1
Land and Nature

The land possesses a powerful and haunting beauty, and Texas, the name for this country, is a word of myth and reality. Although the name comes from precolonial Texas Indians, the five letters are so emotionally encrusted that the name defies definition. It means too many things to people. For example, Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison in 1820, “The province of Techas will be the richest state of our Union without any exception.” Frederick Law Olmsted, a traveler and landscape architect, recorded in 1857, “‘G.T.T.’ (gone to Texas) was the slang appendage, within the reader’s recollection, to every man’s name who had disappeared before the discovery of some rascality. Did a man emigrate thither, everyone was on the watch for the discreditable reason to turn up.”

“Other states were carved or born, Texas grew from hide and horn,” stated Texas poet Berta Hart Nance around 1930. And in 1962, after traveling with his dog Charley, John Steinbeck wrote, “Writers facing the problem of Texas find themselves floundering in generalities, and I am no exception. Texas is a state of mind, Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.”

To say the least, it is huge—267,000 square miles stretching 770 miles from east to west and 800 miles north to south. This second largest state takes in 7 percent of the area of the United States, and if you rode a bicycle around the entire border you would cover 3,800 miles. To the Travel and Information Division of the Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation, the state is a “Land of Contrasts,” as indeed it is to almost everyone who has pondered its nature and character. There are reasons for this, and a major one is geographical.

Portions of four of the eight major physiographic regions that make up the terrain of North America divide the state. The Rocky Mountain system decorates far West Texas with islands of low, clustered mountains set in beige desert basins. The highest point, Guadalupe Peak, reaches 8,751 feet; there are only six others over the 8,000-foot level. With the exception of this intermontane segment in West Texas, the state consists of three

TEXAS, LIKE A
BEAUTIFUL DAMSEL,
HAS MANY CHARMS
AND ATTRACTIONS,
BUT IT IS NOT
ENTIRELY FAULTLESS.
INDEED, THERE IS
NO SUCH PLACE AS A
PERFECT ELYSIUM ON
EARTH… BUT ITS
MANY BEAUTIES WILL
HIDE A MULTITUDE OF
FAULTS; OR RENDER
THEM LIGHT AND
EASILY BORNE.

Amos Andrew Parker,
A Traveler in Texas, 1834

-1-

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Texas, a Modern History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Maps vi
  • Preface vii
  • 1- Land and Nature 1
  • 2- The Spanish Legacy 23
  • 3- Texas and the United States 47
  • 4- Settlement 79
  • 5- Texas in Transit 118
  • 6- The Texas Mystique 149
  • 7- [God Bless Texas] 188
  • 8- Afterword Books and Themes 216
  • Appendix I Presidents and Governors of Texas 219
  • Appendix II Counties of Texas 220
  • References 223
  • Index 231
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