History passed in review along the highways of Texas in the century 1761–1860. This was the century of exploration and settlement for the big new land, and many thousands of people traveled its trails: traders, revolutionaries, missionaries, warriors, government agents, adventurers, refugees, gold seekers, prospective settlers, land speculators, army wives, and filibusters. Their reasons for coming were many and varied, and the travelers viewed the land and its people with a wide variety of reactions. Political and industrial revolution, famine, and depression drove settlers from many of the countries of Europe and many of the states of the United States. Some were displeased with what they found in Texas, but for many it was a haven, a land of renewed hope. So large was the migration of people to Texas that the land that was virtually unoccupied in 1761 numbered its population at 600,000 a century later.
Several hundred of these travelers left published accounts of their impressions and adventures. Collectively the accounts tell a panoramic story of the land as its boundaries were drawn and its institutions formed. Spain gave way to Mexico, Mexico to the Republic of Texas, the Republic to statehood in the United States, and statehood in the Union was giving way to statehood in the Confederate states by 1860. The travelers’ accounts reflect these changes; but, more important, they tell the story of the receding frontier.
In Travelers in Texas, 1761–1860, the author examines the Texas seen by the traveler-writer. Opening with a chapter about travel conditions in general (roads or trails, accommodations, food), she also presents at some length the travelers’ impressions of the country and its people. She then proceeds to examine particular aspects of Texas life: the Indians, slavery, immigration, law enforcement, and the individualistic character of the people, all as seen through the eyes of the travelers. The discussion concludes with a “Critical Essay on Sources,” containing bibliographic discussions of over two hundred of the more important travel accounts.