NAHA Header


Reiersen's Texas
    Translated and edited by Derwood Johnson (Volume 21: Page 252)

In 1843 Johan Reinert Reiersen, the outspoken editor of Christianssands posten (Christiansand, Norway), arrived in New Orleans and from there visited Norwegian settlements in certain northern states, including Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. He returned to New Orleans in the spring of 1844 after boarding a boat in St. Louis that took him down the Mississippi, and then went up the Red River to Natchitoches, Louisiana. He proceeded by stagecoach, carrying only a light knapsack, to Nacogdoches and San Augustine, Texas, where a Dr. Hald showed him around and supplied information. There were then no stagecoaches to points farther southwest, so Reiersen hired a saddle horse for his journey into Austin, the new capital of Texas. {1}

Reiersen thus describes what he had accomplished in Austin:

"Congress had just assembled and I easily gained admittance to the president of the republic, General Houston, who was intensely interested in having immigrants choose Texas as their new fatherland. He assured me that Congress would give a colony of Norwegians all the encouragement [253] that could reasonably be expected. He believed that peace and quiet were as good as insured since the President of the United States, in his last message, had emphatically declared that a continuation of warlike invasions and forays from Mexico would not be tolerated. He doubted that Texas would be admitted to the Union in the near future. In his opinion, one could consider the Comanche Indian hostilities at an end after their last defeat, and after Texas had established permanent forts along the northwest course of the Brazos and Colorado rivers. Now it seemed that nothing could hinder the rapid progress of the republic in prosperity and wealth, with an industrious and virtuous people occupying the vast stretches of fertile land." {2}

After staying two days in Austin, Reiersen took a five-day stage trip to Houston by way of Bastrop, Rutersville, and Washington, on the Brazos River. He arrived at Galveston March 7, 1844, and left two days later for New Orleans. {3}

Reiersenís American tour had been subsidized by a group of prospective emigrants in southwestern Norway; he was to inspect local conditions in the New World and report his findings. When he returned to Norway, he published these observations in a book entitled Veiviser for norske emigranter til de forenede nordamerikanske stater og Texas (Guide for Norwegian Emigrants to the United North American States and Texas ó Christiania, 1844). The volume was distributed among his sponsors. {4}

The title page of the "Guide" carries the following: "Containing a report to some farmers and citizens of western Norway about agriculture, climate, natural products, animals, machinery for cultivation and land improvement, possibilities for profits for all types of workers, craftsmen, and merchants, prices of products and labor, public lands, and the government and society of the states and their relation to the [254] Union, in western America, namely in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and the free state of Texas."

Chapter 9 of Reiersenís book, a translation of which follows, deals exclusively with the republic of Texas. It comments on such matters as its borders, size, physical features, climate, soil, plants, animals, cities, population, public lands, and outlook for the future. Reiersenís view of Texas is generally favorable; nevertheless, he refrains from pointing it out, or indeed any of the American states, as the "Promised Land" for Norwegian emigrants. His preference for Texas was clearly demonstrated, however, in 1845, when he and a small group of followers established the first Norwegian settlement there at a place which he called Normandy, now known as Brownsboro. {5}

In the present translation, slight errors in spelling have been corrected. When Reiersenís use of a term varies considerably from the standard form, the latter has been added in brackets.



* It has become a fashion with our newer geographers and journalists to write "Tejas," which, according to the Spanish pronunciation, should read "Tekhas"; but as the inhabitants themselves, besides the government, write and say "Texas," by which name the republic is known in the United States and England and in other European nations, it is stupid and ignorant to use a spelling and name which the nation itself does not accept. J.R.R.

Borders. Size. Divided into three main parts: fiat, rolling, and mountainous. The so-called Cross Timbers. Bays and fjords. Rivers. Climate. The land. Descriptions of the highlands between the Trinity, Brazos, and Colorado rivers. Products. [255] Trees and plants. Kinds of animals. Fishing. Insects. Cities. Population. Conditions. Public lands. Future outlook.

