Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Trammel's Trace: The First Road to Texas from the North

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Trammel's Trace: The First Road to Texas from the North

Article excerpt

Trammel's Trace: The First Road to Texas from the North. By Gary L. Pinkerton. Red River Valley Books. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2016. Pp. xviii, 281. $35.00, ISBN 978-1-62349-468-1.)

Gary L. Pinkerton undertakes two ambitious tasks with Trammel's Trace: The First Road to Texas from the North: writing a history of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas frontier while developing a biography of the route's namesake, Nicholas Trammell. Both are very welcome additions to the historiography of the Old Southwest, and one hopes this book spurs more work on the region.

Pinkerton begins by establishing his connections to Trammel's Trace, which are deep and personal, as he grew up with one of its beds running through his family's property. He and his fellow '"rut nuts'" spent years seeking out the remaining portions of the road (p. xii). Pinkerton's second chapter recounts where the road ran, the kinds of terrain it traversed, and where Trammel's Trace might still be seen.

After this orientation, Pinkerton tracks back and forth between Nicholas Trammell and the region and communities through which his trace ran. Pinkerton shows us a land, largely bereft of law and order, where smugglers, brigands, and other American, French, and Spanish ne'er-do-wells thronged. Trammell and his family, by some accounts, would have been numbered among them. Pinkerton portrays the region as a forerunner to the Wild West of later generations, a period that ended as state power grew with the influx of farmers and other, more settled peoples. The account takes an American viewpoint, which aids in melding the work with other research on the region, but the same context would be understood much differently from Spanish or Native perspectives.

Trammell himself, of course, looms large in the account. Bom and raised in Tennessee, Trammell appeared deeply committed to exercising the personal prerogative of one in charge of his surroundings. …

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