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W. Bollaert on the Geography of Texas. 113
variations add much to the facility of reading. In the Vei lan-
guage these differences of meaning with the same sound appear
to be very much more numerous than in English or French, and
we hardly see how the difficulty is to be got over without some
such system as that in question, unless we would have recourse to
such a plan as is adopted from necessity in this paper, which is
certainly more difficult to be learned by a person ignorant of both
systems. It is true that the number of characters is large, but more
than a quarter of them are of rare occurrence, being only used for
Names, probably for the sake of distinction, like our capital letters,
and these might be retrenched by the use of a larger character for
such a purpose. It must be remembered too that when the sylla-
barium is learned the art of reading is acquired, while with us ihe
learning of the alphabet is the smallest part of the work, and
children know their alphabet perfectly a long time before they
are able to read. It would be too much to recommend the casting
of types, but with the facilities offered by lithography, it might be
worth while to try how far the translation and dissemination of a
few tracts in a simple style may be available to awake a spirit of
inquiry which may ultimately result in the civilization of the negro.
To judge from the structure of the language, the same character
would be equally available for the Bambarra, Mandingo, and
Susu nations, with populations of several millions, spread over a
large surface of Africa.
VII. — Observations on the Geography of Texas. By William
Bollaert, Esq., F.R.G.S.
[Kead January 14, 1830.]
Texas, once a province of Mexico, was wrested from it a few years
since by a handful of American farmers, who in an incredibly
short period erected their conquest into an independent Republic,
which was recognized as such by the United States and by several
European governments, and but very lately became annexed to
America as one of the Federal States of the Union.
Its coast boundary begins at the Sabine River, runs along the
Gulf of Mexico to the Rio Grande del Norte, a distance of 400
miles ; thence up said stream to its source, which has recently
been laid down in about 40° N., 109° 30' W., running N. on this
meridian to 42° N., and eastward along that parallel to 107° 30'
W., then S. on that meridian to the Arkansas River ; thence
down the Arkansas to 100° W. ; thence by Red River to 94° W. ;
thence by a straight line south to the Sabine in lat. 32 N., and
from thence to its mouth.
As early as 1528, Narvaez, one of the lieutenants of Cortez,
VOL. XX. I
114 W. Bollaert on the Geoyrajphy of Texas.
traversed the whole of Mexico, and crossing the Rio Grande, dis-
The course of the Texan rivers, running nearly parallel to each
other, indicate the general surface of the country to be an inclined
plane, sloping towards the S.E.
The surface of the country presents three distinct natural
aspects, viz., the level, principally of alluvion of different degrees
of richness ; the undulating, of diluvial character and other
deposits ; the mountainous, of secondary and primitive formations.
The first appearance of the coast of Texas is unfavourable ; if
approached by sea a low sandy beach, backed by wet and level
prairies, is seen.
The long and narrow islets which form the coast appear to have
been bars of sand and alluvial deposit ; these have gradually
risen above the level of the sea, have been kept mainly in their
position by the S.E. currents, aided by the deposition of oyster
and other shells, drift wood and sea weed.
To illustrate this, it may be mentioned that the long peninsula
which terminates at Decrow's Point, forming a barrier against
the sea, and sheltering the Bay of Matagorda, is marked in an
old Spanish chart as a chain of islands.
In an old survey of Galveston Bay published in 1809, the
locality now known as " Pelican Island," is not laid down, nor is
there any indication of shoals ; thus, if the survey be entitled to
credit, Pelican Island is of very recent formation.
The pretty constant succession of S.E. winds which bank up
the sand and prevent the alluvion of the rivers from blending
freely with the waters of the Gulf, constitutes another agent of
The islets and bars of Texas are gradually encroaching upon
the sea, and thus contracting the bed of the Mexican Gulf.
In 1814 we became acquainted with a mass of meteoric iron
which was found about the head waters of the Brazos.*
Galveston Island — the town is in lat. 29 D 16' N., long. 94°
56' W., var. 7 - 50 E. — is 30 miles long by 2 in breadth, and has
an average height above the Gulf of 10 feet. During spring
tides part of it is subject to inundation. Its vegetation is chiefly
confined to rough grasses, with here and there a few small trees ;
its ponds and inlets the abode of alligators. A thin surface soil
covers it, then commence recent alluvial matters, containing much
sand brought down by the rivers from the upper country.
A very low tide gave me the opportunity of observing under-
neath the sand of the shore, a body of stiff plastic sandy stuff", on
which oyster beds of very great extent are formed, and in some
places thick layers of broken shells of oyster, clam, conque, &c
* A specimen of which is in the British Museum.
Salt-lakes — Aspkaltum — Sections. 1 15
Sandy ridges run along the sea-shore of the island (as well as
along other parts of the coast), and in the rear of these often may
be observed a series of holes running parallel to the ridges, which
in the rainy season are filled with fresh water, but when there is
an overflow of water from the Gulf, these holes get filled with sea-
water, and may be termed natural salt-pans ; the long summer heats
evaporate the water, and thus large quantities of salt are annually
formed (at some distance from the coast in 27° N. and about 98°
W. are some large salt lakes in the low prairie country, which may
date their origin from the above-mentioned system of things).
On the Gulf shore of the island in particular is found much
drift wood, and here and there, as well as on other parts of the
coast, masses of asphaltum embedded in the plastic sandy stuff
already adverted to. (This species of mineral pitch is said to
have been met with on the San Bernard River 80 to 100 miles
from the coast, and in a heated state.)
Occasionally small rounded pieces of white pumice stone are
met with upon the shores ; but as we know of no volcanoes in this
part of America, I will not hazard an opinion as from where such
may have come.
I now propose giving such sections as I was able to make out.