*   *   *   *

The republic of Texas is bounded on the north by the United Statesí Western Territory and Arkansas, from which it is separated by the Red River; on the east by Louisiana, where the Sabine River serves for the most part as a boundary; on the south[east] by the Gulf of Mexico; and on the southwest and west by Mexico, from which it is separated by the Rio del Norte, also called the Rio Grande and the Rio Bravo. It [the republic] stretches from the twenty-sixth to the thirty-fourth parallel north, and from the ninety-fourth to the one hundred and third meridian west of Greenwich, and has an area of 162,000 square miles, which includes more than 100,000,000 acres of the richest and most fertile land on earth. {6}

Taken as a whole, Texas is one of the flattest and most level land areas in America. With the exception of the northwestern corner, which joins the Mexican mountain chain, the Cordilleras [the Sierra Madre], no other part can be called really high, much less mountainous. Topographically, however, the country must be divided into three classes or divisions [of terrain], each differing from the others in certain characteristics. These could perhaps be most satisfactorily defined as follows: the fiat or level, the rolling or undulating, and the mountainous or hilly part of the republic.

The coast line constitutes the flat part. It extends inland along the rivers 30 to 60 miles, at some places 80 miles. Almost all of this part of the country can be considered, topographically, a tremendously vast prairie, with a gentle slope [256] toward the Gulf of Mexico, a large part of it so flat that the rain water dries very slowly. Miles of prairie look like shallow lakes, in which grass and rushes rise to the top. However, very little of it can be considered marsh or swampland, and the only areas where a plow cannot be used are the so-called land-crab sections, which, however, are valuable as pasture. Other parts, including the so-called Reed Prairies, are considered the richest and most fertile lands on the earth. {7}

Inside the fiat region begins what one could call the undulating or rolling prairie land. This constitutes the largest part of the country, and though it is not so rich as the flat area, it includes a large expanse of extremely fruitful land, both prairie and woodland. In the higher parts of the elevated prairies in this region can be found plateaus of extreme width, which in certain places are full of holes, 1 to 2 feet deep and from 6 to 8 feet wide. Other than these special places, where the land is extremely rich, much of the soil on the upland prairies is a black loam of quite some depth, resting on a layer of either steel-gray clay or a mixture of marl and sand. One of the advantages of this area is that it has many streams and rivers with pure crystal-clear water. Along such a stream or river there is always a strip of woodland, sometimes appearing to be a mass of bushes and undergrowth, among which cedars shoot up in the air like a broad belt of high, proud timber. In other places the land is covered with scattered trees, the so-called post oak and blackjack, among which will be found many bushes, besides grapevines with big tasty grapes, which proves that this soil is well suited for vineyards.

The mountainous and hilly section of Texas includes the republicís northwestern part, which is the smallest of the three. Nowhere do the mountains or the hills come closer to the coast than 170 to 200 miles. Though the hills or the [257] rising mountains are larger here, none are steep, and none of the mountains can be classified as higher than those of the fourth and fifth magnitude. {8} Principally, they seem to be of another composition than other mountains, as chalk is the biggest part of their substance. They incline in even slopes, with rounded tops, and the sides are completely covered with a heavy growth of tall trees, among which oak, cedar, walnut, elm, and so forth are the most important. The soil in the valleys (which are numerous and often very wide, as they usually stretch away up to the hillsides) is often described as very rich, capable of producing the best yield of all crops. At the feet and sides of these hills countless streams originate in clear springs; and the streams join together in creeks and rivers and run through the hilly country, offering the most convenient opportunity for any kind of water-powered industry. The water in these rivers is crystal clear and cold, diminishing little during the summerís heat and drought, so that mills and machinery can be used throughout the whole year. Gold and silver are known to exist in certain places, but mines which were in use before the Texas revolution were later forgotten, so their location is no longer known.

