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A Journey through Texas: Or a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier

by Frederick Law Olmsted

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1092208,528 (3.92)None
A reporter's account of the people, culture, and terrain of Texas in the mid-1800s. Frederick Olmsted was a journalist when he made his journey through Texas. Tasked with covering the state of slavery during the quiet years before the Civil War, he took copious notes about the people, places, and cultures of the Texas of his day. These notes, in the form of a journal, would become his seminal work, Olmsted's Texas Journey. In Olmsted's Texas Journey, the reader gets to travel back in time and witness Texas as it once was, and see how today's Texas, with its variety of peoples and traditions, still shares a deep connection to the richness of its past. But his great Texas journey was in fact so much more. As he made his way to that great state, he took copious and wonderful notes of all the others he passed through. From Maryland to California, and Ohio to Louisiana, Olmsted's great history chronicles every detail that he observed. This truly is a classic piece of American literature.… (more)
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"A Journey Through Texas" is a travel narrative of brothers Frank Law and John Hull Olmsted, from Staten Island. Recommended for Texans curious about Texas history and for historians curious about Texas. And a few Louisianans. Otherwise please disregard some rating stars.

Proud Texans: beware that the brothers, despite their essentially positive and energetic spirit, were annoyed at much of what they saw, ate and endured, but they looked for accomplishment and potential everywhere, and the account is not without humor. And they found much to like, particularly traveling west into hill country, with its German immigrants and settlements, and reaching prairies yet further west.

Not highest rated only because it incorporates particulars on the economics of agriculture and commodities like cotton and slaves, and also some lobbying against slavery, however timely and persuasive in 1854 (and responsive to their commission from the New York [Daily] Times).

The Olmsteds were in Texas on horseback midwinter into late spring. They didn't get far north (above about 32º latitude, roughly Nacogdoches) or far west (past about 24º longitude, roughly Eagle Pass and today's San Angelo). But continuing west risked a bad death on the dry and mostly unpopulated Texas plains. They do relate some contemporary observations of others who had traveled further west, much of that occupied or menaced by native Americans, still a threat even where the brothers ventured. They describe some of southwestern Louisiana from the journey back home. The book has a good map.

The Olmsted brothers, in their 30's, one (John) facing death from tuberculosis, were well and widely educated and travelled as well as practical and unpretentious, and their frank perspective as curious and observant visitors over a large area of early Texas is surely unique and valuable. Frank went on to become something of a landscape architect and assisted in the design of New York City's Central Park, among many parks and commissions.

Larry McMurtry's introduction mentions only two other previous accounts, Bartlett's "Personal Narrative" (1854) and Kendall's "Santa Fe Expedition" (1844), which might compete with this for the attention of today's reader. ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
Book available online from the Portal to Texas History:
http://texashistory.unt.edu/permalink/meta-pth-2407
  PortalToTexasHistory | May 5, 2007 |
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A reporter's account of the people, culture, and terrain of Texas in the mid-1800s. Frederick Olmsted was a journalist when he made his journey through Texas. Tasked with covering the state of slavery during the quiet years before the Civil War, he took copious notes about the people, places, and cultures of the Texas of his day. These notes, in the form of a journal, would become his seminal work, Olmsted's Texas Journey. In Olmsted's Texas Journey, the reader gets to travel back in time and witness Texas as it once was, and see how today's Texas, with its variety of peoples and traditions, still shares a deep connection to the richness of its past. But his great Texas journey was in fact so much more. As he made his way to that great state, he took copious and wonderful notes of all the others he passed through. From Maryland to California, and Ohio to Louisiana, Olmsted's great history chronicles every detail that he observed. This truly is a classic piece of American literature.

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