between Padre Island (so named from ‘El Padre Balli,’ who owned a rancho on it in ante-Texas times) and the main-land. This laguna is about one hundred and twenty miles long and from three to six miles broad, and very shallow, not averaging more than eighteen inches deep. In the spring and summer months the prevalent winds drive the water of the Gulf in a steady current up the laguna from south to north. Passing over this long and shallow flat, under a burning sun, the water evaporates rapidly, and when it reaches the northern part of the laguna, it is intensely salt. From the mother laguna the winds drive this salt water slowly up the innumerable smaller lagunas that make up from it into the main-land. These are generally from three to six inches deep, and in many instances very broad. Here the evaporation continues, and during the dry weather of spring and summer the salt crystalizes and settles on the bottom in great abundance. Nature seems to have provided here, on her usual gigantic scale, works for the making of salt by solar evaporation. The process, as will be perceived, is a good deal the same that men have adopted on the coast of France, Key West, Turk's Island, etc., to procure salt from the same source. The quantity that can be raked up in this locality during the summer varies according to the depth of fall rain. Some seasons it will form about as fast as it can be raked, and the quantity is only to be limited by the capacity for gathering it. To speak within carefully considered bounds, I believe that in an average dry season ten millions of bushels can be collected within fifty miles of navigation on Corpus Christi bay, and that it can, at present prices of labor, be placed on navigation at ten cents per bushel.

“Besides these lagunas, there are some salt lakes and ponds between the Nueces and Rio Grande, which are not connected with the Gulf. The most noted of these is the celebrated “Sal del Rey,” (Salt of the King, so called because of the laws of Spain giving salines to the king,) in Hidalgo county, about thirty-five miles from the Rio Grande, and sixty miles from Brownsville. The salt in this, and probably the other lakes of the sort, seems to come from the earth in springs. The “Sal del Rey” has been a favorite resort of the Mexicans for salt. It has for several generations supplied the greater part of Northern Mexico with that article, and is apparently inexhaustible. The lake is about three miles in circumference.”

VII. THE MINERAL REGION.—The large scope of country composed of the counties of Crockett, Tom Green, Pecos, Presidio, and El Paso, has been denominated the mineral region of Texas; though as yet its mineral wealth lies undeveloped in the mines. We give a description of this with the following.

VIII. THE PAN HANDLE, OR STAKED PLAINS, lies north of Tom Green county and between New Mexico and the Indian Territory. The Legislature of 1875 laid out and gave names to fifty-four counties in this region. In the early maps of North America, a vast region in the heart of the continent was designated as the “Great American Desert.” That great desert has steadily retreated before the advancing tide of population. The southern rim of it reached Texas. It is conjectured that in 1834, when the fathers from Santa Fe visited San Saba to establish a fort and mission, they set up stakes, with buffalo heads on them, so that others might follow their route. This gave the name of Llano Estacado to the plateau crossed. In the map prepared for Yoakum's history of Texas, and published by Redfield in 1856, there is this note: “From the head waters of the Red Brazos and Colorado rivers to the Rio Pecos is a desolate and sterile plain from 100 to 200 miles in width, elevated about 4,500 feet above the Gulf of Mexico, without water or timber and with a scanty vegetation.” Notwithstanding this is described as such an arid region, all the great rivers, from the Canadian on the north to the Pecos and Rio Grande on the south, have their sources in springs found in canons penetrating this plateau; or from underground streams, from the same source, issuing out at the surface, as at San Marcos, San Antonio and other points. Since the close of the Civil War this region of country has been penetrated by buffalo hunters, and by parties of soldiers in pursuit of Indians. The best and most reliable description yet given to the public is found in the report of Lieutenant-Colonel W. B. Shafter, who, in 1875 made a pretty thorough reconnoissance of the hitherto terra incognita. Colonel Shafter started from Fort Concho, in Tom Green county, two hundred and fifteen miles north-west of San Antonio. We copy from his report:

“Commencing at Fort Concho, the valley of North Concho for sixty miles is well adapted to grazing, having sufficient wood for all necessary purposes and good running water the entire distance.

“Rendlebrock's spring, twenty-five miles north of the North Concho and sixty-five miles from the post, is a large spring of running water, and in the country about it there are large mesquite flats, well timbered, with plenty of grass, and good shelter for stock in the winter.

“The wagon road to Fresh Fork of Brazos, via Rendlebrock's spring, leaves the North Concho forty-two miles above the post of Concho, crossing to the valleys running into the Colorado.

