The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, July 1949 - April, 1950

A otes ard DocuHICets
Diary of A ouYg j Ala i i!oustoH, 1838
A a diarist John Hunter Herndon1 was not the equal of
William Fairfax Gray, who so faithfully and graphically
recorded his experiences in Texas during a more dra-
matic period, but in his four-month journal he painted a
splendid portrait of a rough people, a lusty village, and a raw
country, and the means by which they were subdued. Despite
his frivolity, which took such varied forms as drinking mint
juleps before breakfast, wantonly destroying the fauna, collect-
ing Mexican skulls, and attending church in order to be near
the few young ladies in town, Herndon continued his study of
the law and, more important, affirmed the legal and moral
values of the cis-Mississippi community. In his diary he por-
'The original of the diary edited here is in the John H. Herndon Papers (MSS.
in Archives, University of Texas Library, Austin). I am indebted to Leclare Bush
Ratterree II, of New York, for his assistance in transcribing the diary, which has
never been published. Joseph William Schmitz quoted a few entries in Thus They
Lived; Social Life in the Republic of Texas (San Antonio, 1935), 83-85, in which
he gave the impression that Herndon visited Texas and returned immediately to
Kentucky instead of living in Texas for the remainder of his life. The entries for
the period of December 12, 1837 to January 14, 1838, are omitted, for they record
Herndon's passage down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, which are interesting
but contribute nothing to the knowledge of Texas. I have taken some liberties in
transcribing the manuscript in order to present it in the clearest possible form.
Herndon was an educated young man who usually wrote good English. In keeping
the diary for his own eye exclusively, he abbreviated extensively, used erratic
punctuation, and occasionally omitted letters, articles, and prepositions. These
deficiencies I have corrected without resorting to any editorial apparatus. Also,
I have made uniform the date lines and italicized the names of vessels and the
titles of printed works. Errors in spelling, however, I have retained.
The only published diary recording more than a brief visit to early Houston
that I know is that of James Ogilvy, who was in Houston from December 6, 1838,
to April 12, 1839. Unlike Herndon's diary, that of Ogilvy is devoted almost
exclusively to business transactions. Only occasionally did he comment on events
that took place in town. Harriet Smither (ed.), "Diary of Adolphus Sterne" in
Southwestern Historical Quarterly, XXX (October, 1926), 139-55; (January, 1927),
219-32; (April, 1927), 305-24. For evidence of the diarist's identity, see ibid., 219n.
For a photograph of Herndon, see History of Texas, Together with a Biographical
History of the Cities of Houston and Galveston ... (Chicago, 1895), 60oo. Herndon
should not be confused with his contemporary, Dr. J. H. Herndon, of Austin.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, July 1949 - April, 1950. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed July 13, 2014.