A Journey through Texas; or, a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier

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Early in the year 1854 Frederick Law Olmsted, a young New England journalist, crossed the Louisiana border and set off on horseback into the teeth of the Texas winter. In A Journey through Texas he recounts his travels along the Old San Antonio Road through East Texas' piney woods, the dry prairies further west, the chaparral of South Texas, the coastal prairies, and the rich bottomlands around Houston and Galveston. Olmsted does not romanticize the discomforts of his trip-the monotonous food, crude housing, wet and dry northers, rough companions-yet his book reflects a sense of limitless possibility for this new and open country. The cultured Easterner remembers in relentless detail the squalor and brutality met with in parts of East Texas, but he writes fondly of the civility and cleanliness of the German settlements around New Braunfels. In his introductory A Letter to a Southern Friend, omitted in earlier reprints, Olmsted sets forth his views opposing the extension of slavery into the West and promoting free-soil agriculture for frontier states. The remarkably versatile Olmsted is best known as the founder of landscape architecture in America and for works including Central Park and Stanford University. In his Foreword, Larry McMurtry calls A Journey through Texas an intelligent, lively, readable book, packed with keen observation and lightened by a delicate strain of humor.