A peculiarity in the northern part of Texas is the so-called Cross Timbers. It is a long belt of woods stretching from the upper part of the Trinity River to the Red River in an almost straight line north for about 130 miles. This belt is between 3 and 5 miles wide. It keeps its fine character through all types of land ó the lowlands, the high bluffs, the flat fields, the rolling prairies, and the golden heights. Without close inspection it is impossible to notice any difference between the soil in the wood belt and in the adjoining land. Both edges of the belt are straight and clearly marked, so that when a traveler [258] views it from a high standpoint along the western side, it appears to have been cut after a measured longitudinal line. Different opinions have been offered as to the origin of this long and narrow wood belt, but most have taken it to be a work of man, made to distinguish the border between rival Indian tribes, but nothing has been discovered to indicate definitely that human life has given it its form. {9}

No part of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico has as many bays and inlets as Texas; they provide a good opportunity for transportation and the shipping trade. Among them is Sabine Bay, where the Sabine and Neches rivers empty, Galveston Bay, the largest and at the moment the most important fjord on the coast, where the Trinity and [San] Jacinto rivers empty, then Matagorda Bay, where the Colorado, Guadalupe, La Baca [Lavaca], and San Antonio rivers empty, and, especially, Esperitu Santa [Espiritu Santo] Bay; finally, Corpus Christi Bay, where the Nueces River empties. The mouths of these bays are shallow, with sand bars stretching across them, but they could easily be made into deeper channels through which even the largest ships could enter. {10}

All the rivers running through Texas, with the exception of the Red River, flow southeast into the Gulf of Mexico. The Red River, which separates Texas on the north from the United States and Arkansas, has its origin at the foot of the mountains [the Cap Rock Escarpment] and runs almost straight east along the width of the republic, and there turns south[east] until its reddish water runs into the Mississippi. It is navigable along practically its entire course, with the [259] exception of a big log jam in Louisiana that has built up with drift timber and has stopped up the thoroughfare for about 30 miles. The river disappears here under a swampy overgrowth; but this is now being cleaned out, so there will be free traffic all the way to New Orleans. {11} It is 1,600 miles long. The Sabine River separates the northeastern part of Texas from Louisiana and accommodates steamboat navigation from its mouth to Sabine Lake. It is 350 [360] miles long. The Neches River originates in the highlands near the Red River and is navigated by steamers 80 miles from its mouth. It is 300 [260] miles long. {12}

The Trinity River can be navigated by steamboats for over 100 miles, and several new towns have been established along its banks, where iron and coal are found in great abundance. {13} It is 450 [455] miles long. The Brazos River is the most navigable river in the republic; steamers have gone as far as 200 miles up its course, and probably could have gone farther. After a course of 750 [840] miles it empties its water into the Gulf of Mexico. It, too, is reddish. The Colorado is the next river west of the Brazos. It starts in the Cordilleras [the Cap Rock Escarpment], and flows through the heart of the country, until it empties into Matagorda Bay after a run of 600 miles. Traffic on this river is hindered by a log jam near its mouth, above which it is navigable for over 150 miles to a [260] waterfall above the capital, Austin. The Guadalupe River has its source in the mountainous part of Texas and flows into the Aransazo [Aransas] Bay. It is 330 [250] miles long. The San Antonio, its proudest tributary, has its source in the crystal-clear springs a little north of the town of San Antonio de Bexar; they are both navigable, with slow-moving currents. {14}

The San Bernard, La Baca, Aransazo, and Nueces rivers are more or less navigable. They have lengths of from 100 to 200 [250] miles. Their courses, however, are not known exactly. The Rio del Norte or Rio Grande has its source between the Rocky Mountain ranges and provides the boundary with Mexico. It is navigable by steamer for several hundred miles from its mouth, for seven months of the year. Its total length is said to be from 1,500 to 1,700 [2,200] miles. {15} Besides these principal rivers, Texas is cut up by countless smaller rivers and tributaries, most of which could be navigated by boat their whole length; and all these will in time open the best channels for trade and communication with all parts of the interior for marketing and exchange of the landís products.