Section I. — From Galveston to Austin, on the Colorado, tra-
versing in a N.W. direction, reserving for a tabular form,
distances, approximate elevations above the sea, and direction by
Grossing to Virginia Point, which is on the main, we come upon
low prairie land, but wherever a creek or river traverses the
country, then the soil becomes richer in what are called the
" bottoms," or land contiguous to these rivers and creeks ; and
trees, some of large growth, are met with ; amongst others the cedar,
live oak, cotton-wood, and the highly scented magnolia.
Houston being attained is found to be 70 feet above the level
of the sea, and on digging a well to 70 feet in depth, there
was presented a sandy surface soil, followed by plastic sand, which
latter answers for the manufacture of bricks.
Proceeding onwards to the Brazos River, rich " bottom " land
is arrived at, with a rise now of 150 feet above the sea, and
on the opposite side is situated San Felipe de Austin. The
river runs between steep banks. This spot is rendered interest-
ing by the occurrence of fossil remains found in the bed of the
On my visit to this place I found the settlement deserted, high
grass growing around the habitations, and was much disappointed
in not being able to examine a collection of fossil bones said to
be here, and found in 1837 : the vertebrae and leg bones said to
1 16 W. Boixaert on the Geography of Texas.
be very large. I however subsequently obtained a specimen of
the teeth, and was assured that large quantities of such teeth
and bones had been discovered, as well as a fossil horn 8 feet in
length, and 3 feet in circumference in the thickest part. The
fossil tooth which came into my possession appears to be of the
Mastodon. Silicified wood has been found about here.
Crossing the prairie to the San Bernard a few small silicious
pebbles are met with, and in the bed of the stream I more than
once searched without success for what General Almonte describes
to have seen in 1834, viz., a bed of heated bitumen. I have, how-
ever, no doubt of the existence of the substance in this locality.
We enter now the rich river lands of the Colorado, and here
again have been found large fossil horns. Having crossed the
river to Columbus, an elevation of 250 feet is attained, the
surface soil rather sandy, but still most propitious to vegetation ;
cotton, tobacco, Indian corn growing luxuriantly ; the castor oil
plant, stramonium, wild sun flower, &c, in great profusion.
Here is a bend of the river 16 miles round, but only 900 yards
across the bend, with a fall of water at times of 1 7 feet.
This section now goes up the Colorado to Rutaville, over un-
dulating and rising land, and we now come upon what the settlers
call " rock," which is a sandstone indurated with calcareous matter,
and mixed up with other tertiary strata. La Grange is on the
river, and where high bluffs commence to be seen, one below
Buckner's Creek is 400 feet above the river.
To the West of Buckner's Creek Mr. Wood found the remains
ofafosssil tree, the circumference about 18 feet. Mr. Wood
places this " mammoth vegetable production " amongst the fir tribe.
It is now composed of a gritty ferruginous sandstone — not decorti-
cated, and retaining every familiar appearance of a very ancient
native of the American forests. This fossil tree was imbedded in,
1. Vegetable soil, composed of clayey alluvion, containing
myriads of fresh water shells.
2. Sand, clay, and conglomerate.
3. Soapstone, beds of gravel, and clay alternately.
Mr. Wood also found near this a cave with pendant stalactites,
and pursuing his investigations, he observes that " in some of the
prairies there are small dividing ridges, which run at parallel
distances, as if thrown up by art, in which is found a variety of
glassy actinolite." And he further states that he found large
blocks of "rock" imbedded horizontally in the strata.
I crossed the Colorado at La Grange, going up the right bank
of the river through a most luxuriant country, and somewhat
tropical ; very hot during the day, but cool at nights. Cotton and
Indian corn in abundance, and the cattle and sheep looked
Antediluvian Remains. 117
Ranges of hills were passed from 200 to 300 feet above the
prairies, composed on the surface of gravel and rounded silicious
pebbles, and underneath strata of indurated sand containing much
oxide of iron, and strong enough for building purposes ; this ia
the sandstone of this part of the country.
Heavy rains came on, causing " freshets" in the rivers, filling
up the creeks with "back-water, ' 40 to 50 feet deep. I saw much
cedar and walnut in this section of country.
Bastrop is on the left bank of the Colorado, on high prairie at
the foot of the Colorado hills : these are composed of silicious con-
glomerates and much indurated sand. Fossils of oyster, ammonite
and other shells, are occasionally met with.
Two miles below Bastrop, and within 200 yards of the river,
were discovered the remains of a species of the mammoth. The
great mastodon is said to have no horns ; but I have (so Mr.
Wood says) nearly a perfect horn, 6i feet in length, 9 inches in
diameter, or 27 inches in circumference : also part of a tooth, say
one-third of it weighing 16 or 18 lbs., and about one- third of the
lower jaw or socket of the same weight," and Mr. Wood goes on
to mention, " they exceed the size of the large bone of Ken-
Webber's Prairie. — In digging a well, a large fossil bone was
extracted — "leg bone like a buffalo's in shape." And sinking
another well, fossil shells of the mussel character were found, and
sharks' teeth in the bed of the river.
Sixteen miles below Austin in the bed of the Colorado, Mr.
Webber found " leg bones of some large animal," in consequence
of the bank of the river having " caved in," or broken away. These
bones were not preserved.
Here I saw a large ammonite nearly 2 feet in diameter, which
had been brought from the San Gabriel river, 50 miles N., com-
posed of a bluish calcareous matter ; it had some small oyster-
shells adhering to it, and I was informed that about the San Gabriel
there were fossil shells like the mussel, conque, and clam species ;
also, that on Lettle River there were indications of silver ore.
At Webber's prairie I met with a Backwoodsman, who but
lately had been with a party to explore the San Saba Valley
(W.N.W. of Austin), and who had seen the ruined works of
former mining operations, and from communications made to them
by the Indians, there appeared no reason to doubt, that there were
gold, silver, and lead in that region ; as also in the valleys of
Piedra Pinta, Llano, and Pidernales.
