The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991

Southwestern Historcal Quarterly

Texas: A Beautiful, Promising Land. Exhibition at The Star of the Re-
public Museum (administered by Blinn College), Washington-on-
the-Brazos State Park, Washington, Texas, March 3-October 31,
1990o. Open daily from 10:oo A.M. to 5:oo P.M. Admission free.
Brochure available. Wheelchair accessible.
In the minds of many, Texas is still a "howling wilderness." Yet today
little remains of the spirit of the landscape that beckoned the early
settlers and is the subject of a current exhibit at the Star of the Republic
Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park near Navasota. The
opening display of Texas: A Beautiful, Promising Land invites viewers
to "learn about the myths which lured settlers to Texas and the changes
the settlers began and later generations still continue." The exhibit
speaks about the importance of regaining a "perspective of our past en-
vironment." These words are a fitting opening to the exhibit, which the
reviewer recently visited on Earth Day.
The exhibit makes considerable use of eyewitness accounts of promi-
nent informants, though the text panels sometimes lack dates and sel-
dom give what could have been very informative explanatory contexts.
Much of what is known about the environment of Texas during the re-
public comes from the writings of travelers such as botanist Ferdinand
Lindheimer-who according to legend missed his goal of fighting at
San Jacinto by a day but who went on to achieve prominence as a news-
paperman and botanical collector. Other explorers wrote in diaries,
journals, and books-some of them displayed in the exhibit-of a land
teaming with game. But these accounts-optimistic, acquisitive, some-
times fanciful-are only occasionally sensitive to the environment.
John James Audubon, visiting Galveston Island and Houston in 1837
and remarking on vast numbers of birds that migrated through and
nested in the region, is one who does express concern about the effects
of human encroachment upon the habitats of the "beautiful, strange,
and menacing animals," some now extinct or endangered, shown in the
exhibit. But the mythical jackalope still lives-both in the exhibit and
apparently among the viewers: I overheard one child profess to his
parents that "we have those around our house." Surprisingly, there is
relatively little mention in the exhibit of Ferdinand von Roemer, whose
Texas (1847) Jenkins calls "one of the first scientific investigations of
Texas made by someone qualified to do so" and which Richardson as-
sesses as the "best account available of the Texas frontier at that time."
The land so bountiful during the republic encouraged settlers to
fulfill their "manifest destiny" in ways that ultimately damaged the en-
vironment. The westward push into Texas was seen by many immi-
grants as ordained by God: that which was provided there for the

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/. Accessed March 5, 2015.