The climate in Texas is varied, for the large expanse of land in the South nears the tropics, and to the north penetrates far into the temperate belt, while the flatlands along the coasts are of quite a different character from the highlands approaching the mountains. No part of the republic is, however, [261] of such altitude or so far from the equator that one can feel the sting of winter snow or lose part of the Southís proud staple product, cotton. The land in general consists of a large plain sloping toward the south; its river beds are deep, with high banks. It is quite free from swamps or standing puddles, and about two thirds of the whole landscape is open prairie, over which the wind blows with the freshness of a sea breeze. The area therefore is to a remarkable degree free from all natural causes of sickness, and it enjoys such pure, fresh air as is found only in the most desirable regions.

The sloping toward the south carries away all superfluous water, exposes the whole surface to the sea breezes from the Gulf of Mexico, and makes for a climate many degrees warmer and better suited for raising tropical products than otherwise would be the case; at the same time, this renders the sunís heat less oppressive. In the flat part of Texas the summer heat is most intensified, the average temperature at that season being about 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while in the highlands it is about 75 degrees. In most parts of Texas the periods of winter which could be called cold last only a couple of days at a time, when the northers, or the northwest winds, blow over the plains. At these times a little ice and frost can be seen which quickly melt from the sunís rays or a south wind. The cold winds, which are called northers, come from the Cordilleras near the source of the Red River and the [Rio] Grande River, and since the air there is denser than that in the southern and lower regions, the wind sweeps down from the high altitudes and over the rolling prairies. Although these north winds are penetrating and seem to dry out the moisture in oneís head, they do not seem to be detrimental to health; on the contrary, they contribute much to the cleansing of the air, as they have the effect of causing a remarkably rapid evaporation of such rain water as has previously fallen. Immediately following these winter winds are periods of pleasant sunshine accompanied by a southerly breeze that is more like the evening air in a northern summer [262] than a harsh winter storm. Even during the most severe of northerly winds, the cattle need no other protection than the shelter of a little bunch of trees; most frequently they graze upon the open prairie. {16}

The soil is composed of a blending and variation of elements, most of which are remarkable for their richness and fertility; it contains substantial amounts of chalk particles and marl. With a few exceptions in some areas, Texas is a prairie land whose rivers, creeks, and their branches seem to adorn the prairies with silvan forest belts of differing widths. The prairies, when viewed from a distant height ó encircled as they are by foliage which includes clumps of trees and underbrush, called islands, growing on the tops of low elevations as if around a fountain head ó have the appearance of cultivated grass plains or planted groves and extensive parks designed by human art and initiative.

The eastern part of the republic contains more forest land than any other section except the before-mentioned Cross Timbers. Here one can find pine, fir, oak, ash, cedar, elm, cypress, walnut, poplar, hickory, and other kinds of trees. The soil, although of varied character, is suitable for grazing and farming. Near the gulf and for some distance inland as well as in all of southern Texas, the land is also suitable for the raising of sugar cane, which here is considered superior, containing more juice than in Louisiana. Likewise, the cotton from these parts is finer and more silklike, and commands a higher price than that from the United States. Farther north, the principal crop is cotton, which thrives well in all parts of the land. With the exception of the lowlands along the rivers, the northwest part seems to be less fruitful than the other areas. From the Brazos River west to the Colorado in the flat region, the soil is as above described in fertility and [263] natural productiveness. It is of a reddish color, blended with black loam, chalk, and occasional salt particles; this explains its unusual richness. Along the Guadalupe River and the streams to the west of it are found important stretches of land with deep black rich soil covered with timber and of the finest quality. All the southern parts of this wide stretch of land are suitable for sugar production.