Austin, the capital of Texas. Having been much exposed
previous to and during this journey, sleeping for weeks in the
woods, and as the autumnal bilious and intermittent fevers were
raging, I did not escape. Still between the " chills and fever," I
118 W. Bollaert on the Geography of Texas.
wandered about the country, and under no very favourable cir-
cumstances, being escorted by some friends who were well armed
in consequence of the Comanches being in the vicinity ma-
We were now in a hilly country, rising rapidly towards the
west, composed of sandstone and calcareous rocks, in which traces
of sulphur are found. In the sandstone were fossils of pecten
The "soft rock" (limestone) of Austin is easily quarried and
indurates quickly, though by exposure to the air it cracks. Some
fossil bones and ammonites have been found in it ; likewise nodules
of sulphuret of iron, and indications of common salt. I found no
traces of coal.
Here I had an opportunity of examining some minerals from
the San Saba Valley, viz., gold, sulphuret of iron, and copper in
a quartz gangue.
This section of country would afford a new and interesting field
for the zoologist and botanist.
Barton's Springs. — 2 miles on the other side of the river from
Austin, where the water rises and fills a natural basin 20 feet deep.
There are falls in the river about here, and 80 miles above
Austin there is a fall of 300 to 400 feet.
Mount Bonnell is the highest peak amongst these hilly ranges,
and about 700 feet above the river. Mr. Bonnell, who examined
its summit, says that it is composed of " coral rock, oyster, and
other shells, and the base of the hill abounds in ironstone."
Higher up the Colorado, commences a series of table lands or
prairies, with good pastures, the streams well timbered, and
country abounding in game.
40 miles above Austin is said to exist " a basin of rock " full of
fish, with stalactites hanging from its edges, and asbestos, bones,
fossil shells, and sea-eggs, found in its vicinity.
Honey Creek (above Austin). — An old forge was found, and
the ground seemed to have been dug as if for gold washing, and
the rock of the country of a hard silicious character.
I descended the Colorado to Columbus, being many days ere I
reached it, owing to continual and severe attacks of fever.
Section II. — From Columbus toioards the West. — The country
is undulating, with clear trout streams, and abundance of game.
On the Navidad is a chalybeate spring.
La Vaca. — Some wells 50 feet deep have been sunk through
clay and indurated sand. Crossed the Big Hill range, which runs
N. and S. through the prairies, and may have an elevation here
of about 400 feet above the sea, composed of diluvial looking
matters and sandstone ; and from these hills are beautiful views of
this part of the western country.
Country West of Columbus. 1 19
On another excursion to the west, I went from Houston to
Richmond on the Brazos, where the strata are seen to be marly and
conglomerate of silicious matters, on which fossil bones have been
I was lost for two days on the Big Hill prairies, where I had an
opportunity of examining the surface soils, rich looking and black,
reposing upon recent sandstone, forming beautifully undulating
lands, where roam herds of mustangs or wild horses, and droves of
wolves. The forests of Peccan trees yield a small delicious nut.
Gonzales, on the Biver Guadalupe. — The lands are very good,
and fit for all agricultural purposes, although the surface soil is
sandy, reposing on silicious conglomerates, in which selenite is
found. Amongst other botanical novelties is a most abundant
variety of capsicum, called chiltipin, about the size of a pea,
green and red. Of birds, the cardinal in great numbers.
Twenty miles above this place great quantities oigeodes filled with
sand are found, from four inches to a foot in diameter, imbedded
in a bluff of reddish loam. These when broken form useful
articles of kitchen furniture, answering for basins, jars, &c.
In Peach Creek are silicified trees.
Capote Hill is a conspicuous object, being isolated in the
prairie and 350 feet above it, composed of indurated silicious
matters, and masses of a silicious marl with fossil volute shaped
shells found about it. Above Colombia on the Brazos is a sin-
gular series of undulations, above 100 feet high and a mile in
circumference, the only eminence that breaks the uniform level of
the surrounding prairies. Of this mound, I am informed, that
disintegrated limestone, gypsum, oyster, and other shells, com-
prising a great variety of marine exuviae, are the constituent parts.
At Brazoria, a well dug 20 feet deep gave impressions of fish
in a sandy strata.
Cibolo Creek. — We now approach the healthy western country,
with its nutritious pastures of Musquit and Gama grasses, mimo-
sas, acacias, sumach (20 or 30 varieties), used by the Indians
instead of tobacco, cacti, clear streams full offish and river turtle.
Under 2 feet surface soil are seen conglomerates of rounded
pieces of limestone, layers of sand, and here and there large fossil
shells, like the oyster, as well as large slabs of sandstone.
In Texas there are prairies of such extent as to be monotonous,
and to the mere traveller, soon become irksome — yet it is full of
animal and vegetable life.
" These are the gardens of the Desert — these
The boundless unshorn fields where lingers yet
The beauty of the earth."
The open wood-girdled lands, which the early French settlers
in the Mississippi valley distinguished by the name of " Prairie,"
120 W. Bollaert on the Geograj>hy of Texas.
or meadows, and which are called " Savanas" by the Spaniards,
form the characteristic features of much of the landscape of Texas.
The surface of the prairies is termed " Rolling," from the re-
semblance to the long, heavy swell of the ocean when its waves
are subsiding after a storm.
The attractions of the prairie consist in its extent, its verdure
and flowers, its undulating surface and fringes of timber.
If it be in the spring, the young grass has just covered the
ground with a carpet of delicate green. When the eye roves oif
the plain to the groves or points of timber, these are also found
to be, in this season, robed in the most attractive hues. The rich
undergrowth is in full bloom, filling the air with fragrance.
In the summer the prairie is covered with long grass, which
soon assumes a golden hue, and waves in the wind like a ripe
As the season advances from spring to midsummer, the indi-
vidual flowers become less beautiful when closely inspected ; but
the landscape is far more variegated, rich, and glowing.
In the prairie country, at certain seasons the red bug is
most annoying to travellers — the remedy being to grease the
body with salt bacon fat, which allays the irritation, kills the
bug, which then -appears under the skin like small blood-red
The principal animals seen on the prairies are deer, mustang,
fox, wolf, puma, jagua, ocelot, hare, rabbit, wild turkey, prairie
hens, &c, and approaching the mountains, which are covered with
woods, the bear, the graceful antelope, and powerful bison roam.