“From Rendlebrock's spring, to where the wagon road strikes the Fresh Fork of the Brazos, the country passed through is slightly rolling, covered with excellent grass, considerable mesquite timber of small growth, (from six to twelve feet high), and having several streams and springs of good water, with one or two (the Brazos and Double Mountain Fork) salty at the point where crossed by the road, though both are fresh near their heads. The canon of the Fresh Fork of the Brazos is nearly fifty miles in length and from one-half to two and a half miles wide, through which flows a stream of excellent water the whole distance. After reaching the plains, the water is good for about twenty-five miles and then becomes salty at its junction with the Brazos. The grass in all the region of the country is excellent, and sufficient wood for fuel is easily obtained. I believe that corn could be grown the whole length of the canon without irrigation, except in unusually dry seasons.

“From about half way up the canon the road crosses to the head of Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos, which flows through a canon similar to that of the Fresh Fork, parallel with it and about thirty miles distant, and extends about the same distance into the plains.

“The country between these streams is high table land, with scarcely any timber and but few mesquite roots. Large circular depressions, filled with water for part of the year, occur frequently, and the whole country is covered with luxuriant grass, affording pasturage for immense herds of buffalo, and would be sufficient to maintain thousands of cattle and horses that could water, when the rainwater holes dried up, in the Fresh and Double Mountain Forks of the Brazos.

“From the head of Double Mountain Fork to Casa Amarilla the distance is forty-two miles, almost due west, the country being similar in all respects to that just described. Casa Amarilla is a large alkali and salt lake, of from one-half to three-quarters of a mile in width and about three in length, situated in a depression of the plains and draining the country for several miles in all directions. There are two dug springs at the base of the bluff on the southern side, and about a half mile further south, at the head of a ravine, a large tank of fresh water that I believe is fed from springs, as I could not perceive any dimunition in it after using it for two days with my whole command. Six miles directly north of this lake are some large pools of living water, with plenty of wood. This would be an excellent place for sheep or horses.



“Six miles west of Casa Amarilla is a large alkali lake, circular in form, about three-fourths of a mile in diameter, having some fine large springs in the bank, good grass, but no timber or roots. This lake is called by the Mexicans ‘Quemas,’ and is supposed to be very near the line of Texas and New Mexico.

“The trail from Quemas to the Pecos (twenty miles above mouth of Azul, in New Mexico) passes for about twenty miles over high table land, with occasional rainwater holes, then about twenty of deep sand, then forty-seven of high hard prairie, without water but covered with luxuriant grass, then twenty of very heavy sand, and about twenty of hard, high rolling country bordering the Pecos.

“From this point, on the Pecos to Horsehead crossing, the distance is 157 miles, the wagon road keeping near the river. The country bordering on the Pecos for several miles has only tolerable grass, and the bluffs are covered with sharp flint rocks, with considerable small growth of brush and Spanish daggers.

“From Pecos Falls to lower end of White Sand Hills the distance is about twenty miles, a little east of north, one-half the distance hard prairie and the balance heavy sand.

“The White Sand Hills consist of a range of low hills of very white sand, without vegetation, and almost impassable, except for horses; at least double teams would be required to draw lightly loaded wagons through them. They present, from the distance of a few miles, the appearance of hills covered with snow. They extend northwest and southeast for about twenty-five miles and are almost five miles in width, the south end distant from the Pecos about twenty miles, the north end about forty at the nearest point. Water in almost unlimited quantity can be had by digging in the small depressions at the bases of the hills at a depth of two to four feet.

“I have twice visited these sand hills this summer, and once in 1871, and every time found considerable water on the surface. There are also quite large willows and cottonwood trees growing in them, a sure indication of living water. The country east of the sand hills to Mustang and Sulphur Springs, distant sixty miles, is high rolling prairie, covered with fine grass, has no known living water, but abundance during the rainy season, in small lakes.

“From the head of the North Concho two large wagon roads into the plains have been made by my command, one going up the right-hand valley to Big Spring, thence via Sulphur Springs, Tobacco creek, and head of Colorado (Moo-cho-ko-way) to Cuates and head of Double Mountain Fork of Brazos; the other takes the left hand valley and goes via Mustang Springs to Five Wells, Laguna Sabinas and Laguna Cuates.

“From Five Wells there are two wagon roads to Monument Spring, in New Mexico, and one from there to Dug Spring, twenty miles due south and thirty-two miles from the Pecos.