Farther from the coast and toward the origin of these rivers, the elevation of the land increases, but it is none the less fruitful and suitable for all sorts of grain and fruits which usually thrive in the temperate zone, together with tropical products. In these higher elevations the soil contains more chalk, blended with more or less sand. It is too hard for the cultivation of most kinds of seed, yet mellow enough to be easily plowed or harrowed. Besides the prairies, which are the main part of this plateau, one finds considerable open land covered with a kind of oak which is called post oak, here and there mixed with hickory and elm trees. Open land, which is called post-oak land, is usually of high elevation, very flat, covered with grass, and apparently of less value than the prairie land, though a luxuriant grass growth testifies that it is not poor. On both the prairies and the open land are found numerous extensive tracts that are almost wholly covered with vegetation, including clusters of wild grapevines bearing different kinds of fine-tasting, fairly large grapes which will unquestionably produce superior wine or raisins. Where prairie fires have not caused damage for two or three years, these vines attain considerable density and growth and they bear grapes in amazingly large clusters. This region will undoubtedly in time become Americaís vineyard. {17}

This highland seems to be the most suitable place for the establishment of European colonies, and I shall therefore limit [264] my chief comments to it, while I briefly give an additional description of each region lying between the Trinity, the Brazos, and the Colorado rivers, from personal observation.

The landscape between the Trinity and the Brazos rivers, above the fall line in the latter stream, includes a large stretch of high, rolling plain, rich in clear springs and streams. Much of this land, perhaps two thirds, is prairie, and the upper third is forest. The part comprising Montgomery, Houston, and Robinson [Robertson] counties has recently come to the attention of the immigrants, since it has the richest soil and the most beautiful scenery, and great possibilities for trade and shipping on the Trinity as well as on the Brazos River. The forest land produces, according to the nature of the soil, such trees as cypress, cedar, cottonwood, magnolia, walnut, hickory, ash, elm, and several varieties of oak. Several seemingly insignificant waterfalls in the smaller streams will be valuable in operating mills (sawmills) and other kinds of machinery because they provide water throughout the year. Some of these streams contain brackish water, and in one of them it is too salty for household use.

Several authorities have agreed that here wheat will thrive, in addition to maize, which is harvested twice each year, and rye, oats, barley, potatoes, cotton, and tobacco. Fruits such as figs, peaches, nectarines, oranges, and lemons, which are suited to the tropical climate, thrive well here. Nuts and berries grow in superabundance. Pecan and pawpaw trees grow wild, and mulberries and grapes are found that are very rich in quality. Great hordes of deer, wild cattle, and wild horses or mustangs graze on the upper prairies. Limestone suitable for burned lime or building stone is found in several places, mainly along the banks of the largest streams; and salt springs and coal mines have been discovered recently. Pipe clay suitable for crockery and pottery exists in coal formations. Great quantities of iron are found along the Trinity, and rich lead deposits have been discovered upstream where the river [265] branches out in two arms. {18} All the region along the Trinity and the Brazos, with the possible exception of the lowland along these streams, is guaranteed to be healthful, and the air is always fresh and clean because of the daily breezes coming in from either the mountains or the sea [gulf].

The land between the Brazos and the Colorado rivers, above the capital, Austin, for a breadth of 50 miles, looks much like the land above described with the exception that the heights or the so-called bluffs along the Colorado are steeper than those along the Trinity or Brazos. Most of the streams that flow into the Colorado River have great potential for the operation of mills and machines by water power throughout the year. The prairie land and the forest land contain a considerable amount of marl, and it appears certain that all kinds of grain will thrive here, together with tropical products. The whole area is quite free from local sources of sickness, and mosquitoes and flies are seldom noticed on the prairies. The same kinds of trees are found here as in the Trinity Valley, but are perhaps more extensive. A German company has acquired a tract of high-level land on the western side of the Colorado, where immigrants are now coming. {19} I have not visited the land farther west in the mountain region in the direction of the Cordilleras, but it seems to be very fruitful and especially suited for growing hemp and grain. In the direction of the Mexican mountains, the air is cleaner, containing properties curative to tuberculosis and other chest diseases.