To these mountains succeed high table-lands, of which we
know very little. Continuing westerly we arrive at the Rocky
San Antonio de Bcjar is historically the most interesting spot
in Texas, as having been the continual battle ground of the Old
Spaniards with the Indians, and in later years the Mexicans with
the Texans. Here was placed the principal " Mission," which,
in addition to its ecclesiastical functions, took upon itself military
duties. There were several of these "Missiones" on the beautiful
San Antonio river, but they have now fallen into ruin.
The rock of this section is known by the name of the San
Antonio limestone, in which small shells are observed, and no-
dules of sulphuret of iron. It is the building material of the
settlement, and easily quarried.
San Antonio to Canon de Ugualdo. — I had the opportunity of
accompanying an armed party west, in pursuit of some Comanches
who were infesting the frontier. Our trail lay over an undulating
and hilly country, covered with fine pastures and herds of mus-
tangs ; then over ridges of rather rugged character. Indepen-
San Antonio to the Guadalupe Mountains. 121
dently of finding honey in the hollows of trees, we found it in
This was so hurried a trip, that all I got was a rough sketch
of the Canon, or Valley, which is a favourite Indian camping-
ground. We found a few friendly Lipans, who informed us that-
the Comanches were far off in the mountains. This valley is
reputed to contain gold-mines.
The Springs of the San Pedro gush out of the " rotten lime-
stone," which seems to be a deposit from the limestone rocks in
the vicinity. Here ammonites and other fossil shells are said to
Springs at the Head Waters of the San Antonio. — From num-
berless rivulets four large streams unite to form this river. The
springs are hemmed in by thick woods, which give cover to the
Section III. — San Antonio to the Guadalupe Mountains.
The Salado country is undulating, covered with post-oak and
other timbers : it is strewed with " rotten limestone," and silicious
pebbles are met with.
The Cibolo. — Broken hilly country, and very bad for travelling.
Limestone in large masses is strewed about, and in the ravines it
is seen to be stratified.
1st Sabinas. — Here are the sources of these streams, springs
rushing out of the mountains. The steep and rocky banks have a
shelving appearance, as if formed by the retiring of waters : this
same appearance is observed on the sides of the ranges of hills ;
the surface of the ground is strewed with isolated masses of rock
of all dimensions. This is a wild-looking and Indian country ;
and uo one lays himself down on his saddle-cloths at night without
having his bowie-knife ready and his hand near to his rifle.
Guadalupe Valley. — Independently of ordinary game, there is
abundance of wild cattle and black bear. This is a most pic-
turesque locality, with clear skies, fresh air; and, thanks to its
healthiness, I got rid for a time of fever.
There are localities in this valley that might be advantageously
colonized, particularly for grazing.
What are called rivers in Western Texas are, in the majority
of instances, merely creeks, and these not generally navigable.
During the rainy season large volumes of water rush down from
the mountains, forming " freshets," after which the streams
dwindle down to mere rills.
These mountains have the reputation of containing silver-ore in
2nd SaHnas. — We crossed this at the " Escalera " (ladder),
122 W. Bollaert on the Geography of Texas.
an almost perpendicular rocky pass, and from thence, by the Pinta
trail, to San Antonio.
Section IV. — San Antonio to Mead Waters of the Leona
River. — Passing the Leon and Medio Creeks, the country seen
is prairie, covered with flowers and rich pastures, alive with deer
and antelope. To the N. and N.W. are mountain ranges, where
roves the buffalo.
Canon crossing of the Medina. — Here is found sandstone with
Upper Ckican Creek. — This is a favourite haunt of the bee-
hunters. The hills and valleys are strewed with rounded silicious
stones, and in the deep creeks the same are found in horizontal
Tahuacano is a favourite camping-ground of the Indians of that
name, and the country a carpet of flowers and rich pastures.
Arroyo Seco, one mile from which is a ridge of white sand,
called Tierritas blancas.
Rio Frio has steep banks of rounded "silicious conglomerate ;
under this are beds of indurated sand and rounded pebbles.
La Leona is formed from clear springs — has a rocky bottom
with falls, where slabs of sandstone are met with. The underwood
is very thick, and we had to cut our way through it with hatchets.
Met with loose pieces of silicious rock.
Head Waters of the Leona. — The Spanish fly is here met with
in large quantities. We now find our maps very erroneous. In
the distance are seen the Guadalupe Mountains, some 2000 feet
above the sea, their bases covered with woods.
Section V. — From Wool's Road down the Rio Frio, &fc.
Rio Frio has a pebbly bottom.
Castle Hill is composed of silicious rock, with veins of finely
crystallized quartz running through it.
Olmos Creek. — The elms are very large. We saw much hard
silicious ironstone. The lands are pretty good, but would be
better had they a stiff subsoil. The banks of this creek, 100 feet
deep, are composed of sand and clay, coloured with oxide of iron.
Descending towards the coast, prairie land alone is seen,
coloured with oxide of iron. There is much heavy brushwood,
and also cactus, palmetto, and agave. Wild cats, rattlesnakes,
tarantulas, and centipedes are found.
Camp Bollaert, on the Nueces River. — Here are indications of
salt, making the streams brackish.
Still descending towards the coast by the prairies, we meet with
silicious pebbles, whole and broken, sometimes of pure quartz,
and occasionally large rounded masses of silicious rock, sometimes
coloured by oxide of iron. This is a very wild-looking district.
Description of the Sections VI. and VII. 123
In these prairies are found large collections of bones of the
mustang or wild-horse.
Sause Creek. — This is brackish.
The Rio Frio crossing is good country for sheep-farms. Sili-
cified wood and outbursts of San Antonio limestone are found.