“From head of North Concho to Big Spring the distance is thirty miles, country hard rolling prairie, road hard. Big Spring is a very large spring of excellent water, situated in a rocky gorge between two very high hills. Considerable mesquite timber in the vicinity, and plenty of excellent stone for building.

“Sulphur Springs lies thirty miles nearly west from Big Spring, country rolling, except five or six miles of quite heavy sand, water excellent, and, as at Big Spring, in inexhaustible quantities by any amount of stock that can be fed within reach of them. At this point the road turns almost due north, and passes through a magnificent grazing country for twenty miles to Tobacco creek; this is a small stream of but few miles in length, rising in the edge of the plains, near where the road strikes it, and running nearly east. Two miles farther north is another large branch, and from there on for twenty miles there are several small running streams and springs, one of them being the head of the Colorado—these streams forming what is known as the Moo-cho-ko-way country. The water is excellent and inexhaustible; considerable mesquite timber—sufficient for all necessary purposes of settlers, and stone convenient for building. All of the valleys through which streams flow can be irrigated to some extent. I do not think there is any doubt but corn could be raised without irrigation nearly every year. As a grazing country it is unsurpassed by any portion of Western Texas from the Gulf to New Mexico and Indian Territory.

“From the head of Colorado to Laguna Cuates is thirty miles, over a high slightly rolling hard prairie covered with good grass, but very little wood above ground and mesquite roots scarce. During the rainy season there are many large lakes of water

“Laguna Cuates are two large very salt lakes situated in a depression of the plains; they are, together, about three miles long and one and one-half wide. Near the edges of them are several springs of good water. At this place I dug two large holes in the bank, about twelve or fifteen feet square, which soon filled to a depth of two or three feet. By digging I do not think there is any reasonable limit to the water that could be obtained.

“Laguna Blanco is a similar lake, eight miles east of Cuates, having also fresh water springs.

“Six miles south of Cuates are two lakes, separated but a few hundred yards, the one very salty and the other fresh, both evidently never going dry.

“About all these lakes there are great quantities of mesquite roots, sufficient to furnish fuel for any population the country could support.

“From Cuates to head of Double Mountain Fork the distance is thirty-two miles, nearly due north, country high hard rolling prairie.

“Taking the left hand valley, two miles above head water on the North Concho, a large wagon road leads due west, over rolling hard prairie, to Mustang Springs, distant forty-two miles. Six and a half miles further west, and on the wagon road, are several other springs. The water at both these places is in great abundance, hundreds of buffalo watering at them daily, not exhausting them. Plenty of mesquite roots for fuel, and good grass and shelter in ravines.

“From Upper Mustang Springs to Five Wells the distance is thirty-four miles, northwest, over a high level prairie, with numerous large sink holes, or ponds, filled for several months in the year with water.

“The Five Wells are situated in a ravine about one-eighth to one-half of a mile in width; the length is not known. It was examined for several miles each way without finding any other water, except a few small salt lakes. These wells are within a few yards of each other, are about six or eight feet deep and from four to ten feet in diameter, with three to four feet of water. Watering about five hundred animals for three days did not, apparently, at all diminish the water; grass excellent and plenty of shelter for stock in ravines; mesquite roots for fuel not very large or abundant.

“Laguna Sabinas, thirty-two miles due north from Five wells, is an alkili or salt lake, nearly six miles long and four wide, with plenty of good water in numerous wells or rather dug springs in a ravine at the north end, and several large wells at the south end, of slightly brackish water but fit for use of men and animals. Water can be found by digging anywhere near the edge of the lake; grass in vicinity excellent, and plenty of wood (roots).

“From the north end of the lake are two large wagon roads, one going nearly due east to head of Tobacco creek, distant thirty-five miles. About five miles of the road heavy sand, the balance high hard prairie. The left hand road runs nearly northeast thirty-two miles to Laguna Cuates, high prairie and sand about equally distributed at intervals of three or four miles. About the bluffs of Laguna Sabinas are found a few small cedars; stone for building in the bluffs.

“From the Five Wells there are two wagon roads, one running a little south of west, the other a little north, to Monument Spring, in New Mexico, distant by the left hand road sixty-three miles and by the right sixty-six; the latter being the preferable route on account of less sand and much better water. By the left hand road it is all heavy sand, except three short stretches, of a couple of miles each, to an alkali lake, distant from Five Wells thirty-six miles. This lake is situated in a depression of the prairie with hard ground all around it, extending several miles on the south and west; water permanent and, though quite strongly alkali, can be used from holes dug in the bank; better water is obtained, though none of it is good. Grass excellent and very luxuriant; wood (roots) in abundance. The lake is circular in form and one-eighth of a mile in diameter. From this lake to Monument Spring, distant twenty-seven miles, the country is rolling, about half hard prairie, the balance light sand.

