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Excerpts from "A Journey through Texas"

Frederick Olmsted, the well-known landscape architect that created Central Park in New York, journeyed through Texas in 1856/57 and published is observations under the title "A Journey through Texas". While his account covers numerous topics and ethnic encounters, Germans and Africans play a prominent role in his narrative. Here are some of the most relevant excerpts.

Agrarian Ideas

"There were two or three travelers besides ourselves. The conversation ran upon the Germans, through whose settlements one, a Jerseyman, had just passed. The " Dutch" he had seen at the North, he said, were very different from those of this country. There, they were honest and industrious, and minded their business. Here, they didn't appear to have any business. They were thieves and loafers, and nothing better than a " set of regular damn'd agrarians." All joined in these denunciations, which appeared to afford them relief, though founded, so far as they could show us, on mere prejudice. The master of the house was not backward, and intimated that he refused them fire and water as outlaws and barbarians, whenever he had the opportunity. "Agrarianism," a strange charge for such a country and place, we reflected, probably meant free-laborism and abolitionism, but did not push investigations." (p. 132)

Approach to the Germans

[...] In Austin, we learned from Governor Pease and other acquaintances familiar with our route, that we should reach, in a day or two, the German settlements, and pass through, in fact, a German village of considerable size-Neu Braunfels. We inquired with a good deal of interest as to the condition and social relations of the Germans, and learned, from the same sources, that the great part of them were exceedingly poor, but that, as a body, they were thriving. As to slavery, as fast as they acquired property, they followed the customs of the country and purchased slaves, like other white people, even Northern men, who invariably conquered their prejudices when they came here to settle and found their practical inconvenience. However, no one could give us any precise information about the Germans, and we had not the least idea that they were so numerous, and had so important a position in Western Texas, until we reached them, a day or two after this. (p. 133)

A Neighbor of the Germans


We had applied for corn at a house not far from camp. The family were at supper.
"I wished," said I, "to inquire if I could get some corn of you?"
"I reckon you might."
"I won't trouble you to leave your supper."
"No trouble."
Out comes the proprietor, leaving a strong negro to wait upon the table. [...] He informed us that we should be among the German settlers in the first hour of our next day's ride. We anxiously made inquiries to ascertain what his experience had been with regard to the character of the Germans [...]

"I am told that they buy negroes as fast as they get money enough to be able to."
Yes, he reckoned they did. How many of them owned negroes, that he knew? He couldn't tell. Were there a hundred? Oh, no. Were there ten ? No, not more than five. And I supposed he knew some hundreds of them. Yes, he knew more than a thousand, he thought, that did not own slaves. [...] (p. 138-40)

German farms

The first German settlers we saw, we knew at once. They lived in little log cabins, and had inclosures of ten acres of land about them. The cabins were very simple and cheap habitations, but there were many little conveniences about them, and a care to secure comfort in small ways evident, that was very agreeable to notice. So, also, the greater variety of the crops which had been grown upon their allotments, and the more clean and complete tillage they had received contrasted favorably with the patches of corn-stubble, overgrown with crab-grass, which are usually the only gardens to be seen adjoining the cabins of the poor whites and slaves. [...] (p. 140)

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