Section VI. — Rio Frio to Corpus Christi on the Gulf, by the
River Nueces. — The trail goes over rocky, hilly ridges, covered
with almost impenetrable underwood. A Mexican muleteer we
had with us was always exclaiming, " Por Dios, que camino tan
horroroso !" — What a horrible track ! The lands appear good.
Here we were watched by a strong body of Comanches, and it
required the greatest caution not to fall in with them —no lighting
of fires — no shooting ; and in this way had to travel for many
days with little or no food, when we came down upon the deserted
settlement of San Patricio.* The river Nueces was 20 feet deep
and 100 wide. Having rafted across, our course lay through
fine Musquit grass country to Corpus Christi. No sooner had we
arrived than a party of Comanches made their appearance on the
heights. As we had been about a month in the wilderness, our-
selves and horses were too fatigued to go out after our Indian
enemy : the settlers, however, went and had a skirmish, routing
them and bringing in some of their trappings and arms. Thus
excursions in this section of Texas are not without some degree
of excitement. One of our party died from privation, sickness,
and fatigue. I returned to Galveston by sea, examining the
several parts of the coast, the results of which have been already
Section VII. — Colombus on the Colorado to the Trinity River
up it, and then doion it to Galveston.
Mill Creek. — Here are many thriving settlements, where,
amongst other things met with, are fine tobacco and indigo, the
latter prepared from the wild plant.
Washington on the Brazos. All this country is one continued
rich alluvion, but subject in the autumn to fevers.
Montgomery is surrounded by " pine barrens," the soil being
very sandy, in which the pines appear to luxuriate : there are,
however, other trees.
Hunstville. — The same sandy land, but undulating ; the " bot-
toms " rich and good for cotton lands. Sulphur-springs abound
here, and in the vicinity fossil bones are said to be found.
Cincinnati on the Trinity is on a high bluff, surrounded by low
* The Comanches, no doubt, took us for the advance of a large party, or they would
have attacked, and the result might have been disastrous to us.
124 W. Bollaert on the Geography of Texas.
and rich " bottom " lands. We left by steamer, going up the
Trinity River. At a spot called Oceola, in some maps it is marked
as producing coal. An American company was formed to work
it, and parties came to the spot, but on examination did not
The geological character of this region is rich surface soils
(containing cane-brakes) reposing on sand, which in some places
is indurated with a small portion of calcareous matter, and called,
as we have before stated, by the settlers " rock."
What has been denominated coal by speculators is only recently
decomposed or slightly bituminized vegetable matter, having a
blackish colour, and at times for short distances puts on the appear-
ance of being in narrow horizontal layers, but of no continuity.
Coal has been reported to exist in other parts of Texas, but it
appears to me with no better foundation than at Oceola.
Alabama is a cotton-growing country, of similar geological
and geographical character as at Cincinnati, the sandstone more
Cincinnati down the Trinity River to Galveston.
Wright's Bluffs are formed of sandy strata, declining about
6 degrees to the S.E.
Carolina Bluffs are 150 feet high ; indurated sandy strata, and
sufficiently so for building. Generally speaking, if there be a
bluff on one side of the river, on the other it is low, allowing the
stream to inundate it during the " freshets."
Swartout is high river land, and below this are forests of Mag-
Red Fish Bar. — This is a chain of low islets, rapidly forming
of sand, mud, and shells, and will doubtless at no distant period
elongate the peninsula of East Bay.
From Dallas on the Trinity River to Galveston is nearly 800
So far in this communication the observations have been made
by myself, but to render it more complete I will add some remarks
of other travellers.
Goliad. — Here is soft limestone, similar to that of San Antonio ;
it becomes hard by exposure to the air.
Medina River County. — Consists of black loams, flint pebbles,
and is hilly.
The Nueces and onwards has much sandy waste, with cacti,
agaves, and musquit wood.
* "Ju Houston county are found ironstone and limestone. ]n the middle and
northern parts are found great numbers of silicified trees, embedded in the soil, some
in a horizontal position ; but most of them are nearly upright, and leaning towards the
north, as if they had been fixed in that position by the alluvial deposit precipitating sud-
denly from a current flowing from the south, and partially elevating them on one of
their ends. They are of a light gray or reddish brown."
Dr. Smith's Observations on North-Eastern Texas. 125
Rio Grande, at the Presidio, is a fine stream, 300 feet wide,
but varying much in depth. Going up the river low limestone
hills are met with, from which issue clear springs.
El Saucillo is a deep brook, " the banks of a most curious for-
mation." (No particulars given.)
Dolores, in 29° 20' N., 101° 40' W. has good land, and well
wooded. At the head of the stream of Dolores, towards the
mountains, we found them to be composed of a very compact
granite, and a fine species of soft limestone.
From Dr. Smith's Observations on North-Eastern Texas.
Assumes Shreeveport, on Red River, in lat. 32° 30', 93° 45' W.,
and to be 500 feet above the sea : it is found to be an alluvial
country. The first point that strikes the traveller is a succession
of inland lakes, formed by the backing up of the waters of Red
River, owing to large rafts being below the spot ; those called
Sodo and Clear Lakes are of recent formation, and many re-
member the period when the land was dry. The Indians say
these lakes were formed after a great earthquake, supposed to be
that of 1812, when New Madrid and other places on the Missis-
sippi were ruined.
In Harrison County, 20 miles W. of Marshall, its capital, is
a well 16 feet deep, giving clay and white sand.
Van Zandt's County. — Near the Sabine is Jordan's saline, one of
many such in N.E. Texas. It is on a salt prairie, the brine being
produced from wells 20 feet deep.
Dallas, the capital of the county of the same name, is on the
Trinity, in the vicinity of which is elevated land 500 to 1000 feet
above the sea, with bluffs on the river 100 feet high, composed
of thin layers of very hard sandstone, followed by magnesian
limestone, and then thick layers of limestone suitable for building
purposes. In these limestones are found nodules of ironstone and
sulphuret of iron. Gypsum abounds also, and soapstone and
toadstone are met with.
