1844-45 Observations of Houston and Galveston
The following quote was written in 1844 by "Mrs. Housrou," an English woman who had traveled through Texas the previous year:
Littrell's Living Age
The city of Houston was our headquarters during our stay up the country; and greatly did we regret that the state of the prairie' owing to the constant and heavy rains, prevented our traveling as far as Washington, which city we had intended to have visited. The scarcity and indifference of the accommodations would not have deterred us from such an undertaking; but, in a country where roads do not exist, it is difficult not to lose one's way. The danger is considerably increased when the trail of previous travelers is obliterated by the rains, for "plumbing the track," the Texan term for tracing a road, is at all times a slow and tedious operation. Between Houston and Washington there is a certain space of two miles, which, when we were in the country, was not traversed in less time than four hours, so deep was the mire.
Even at Galveston, the first city in the country, things do not seem vastly better for a little excursion.
THE GALVESTON DRIVE.
The only " drive " is on the sea-beach : and a most beautiful beach it is—so hard and smooth, with its fine sand, that you scarcely hear your horse's foot fall, as he trots or rather runs along, a light carriage behind him, and the broad prairie spreading far before. Occasionally you are—I was going to say stopped, but I should have been wrong: no one is stopped in this country by anything short of a bowie-knife or a rifle-ball; but your progress is delayed by an interesting bayou, through which you have to wade, or swim, as the case may be. There is neither time nor spare cash to erect bridges and, indeed, were the expense to be incurred, the probability is they would be washed away by the first rain, or by a more than usually high tide. Bridges, then, being out of the question, nothing is left you but to make the best of such means of transport as are within your reach. If you fortunately chance to meet with any person who has lately crossed, you ask, " 'Well, Sir, is it swimming ? " Should the answer be in the affirmative, and you happen to be on horseback, equipped for a journey, with your plunder (luggage) about you, you " up saddle-bags," and boldly plunge into the stream. Should your route lie along the shore, the safest plan is to go a good way out to sea—on, on—till you find yourself well out among the breakers. I confess that at first this struck me as rather an alarming proceeding: but in fact it is much the safest plan ; there being always a bar of sand formed across the mouth of these bayous; and if you can hit that, the depth of water is much lessened.
Nor does there seem much in the social state of Texas to counterbalance the material evils. Mrs. Housrou admits three drawbacks to British emigration,—a total insecurity of titles to land; the smartness of the Texans, who when they deal with a Britisher, generally end by completely " shaving " him, that is possessing themselves of all his material goods; and the want of adaptability in the British character to qualify our settlers to meet the new and endless demands upon ingenuity. She says there are a great many lawyers in Texas, and a vast many laws—the Assembly having been industrious enough in this kind of work: but Mrs. Housrou makes it a ground of panegyric that there is little law among them—which seems to be true enough."
----- "Littell's Living Age II", August-October 1844
Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.