Southwestern Historical Quarterly
OPENING ROUTES ACROSS WEST TEXAS, 1848-18501
A. B. BE~nD1R
In the twelve years following the close of the Mexican War the
United States government inaugurated and conducted an extensive
program of exploration in the state of Texas. This was a phase
of a general policy carried on by the federal government in the
entire trans-Mississippi country in the interest of the immigrant,
the settler, the soldier, and the merchant. The annexation of
Texas, the Mexican cession, and the California gold discovery
created new Indian and immigrant problems. The immigrant
wave which followed the acquisition of the Mexican cession necessi-
tated the adoption of a definite governmental policy in the Far
The federal government acted promptly. Its elaborate program
involved: (1) the opening of the Far West to trade and settle-
ment; (2) the survey of routes for Pacific railroads; (3) frontier
defense; (4) survey of the southwestern boundary. In carrying
out this policy army officers and engineers explored most of the
trans-Mississippi country, surveyed the principal western rivers,
and ran the boundary line. This program also included the con-
struction of a network of roads, the establishment of military posts
and Indian reservations, the sending of punitive expeditions against
the Indians, and the making of treaties with the tribes.
Texas, in particular, was an urgent and fruitful field for such
a program. Its vast size, its diversified geographic features,2 its
numerous roving Indian bands,s its proximity to northern Mexico
and its strategic position on the southern routes to California'
1This article is part of a doctoral dissertation prepared under the direc-
tion of Professor Thomas Maitland Marshall, Washington University.
aJ. R. Smith, North America (New York, 1924), 246-248, 453; Isaiah
Bowman, Forest Physiography (New York, 1911), 387-389.
SThe wild Indians far outnumbered the peaceful tribes. Out of a total
Indian population of nearly 30,000, the agricultural tribes numbered
only about 4,000. H. Does., 29 Cong., 2 Sess., No. 76, pp. 7-8; Sen. im.
Does., 31 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 1, p. 963; R. S. Neighbors to William J.
Worth, March 7, 1849. MS., Letters Received, Commissioner of Indian
Affairs, Indian Office, Department of Interior, Washington. (Hereafter
cited as MS., L. R., C. I. A.)
'For a description of these routes, see Ralph P. Bieber, "The South-
western Trails to California, in 1849," in Mississippi Valley Historical
Texas State Historical Association & Barker, Eugene C. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 37, July 1933 - April, 1934. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101094/. Accessed April 18, 2015.