Paris, Lamar county, 33° 40' N., 95° 50' W. In sinking a
well 56 feet deep, strata of sand, red clay, and soapstone, were
seen. In Sulphur Prairie, a well 23 feet deep, gave 20 feet yellow
clay, and 14 feet ironstone marl. The sulphur springs are
Blue lias is met with several feet below the surface on the
North Sulphur Fork of the Red River, which makes good lime.
Red River County. — The rock is principally of a soft limestone
and some soapstone.
In Titus County ironstone abounds, but no indication of coal.
At Jefferson, on the big Cypress River, a well 28 feet deep
gave 20 of yellow clay, and 4 ironstone marl. Dr. Smith speaks
126 W. Bollaert on the Geography of Texas.
of the rapid elevations of the river bottoms in this section by
matters brought down from the interior.
I am indebted to a friend for the following :-—
From Franklin, in Robertson County, to the Arkansas River.
Between the Trinity and Red Rivers there is a high ridge of
land with the " Cross Timbers " in sight.
Going westerly, along Red River by the " Lower Cross
Timbers," which is part of a belt of beautiful woodland, extending
from the Missouri to the Brazos, running about N. and S., were
discovered ammonites, encrinites, and trilobites. The rock of
the country is principally of "rotten limestone." Limestone and
sandstone in horizontal strata.
Upper Cross Timbers, in 34° N. 99° W., are high ridges of
land, barren and sandy, with rocks broken in places.
Red River.— We crossed it in 34° and 100° W. The lands
on it's banks rich, of a vermilion colour, owing to the presence of
In Vallies between the Wichitan and Kiaivay Mountains.
Here is a very fine country with plenty of game. There are
however rocky rugged tracts. We ascended a mountain 2000
feet above the prairie ; sulphuret of lead was in abundance ; and
subsequently, indications of gold were said to have been met
The Canadian River is 400 to 500 yards wide, not deep,
waters reddish, its " bottoms " are narrow, and little timber. The
country is broken with high ridges and deep ravines, with per-
On Canadian River (North Fork), the face of the country is
barren, with sand hills, rugged, and cut up with deep ravines.
The Lower Cimaron River is seen to wend its way from the
high lands, through monotonous prairies of great extent, on
which roam vast hordes of buffalo. Salt marshes occur, the
crystals of salt being large.
On the Upper Cimaron River caves were discovered in sand-
stone rock, and sulphuret of lead found. Three mouths to one
cave were discovered, and we examined the principal entrance,
capable of holding a dozen men ; it was explored, and a large
chamber 6 to 7 feet high, and 20 in diameter, was found, con-
taining stalactites, and filled with bats. Here were hills in the
* Here it was reported that lories of large reptiles had heen found— probably
San Patricio to Camargo. 127
vicinity composed of quartzose rocks, with seams of mica from
1 inch to 2 feet thick ; the said seams running in every direction.
Continuing northerly the lands are black and rich, well wooded
and watered, with coarse sand in the beds of the streams. Large
prairies succeed with much game and buffalo.
The Arkansas River here is in 101° W. and 37° 50' N. The
banks are 2 to 3 feet high, and water 20 feet in depth (May and
June). Ranges of sand hills are seen on its banks ; these are
continually changing their position, are 20 to 30 feet high, and 200
to 300 yards at their base. Prairies of great extent stretch
towards the north.
Dog villages fallen in with on the route to Bents Forts, 160
miles up the Arkansas, at which point it was crossed.*
From San Patricio, on the Nueces, to Camargo, on the Rio
Grande, in a N.E. direction. Having rafted over the Nueces,
the little stream of Las Pintas is arrived at, which runs into
Corpus Christi Bay, 5 or 6 miles S.E. of Grayson. Between San
Patricio and Las Pintas there is a succession of " Water holes "
(deposits from rains) with a good grazing country, covered with
rich musquit grass. San Fernando seldom runs a stream, but
has abundance of " water-holes." San Gertrudez, 45 miles from
San Patricio, is a small stream, having some musquit timber
(species of mimosa), and on its banks abounding with the nopal.
Towards the Olmos is a poor country ; it is a " chaperal," com-
posed of sandy land and thorny bushes. The next timber met
with is the " Owl's Roost," composed of " scrub oak," and about
here are salt-lakes. The large salt lake may be in about 27 3 N.,
98 J W. Greenwich, and 10 to 15 E. of the main track or trail.
Water about here is only found in holes.
The " Encinal " is now approached. This is an extended
rolling sandy ridge (no water), of 6 to 8 miles wide, with some
scrub oak. This is known as the great dividing ridge betweeu
the Nueces and the Rio Grande, commencing at the coast, and
running towards the mountains in a N.W. direction. A sandy
prairie follows, keeping the road to Camargo. On the edge of the
" bottom " of the Rio Grande (which bottom is sometimes 30 miles
in width) wells have been sunk to 50 feet before water was attained.
On the southern bank of the Rio Grande the land is rolling and
wooded, with much game and wild horses. Here limestone is seen.
The estimated distance from New Orleans by land to the city
of Mexico, across Texas, is 1620 miles.
From the foregoing remarks it will be seen that Texas affords
an extensive and but little explored field for the geographer,
* Rocks of volcanic origin are said to have been found in this district, overlying
the red sandstone.
128 W. Bollaert on the Geography of Texas.
geologist, &c. The small masses of granite found in the hilly
region of the Colorado indicate that the primitive rocks are to be
found near the sources of that stream.
If we may credit the narrations of hunters and trappers, there
can be little doubt that Texas embraces the principal geological
formations from the primary to the most recent deposits.
The imperfect explorations that have been made indicate that
the sedimentary rocks of the country have not been subjected to
those revolutions which have broken up and contorted other parts
of America ; but have been deposited in a comparatively tranquil
sea, and gradually lifted up from its bed.
The observations which confirm this are confined to the tertiary
and older secondary formations.