I have listed the products which are best suited to the [266] land, but I want to mention that the indigo plant grows wild; along the road between the Trinity and the Brazos I have found the earth covered in several places with this plant. The so-called sweet potato also grows wild here, but has a sharper taste than the cultivated variety. Tomatoes, melons, and pumpkins thrive well; so does the almond tree, near the coast. The nopal plant (cactus apuntia), upon which the wood louse feeds and thrives, grows wild in the southern part, where it sometimes constitutes the entire growth of scrub. {20} The wild orange tree, the wild china[berry] tree, the Spanish persimmon, and the raoutchouk or gummi-elastikum [caoutchouk or gum elastic] grow in several places. The cayenne pepper plant is found wild and the vanilla bean grows readily. Two kinds of sago are being developed. On a certain prairie and on several areas of flatland, I have found wild rye in considerable quantities, and near the town of Rutersville [Fayette County] I noticed a whole area covered with mimosa, which seemed to wilt and to draw together as if pulled by an electric magnet as we neared it, but after ten minutes it gradually opened its green blades.

The animal life of Texas is of about the same variety as I have mentioned before in my description of the Western States, with the addition of a few other animals which are peculiar to the southern climate rather than to the mountainous regions. The bison or buffalo, deer, bear, fox, raccoon, antelope, wild goat, and peccary are found here, besides an occasional jaguar or leopard [ocelot]. Most common among the fowl are the prairie hen, pheasant, turtledove, wild goose, wild turkey, eagle, hawk, owl, vulture, swan, bird of paradise, mockingbird, parrot, etc. The ponds abound with such fish as trout, redfish, perch, mullet, and other sorts unknown to us. {21} Oysters are found in great quantities, especially at the mouths of rivers. Alligators and large turtles live along the [267] Red River and in near-by swamps. The rattlesnake is commonly found in the so-called bluffs along river banks. Harmful insects such as the spider, scorpion, horsefly, and centipede stay mainly in the lower and more fruitful parts along the streams and the coast. Numerous sand flies and mosquitoes are found, although they are not troublesome on the high flatlands. Cantharides, or Spanish flies, are common but quite harmless.

The people of Texas consist principally of immigrants from the United States, numbering perhaps 200,000 persons. Imbued with the spirit of freedom, which is the American characteristic, and unwilling to accept the religious coercion which the Catholic priesthood wanted to assert, in 1833 a mere 50,000 residents rose up against Mexico, of which Texas was a province, and after several battles, they forced Mexico to retreat. {22} They adopted a constitution which is essentially similar to the United States constitution. After the battle of San Jacinto in 1836, in which they gained total victory over the Mexicans and took as prisoner the president, General Santa Anna, their independence was recognized by the United States, England, and France. Since that time the Mexicans have made occasional unsuccessful excursions into Texas, and Texas has been forced to wage war with different Indian tribes, namely, Comanches, Paddo [Caddo], and Cherokees, their anger having been inflamed by Mexico, but they have been slain or driven back by the Texans. At various times the republic has made gestures to the United States indicating its desire to be taken into the Union, which the Congress in Washington has denied on the grounds that Negro slavery was being enforced in Texas; the Northern nonslaveholding states are afraid that the Southern slaveholding states, by such a union, would obtain the advantage in politics. At present, Mexico is preparing for a major attack; but, as I see it, the [268] United States will not be a quiet bystander during futile bloodshed of its people who have gone to Texas, but will step in earnestly to establish peace and quiet. {23}

The government of Texas has not followed a steadfast plan for the sale or disposition of its public lands. Currently they have given influential persons large tracts, called grants, with the understanding that each year they should populate the land with a certain number of colonists. Sometimes land has been sold to individuals for half a dollar per acre, and certain tracts have been granted those who fought in the republicís behalf, a specific amount for a certain period of service. Several companies still have such grants, and they offer each immigrant family from 320 to 640 acres of land, free as their own, with the understanding that they settle and cultivate the land for at least three years. As a result, during the past year a large immigration from England, Germany, and Belgium has taken place. As soon as firm peace and quiet have again taken effect, there is no doubt that an immigration like a running stream will spread over Texasí beautiful, fruitful plains. {24}


<1> Theodore C. Blegen, ed., "Behind the Scenes of Emigration: A Series of Letters from the 1840ís," in Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 14:79, 95ó111 (1944).

