Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Craddock: Moore's book birthed Texas land rush

Feb. 3, 2018 at 11:58 p.m.

Francis Moore Jr. had this to say about Texas in 1840:

"The heat of summer is seldom oppressive, as a sea breeze springs each morning almost as regularly as sunrise. The nights are quite cool. The winter resembles a protracted 'Indian summer.' "

OK, so Moore exaggerated a little. But his writings attracted thousands of Americans to what then was the Republic of Texas.

Moore was a newspaperman who promoted Texas through the pages of his paper, the Telegraph and Texas Register. He also served as mayor of Houston and was a three-term Texas senator.

It was 1840 when the Massachusetts native-turned-Texas editor wrote a little book titled "Map and Description of Texas, Containing Sketches of its History, Geology, Geography and Statistics: With Concise Statements, Relative to the Soil, Climate, Productions, Facilities of Transportation, Population of the Country; and Some Brief Remarks Upon the Character and Customs of its Inhabitants."

The title was almost as big as the book.

A born promoter, Moore loved Texas the first time he laid eyes on it in 1836. He traveled extensively throughout Texas, taking copious notes. He hoped his book would convince folks in the United States to relocate to his adopted land. And they did.

'Gone to Texas'

Americans who read Moore's book (or at least got past the title) packed their belongings and scratched "GTT" (Gone to Texas) on the nearest tree.

Yes, Moore did tend to exaggerate a bit. While admitting that Texas had "blue northers," he called them "singular peculiarities in the climate of Texas … These winds commonly burst forth so suddenly that the first notice of their advent is a violent gust that almost checks respiration."

Texas also had some diseases, Moore said, but they mostly affected only men:

"Females are but little subject to these disorders, as their avocations enable them to be almost constantly sheltered from the sun, and they are seldom required to endure fatigue."

"The Sabine (River)," Moore declared, "is navigable for keel-boats about twenty miles, and the Big Cypress and Murral's bayou, about six miles. There are no large villages … Since the expulsion of the Cherokees, great numbers of emigrants have been attracted to this country, and it will probably in a few years be one of the most populous sections of eastern Texas."

By golly, Moore turned out to be correct. With the Native Americans relocated to Oklahoma after the 1839 Cherokee War, the Piney Woods became a real-estate agent's dream. Small communities began to pop up throughout East Texas.

Lawless conflict

Moore, although credited with the early population boom in Texas, wasn't popular with everybody already here. Moore, who had lost an arm in a farm accident years earlier, was an outspoken fellow who wrote what he thought in his paper and didn't care at all what people thought about him. A favorite target was Sam Houston.

Houston once said Moore's "one arm could write more malicious falsehoods than any man with two arms." Later, the two men made up, and Houston appointed Moore to the position of state geologist.

When the Regulator-Moderator War broke out in East Texas in the early 1840s, the region was lawless and a place to be avoided. The conflict almost ended any hope of Texas' annexation by the United States.

Moore's bold reporting of the Piney Woods atrocities helped convince Sam Houston (at the time the republic's president) to send militia to East Texas to end the bloodshed.

When Texas joined the Confederacy in 1861, the staunch Unionist moved his family to New York State. He died in September 1864 at the age of 56. The man who had been Texas' biggest booster was buried in Brooklyn.

— Van "Road Map" Craddock's latest book is "East Texas Tales, Book 2," available at Barron's, Gregg County Historical Museum and East Texas Oil Museum. His column appears Sunday. Email



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