Along the coast a series of superficial accumulations extend
inland from 100 to 150 miles, comprising the level and undulating
regions ; these accumulations consist principally of beds of cal-
careous and arenaceous substances, generally intimately blended ;
in places the arenaceous predominates with some argillaceous,
and, when they approach the surface, communicate a clayey and
sandy character to the soil.
These beds vary in thickness : near the coast they may be 100
feet thick ; 50 miles inland about 60 feet ; and gradually become
less thick in the higher portions of the undulating region.
The fossil bones are found imbedded in this formation in
various portions of the undulating region. Shells similar to those
found upon the Gulf shore are seen imbedded in these deposits 30
feet above tide-water, particularly in the San Jacinto (near
Houston). These superficial accumulations rest upon indurated
sand or sandstones ; and in some places in the ravines, worn by
the small streams, a kind of marly or " rotten limestone " is found
beneath the sandstone.
In the higher portions of the undulating region the sandstones
protrude through the soil, and in places they are seen in long
irregular ridges, evidently waterworn, resembling a rocky beach,
with trunks of silicified trees found lying against these ridges.
The sandstones vary in texture, such as the coarse sands and
comminuted shells, enclosing rolled silicious pebbles ; in others,
fine grained, and resembling freestone.
About the undulating region, and at the distance of 150 miles
from the coast, the secondary rocks appear above the surface.
They are arranged nearly horizontal, forming hills with flat
summits, 5 to 600 feet high, their strata consisting chiefly of lime-
stones, containing fossils and organic remains.
The soft white limestone on the borders of the undulating lands
may belong to the calcareous group. Nodular masses of sulphuret
of iron are contained in these strata.
Remarks on the Geology of Texas. 129
From what has been said, it would appear that the part of
Texas lying within 200 miles of the coast, and perhaps further
inland, has been gradually uplifted from the bed of an ancient
sea, into which the great rivers of that period poured their waters
charged with the detritus of the secondary rocks. This detritus
was gradually deposited in sedimentary beds at the bottom of the
sea, and these deltas at length uniting formed the superficial accu-
mulations of the level and undulating lands. This appears to be
confirmed by the fact that the soils in the vicinity of the great
rivers are distinguished by the peculiar ingredients of the sedi-
ments brought down by the annual " freshets " of the present
day. In the vicinity of Red River the soil is so red, even many
miles from that stream, that those sections are known as the " rich
In the vicinity of the Colorado extensive beds of silicious
pebbles are found scattered abroad over the country several miles
from the stream, and even on low hills, now far above the reach of
its greatest annual " freshets."
A superficial observer might be induced to attribute these
beds to a diluvial agency. Indeed, upon a slight examination, it
might be inferred that a mighty current of water, sufficiently
powerful to sweep onward immense volumes of mud, sand, and
stones, has at some former period deluged this section and de-
posited the present soil upon the sandstones and marly limestones
beneath. But a more careful examination will show that these
rolled pebbles are silicious, and are precisely similar to those that
line the banks of the Colorado, and are still brought down by its
freshets. It seems evident, therefore, that while this section
was merged beneath the waters of the ancient sea which once
extended over these hills, the Colorado, even at that distant
period, conveyed the same materials to form its ancient delta that
it does at the present day. The materials which were at firs
deposited on the bed of the sea, were swept from place to place
by the marine currents, and now, since the waters have retired,
appear upon the summits of hills at a distance from the stream
whose agency detached them from their parent bed.
Thus, then, we sec Texas to be composed of rich surface soils,
followed by part of the tertiary strata, with its peculiar fossils.
As yet the chalk formation is not made out ; then follow parts
of the oolitic system, with its ammonites, &c, and perhaps the new
The carboniferous and mountain limestone is yet to be dis-
covered, and ultimately we come to well-defined quartzose rocks ;
and, lastly, to the granite of the Rocky Mountains, the backbone
of the American continent, which, regarded by the Red Man with
superstitious awe, is called by him " the Crest of the World."
VOT,. XX. K
W. Bollaert on the Geography of Texas.
Approximate Sections of Country in Texas, commencing at Galveston Island, on
the Gulf of Mexico, to Austin, the Capital.
Galveston Town, 5 feet above Sea
Eagle Grove (on the island) . .
Virginia Point (on the main land) . .
Clear Creek ......
Houston (the Town) ; river at times 30 or <
below it ..... .
W. by N.
Wheaton's farm (on Buffalo Bayon) .
W. by N.
Miskel's farm (on edge of Brazo's " bottom
San Felipe de Austin (on Brazos River)
San Bernard River .....
Edge of the Colorado " Timbers"
Columbus (on the Colorado River) .
Hardman's Plantation . . .
Webber's Prairie ....
Austin (the capital) .
Mount Bonnell (here the mountains rise rapidly
on the west)
From Columbus to San Antonio.
Navidad River ....
Foley's Plantation (Nixon's Creek) .
La Vaca River ....
Big Hill Range ....
Gonzales (on the Guadalupe River) .
Erskin's Plantation (on ditto)
Capote Hill (height from the Prairie)
Seguin (on the Guadalupe)
N.W. by W.
Santa Clara Creek ....
San Antonio de Bejar .....
San Antonio de Bejar .....
Springs or head water of the San Antonio
1st Sabinas River ....
2nd Sabinas River ....
Guadaiupe River ....
Peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains .
Sections of the Country.
Approximate Sections of Country in Texas— continued.
San Antonio to Head Waters of the Leona River
and Guadalupe Mountains.
San Antonio de Bejar . . . . .
Potranca Creek ....
Medina River (Presidio Road) .
Ditto at the Canon Crossing
W. by N.
Chican Creek (Upper) . .
Presidio Road ....
Tahuacano (Indian Camp)
Rio Frio (Camp Cortados)
Presidio Road . . ' .
Los Olmos, or Elm Creek, Camp Grieve
Musquit Camp ....