<2> Blegen, ed., in Studies and Records, 14:108.

<3> Blegen, ed., in Studies and Records, 14:108.

<4> C. A. Clausen, ed., The Lady with the Pen: Elise Wærenskjold in Texas, 158 (Northfield, 1961).

<5> Clausen, ed., The Lady with the Pen, 127, 160. Chapter 10 of the "Guide" has been translated into English by Dean Theodore C. Blegen as "Norwegians in the West in 1844: A Contemporary Account," in Studies and Records, 1:110ó125 (Minneapolis, 1926). Copies of Reiersenís book are in the Minnesota Historical Society, in the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. For some information about Reiersen and early Norwegian settlement in Texas, see "Nybyggere og brevskrivere," in Tolv Aamland and Ingrid Semmingsen, Agder og Amerika: En samling gamle amerikabrev, 34ó38 (Oslo, 1953).

<6> Before the Compromise of 1850, when Texas sold about one third of its territory to the United States, its area was actually about 400,000 square miles. Reiersen was substantially correct on south latitude and east longitude, but in error on the other boundaries. North latitude was 42í; west longitude was 107°30í. Lewis W. Newton and Herbert P. Gambrell, Texas Yesterday and Today, 2, 197 (Dallas, 1949). The editor determined the western extreme by locating the source of the Rio Grande on the map of Colorado.

<7> Reiersen used the term Rør-Prærier. These flat areas are known as the Coastal Prairies; the eastern section is heavily covered with grass, and is ideally suited to cattle raising. The Encyclopedia of Texas: Texas Almanac, 1961ó1962, 45, 47 (Dallas, 1961).

<8> "The mountains are of third and fourth magnitude in point of elevation"; William Kennedy, Texas: The Rise, Progress, and Prospects of the Republic of Texas, 16 (Fort Worth, 1925). Reiersen and other writers of his time were apparently unaware of the Great Plains and North Central Plains, areas then inhabited by Indians and little known, and obviously he was uninformed about the Trans-Pecos section of the extreme western part, which contains the only true mountains in Texas. See Texas Almanac, 45ó50.

<9> The East Cross Timbers and the West Cross Timbers are wooded belts in north central Texas. The width mentioned by Reiersen indicates that he is referring to the eastern section. See Texas Almanac, 45, 48.

<10> "Espiritu Santo Bay is in southern Calhoun County between Matagorda Island and the mainland. . . . The name, which is Spanish for Holy Ghost, was applied by early Spaniards to several locations on the Gulf coast, but in Texas it was most generally used to apply to the Matagorda Bay area." The Lavaca River "flows southeast . . . into Lavaca Bay in northern Calhoun County. The name which means literally the cow was first applied by early Spanish explorers and referred to the buffalo." The Handbook of Texas, 1:573,

<11> There was regular navigation on the Red River as far as Shreveport, but the "great raft," a mass of driftwood and trees, obstructed the upper waters for 75 miles. The United States government removed this log jam in 1838; but it re-formed and by 1856 had impeded navigation for 30 miles above Shreveport. It was cleared out again in 1874. Kennedy, Texas, 26; Handbook of Texas, 2:451.

<12> Correct figures for the lengths of rivers, here inserted in brackets, are from the Texas Almanac, 78ó82.

<13> "It is the one river of this section that is navigable for a long stretch. One finds ships three and four hundred miles from its mouth." Carl, Prince of Solms-Braunfels, Texas 1844ó1845, 19 (Houston, 1936). "Alonso de Leon named it La Santisima Trinidad (the Most Holy Trinity) . . . during his journey across Texas in 1689ó90. There was some settlement along its channel during the era of colonization." Iron is produced in this region and for a number of years there was coal mining. The latter has been abandoned because of the availability of oil and gas. Texas Almanac, 81, 151, 152.

