A rri to rexas i 155
OPHIA D. SMITH
N THE 1850's, Texas was a somewhat glamorous land, luring
the adventurous to seek honor and riches there. Many a man
made a fortune in Texas, but others went home sadly disillu-
sioned. John H. James' of Urbana, Ohio, smarting from catas-
trophic business troubles, went to Texas in 1855 to look after some
legal business and to look over the country with a view to settling
there. On his way down the Mississippi to New Orleans, he wrote
to his mother that while in Texas he would "judge whether that
region ha[d] any inducement" for him "to become a resident of
the South" to which he inclined "somewhat strongly." "I am
weary of Ohio plunder, under the form of tax laws and courts,"
James was a brilliant scholar, a successful and competent lawyer,
a speculator in lands, a railroad builder, a banker who held views
ahead of his time, and a fluent writer and lecturer.
With his wife Abby he left Louisville, Kentucky, on January
21, 1855, on a steamboat bound for New Orleans. A number of
persons on board were bound for Texas. The men talked and read;
the women talked and sewed.
Nearly every evening a dance was held in the main cabin. An
entry in James's diary, dated January 27, describes one of these
We had a dance tonight in the cabin for the ladies, and when that
was over, sport was resumed near the bar, with a dance by the fiddler,
aided by the banjo, in which was displayed all the peculiarities of the
negro dance, shuffle, hopping, turning, &c.: a young Kentuckian sitting
by, and on his way to Texas, by way of Red River, caught fire at the
sight, and springing to the floor, surpassed the first one, in activity,
rapidity & flippancy of feet ... and then whirled himself out of the
ring to his seat again. We retired to our beds a little later than usual,
& when we were in our berths, we could hear that the mirth took a
diversion into song.
One day John listened to two Hoosiers talking about farming.
iSee William E. and Ophia D. Smith, A Buckeye Titan (Cincinnati, 1953), a
book based on the diary and correspondence of John H. James.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 59, July 1955 - April, 1956. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101162/. Accessed May 6, 2016.