Rio Frio, Camp Paso del Toro
Rio Frio, Camp Trout
La Leona River, Fat Cat-fish Camp .
Bee Tree Camp ....
La Leona River (here General WolFs
(Trail) crosses ....
Head Waters or Springs of La Leona
On Woll's Road ....
From Woll's Road to Rio Frio Crossing.
On Woll's Road
Rio Frio (Castle-hill Camp)
Rio Frio (Camp Comanche) . .
Pringle's Creek ....
Camp Stevenson .....
Presidio Road .....
S. by E.
Pringle's Creek (Presidio Road)
Olmos Creek ( ditto )
Junction of the Olmos and Rio Frio Rivers
La Leona River (Peccan Ford) . .
Rio Nueces ......
E. by S.
Rio Nueces (Camp Bollaert)
Buck-Rabbit Camp ....
Rio Nueces (Camp Pritchett) .
Laredo Crossing .....
Sause Creek ......
Guadalupe Water-holes ....
Rio Frio Crossing .....
W. Bollaert on the Geography of Texas.
Appboximate Sections of Country in Texas — continued.
From Rio Frio Crossing to Corpus Christi, on
Rio Frio Crossing ....
Leona Creek . .
San Miguel River .
La Parita Creek ....
Junction of the Frio and Nueces Rivers
Punta Piedra Creek
Waterloo Valley ....
Nueces River .....
In Prairie .....
Nueces River .....
Ruins of Town of San Patricio, on the Nueces
Corpus Christi, on Gulf of Mexico . .
From Columbus on the Colorado, to Trinity River,
up it, and down to Galveston.
Mill Creek ....
Ditto (West Branch)
Washington, on the Brazos River
Lake Creek ....
Cincinnati (on Trinity River) .
Alabama (by land)
Magnolia (by land)
Fort Houston ....
Distance from Dallas on the Trinity River, to
Galveston Bay, 773 miles.
Note. — Colonel Long, of the United States Engineers, gives the altitude of the
Great Plain of the Northern Texas — say the sources of Red River— to be 830 feet
above tide-water : this would give an average of 600 feet — therefore, assuming this
plain to be 300 miles from the Gulf, there would be a fall of 2 fee: per mile.
Tables of Latitudes and Longitudes.
Table of Latitudes and Longitudes of Places in Texas, &c, as determined princi-
pally by Observations of Engineers of the United States.
J^at inAa NT
Mouth of the Sabine River (the
O 1 II
16 48 44
O 1 it
. 93 50 14
Dr. Everett's House ■
93 51 30
(Average rise and fall of the tides
18 inches ; variation of the
8° 40' 20" Feb. 1840.)
Belgrade (on the Sabine)
16 38 48
93 40 18
Sabine Town „
16 40 15
93 41 45
Gaine's Ferry „ .
16 43 2
93 44 32
16 58 32
94 00 2
Dip by 2 needles, 61° 36'
94 37 30
San Antonio de Bexar •
98 39 30
Oceola (on the Trinity River
18 48 30
Austin (Capital of Texas) .
21 19 30
Santa Fe (New Mexico)
27 38 20-5
104 39 50*5
Paso del Norte (Presidio) •
27 38 10-5
104 39 40-5
Chihuahua (in Mexico)
25 46 8-5
102 47 38 -3
San Filipe de Austin (Brazos River)
96 16 30
Note. — In the above Table the Longitude of Washington is taken to b»
77° 1' 30" West of Greenwich.
Iii my previous communication on Texas I gave Moore's obser
vations of latitudes and longitudes of the principal points on th
Mr. Barrow gives for N.E. Texas, in June, 1849, between 1
and 12 a.m., 77°, once 88°, three times 86°, and as low as 58° am
64 J . In the sun 108 ? Fahr.*
Latitudes and Longitudes, from a small work by Dr. E. Smith, on N.E. Texas,
copied from Observations of the U. S. Engineers.
93 45 Greenwich
Dr. Connover's (Dallas County)
M'Gee's (Van Zs
* For history of Texas, see my communications in ' United Service Magazine '
for November, 1846, January and April, 1847, by " A Traveller."
W. Boixaert on the Geography of Texas.
La Mar .
Comal, S.W. part of
Webb, abore Laredo Road
[Titus, E. part of ... .
La Vaca, N.E. part of . . .
Wharton, N. part of
Hunt, N. part of ... .
Territory W. of Cook County
( La Vaca, part of » . *
\Dewitt, W. part of ... ,
Dewitt, N. part of ... ,
La Vaca, N.W. part of . ,
Guadalupe, N.E. part of .
J Henderson, S. part of .
vVan Zandt, S. part of .
Upshur, E. part of . . .
Panola, E. part of . . .
I Jackson, E. part of .
Calhoun, E. of La Vaca Bay
Matagorda, W. part of . .
Wharton, S.W. part of
La Vaca, part of . . .
\ Hopkins, N. part of
f Matagorda, E. part of . .
I Wharton, E. part of . .
Port La Vaca
Districts, Counties and Towns.
Milam . . composed of
Red River . „
Robertson . „
Rusk . . .
Sabine . .
Shelby . .
San Patricio, and
^Montgomery . . .
/Nacogdoches . . .
Upshur, W. part of
Van Zandt, N. part of .
Henderson, N. part of .
Dallas, E. part of . .
Hunt, S. part of . . .
^Hopkins, S. part of . .
(Red River ....
\ Titus, W. part of . .
I Rusk ,
(Panola, W. part of . . . .
I San Patricio
I Webb, below Laredo Road
Comal, N.E. part of . . ,
Victoria, E. of Coleto Creek .
Calhoun, W. of La Vaca Bay .
Jackson, W. part of
Dewitt, S.E. part of . . ,
La Vaca, S. part of . . . .
Port La Vaca
The American Government has just ordered an accurate sur-
vey of the coast to he made, which will he followed douhtless by
that of the interior ; and it is in contemplation to divide Texas
into two states.