<14> The Guadalupe River actually empties into San Antonio Bay, a little northeast of Aransas Bay. The city of San Antonio grew out of a Spanish villa called San Fernando de Bexar and is now the seat of Bexar County; Handbook of Texas, 2:540.

<15> The Aransas River (called "Aransazo" by Reiersen) does not appear on all maps. It flows southeast through Bee County and eventually empties, in Aransas County, into Copano Bay, north of Rockport. Handbook of Texas, 1:57; Texas Almanac, 168. The Rio Grande is navigable as far as Brownsville, about 85 miles from its mouth; Solms-Braunfels, Texas 1844-1845, 21. Kennedy quotes an English surveyor named Egerton as stating that an ordinary steamboat had ascended above Camargo, Mexico; Texas, 58. Camargo is over 100 miles from the mouth of the Rio Grande. The water level of the river varies sharply with the seasons.

<16> Reiersenís remarks on climate are substantially correct. In the Texas Panhandle, annual snowfall is from 10 to 25 inches, and there are occasional heavy local falls in other areas; Texas Almanac, 69. Cattle have been known to freeze in Texas.

<17> In 1946, the last year the United States Department of Agriculture reported on grape production in Texas, the state produced 2,500 tons of grapes, mainly for the fresh-fruit market. Recently wineries have operated at Del Rio and Fredericksburg. Texas Almanac, 244. By comparison, grapes raised in California average between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 tons annually.

<18> On iron and coal mining, see ante, note 13. No rich lead deposits have been found near the Trinity River; Texas Almanac, 152. The Trinity has three principal branches: East Fork, Elm Fork, and West Fork; a smaller tributary is called Clear Fork. Handbook of Texas, 2:802. The valley of the Trinity has today "more population and greater industrial development than can be found in any other river basin in Texas." Texas Almanac, 81.

<19> Adelsverein (Association of Noblemen) purchased what was known as the Fisher and Miller Land Grant, of about 3,000,000 acres, in 1845. The association was successful in establishing only five small colonies, and of these, three expired. Handbook of Texas, 1:7, 8, 604; Texas Almanac, 193.

<20> The nopal cactus, which grows in otherwise barren areas, nourishes the cochineal insect, used in dye manufacture; Kennedy, Texas, 92.

<21> Redfish live along the Gulf coast. Reiersen may refer to the red horse or sucker. Texas Almanac, 184, 135.

<22> The population in 1845 has been estimated at 125,000. The first United States Census for Texas, that of 1850, reported 212,592 whites, 397 free Negroes, and 58,161 slaves; Handbook of Texas, 1:321. The hostilities with Mexico actually began in 1835; Texas Almanac, 329.

<23> Texas was admitted to the Union in December, 1845. Thus when war broke out in 1846, the conflict was between the United States and Mexico. With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848, Mexico renounced its claims to Texas and accepted the Rio Grande as it border. See Handbook of Texas, 2:185. It is interesting to note that Gerhard Reiersen, a brother of Johan Reinert, fought in the Mexican War; C. A. Clausen, ed., "Recollections of a Norwegian Pioneer in Texas," in Studies and Records, 12:93 (1941).

<24> A veteran of the Texas war for independence, or his heirs, was entitled to 640 acres, which could not be sold or mortgaged during the lifetime of the grantee. The republic also contracted with individuals to found colonies, granting land for this purpose. Apart from the areas received by contractors, or empresarios, individual settlers were given 640 acres if they were heads of families, or 820 acres if they were single. The United States Census for 1850 reveals that 1,002 free inhabitants of Texas were natives of Great Britain, 8,277 of Germany, and 8 of Belgium. The population of the state jumped from 212,592 in 1850 to 604,215 in 1860. Jerry Sadler, History of Texas Land, 16 (Austin, 1961); Handbook of Texas, 2:20; Seymour V. Connor, The Peters Colony of Texas, 28n (Austin, 1959).

<<   Previous Page   |   Next Page   >>

To the Home Page