“By the right hand road, going west from Five Wells, the distance to the first of Ward's wells is twenty-four miles, about sixteen of it heavy sand, the rest hard. These wells are situated in a ravine (from one-fourth to three-fourths of a mile in width) or narrow valley, extending northwest and southeast, through the centre of the plains, for at least fifty miles, bordered on each side by from one to three miles of hard prairie, making a strip of prairie from two to six miles in width. There are about fifty of these wells, in the first valley, in a space of one and one-half miles. Wells are from four feet deep at the western end to fifteen at the eastern, and having from two to four feet of water, of excellent quality and affording water for several thousand horses or cattle. Grass excellent, and wood (roots) in abundance.

“Three and one-half miles on the road, west of the first wells, in a similar ravine which joins the long one, are found about twenty more wells, and two miles south, in a third ravine, are several more; these last are off the road about a mile. This appears to have been a favorite resort of Indians, as shown by deeply worn trails, old lodges and heads of cattle. No sign of buffalo so far west as this, the line of sand from a few miles south of Quemas to Laguna Rico and Sabinas and thence through Five Wells and Mustang Springs to head of Main Concho being their western limit.

“From the second spring, to Monument Spring, distant thirty-seven miles, a little south of west, the road runs most of the way over rolling prairie, with about fifteen miles of not very heavy sand.

“Monument Spring is so named from a monument I had built on a hill southwest and one and one-fourth miles distant from the spring. This monument is of nearly white stone, about eight feet in diameter at the base, four at the top, and seven and one-half feet high. It can be seen for several miles in all directions.

“Monument Spring is a very large spring of excellent water, furnishing enough for several thousand head of horses. The country to the north is, for fifty miles, hard high prairie, to the south and west sandy; grass, in all directions, of luxuriant growth, of the finest quality found on the plains; wood abundant (roots) for fuel, and good building stone in the hills near by (limestone).

“Twenty miles due south is Dug springs, three in number, situated in a small valley of salty grass. The wells are a few yards apart, about six feet deep and four in diameter, having a depth of three or four feet of water and furnishing enough for about one thousand horses per day. My command, of about three hundred animals, watering all at one time soon exhausted the springs, but in an hour or two they were full again. Plenty of wood in this vicinity, and tolerable good grass close by; within easy grazing distance it was excellent.

“From Dug springs to the Pecos the distance is about thirty-two miles, one-half of the way heavy sand and the rest hard rolling hills. There is no wagon road to the Pecos, but a very plain and deeply worn Indian trail, running almost due west until near the Pecos, when it turns southwest, striking that stream just above the mouth of the Azul or Blue river, at a shallow, rock-bottom crossing, where the water in ordinary stages is not over fifteen inches deep.

“From Mustang Springs to Centralia the distance is fifty-four miles, without water on the trail of Lieutenant Geddes, except one salt lake thirty-five miles north and twenty-five west of Central station. At this lake water might be found by digging. Southeast of Central station, and eighteen miles from it, a fine spring of water, hitherto unknown, was found by Lieutenant Geddes, which will, undoubtedly, cause a change in the road across the plains to the Pecos. From this spring to Howard's wells and the Pecos the country has never been scouted; on the trail followed by Lieutenant Geddes no other permanent water was found until he reached Howard's wells, on the San Antonio road. From this point west to the Rio Grande the country is least known of any in this Department and is the most difficult to scout in, as it has, so far, been found impossible to take wagons along; and from the country being cut up by very deep and rocky ravines and all the hills covered with a kind of miniature Spanish dagger, making it very difficult and painful traveling for horses. There is, undoubtedly, plenty of water, and this country has always been a favorite resort for the Apaches and Lipans. Lieutenant Geddes discovered several good springs of water on his trail and reports that his command did not suffer at all from want of water. My experience, father west and near the Rio Grande, was the same in the fall of 1871, when I was, at no time, more than a half day without water, either in springs or rock tanks.

“The various scouts have shown how easily the plains can be traversed, in almost any direction, and to all the large watering places there are plain wagon roads that will show for years.”