The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

An Avenue to the Ordinary: Poetry in the Texas
State Gazette, 1849-1861
THOMAS W. MILLER*
ON AUGUST 25, 1849, DR. WILLIAM H. CUSHNEY PUBLISHED THE
first issue of the Texas State Gazette, one of the major Austin news-
papers for the next thirty years. Prior to this time, Austin had had
several newspapers, but the frontier nature of the town made it diffi-
cult for them to maintain themselves financially. Few people wanted
to move to Austin and endure possible Indian and Mexican raids,
especially if they felt uncertain about Austin's status as the permanent
capital. In an 1850 referendum, though, Texans voted to locate their
capital in Austin for the next twenty years; this decision sparked demo-
graphic and economic expansion during the next decade.'
In 1850 only 854 people lived in Austin, but by 186o this figure had
increased to 3,546 people, a four-fold rise during the decade. Many of
these newcomers contributed to a mild building boom: contractors de-
signed structures to house the government, and a growing professional
elite-lawyers, merchants, and government officials-erected man-
sions to demonstrate their increasing wealth. Enough Austinites had
enriched themselves from building and other activities that by 186o per
capita wealth for free residents in Austin was "more than eight times
that of San Antonio."2
However, many residents did not profit from this growth spurt.
Slaves made up 25 to 30 percent of Austin's population in the 1850s
and they rarely enjoyed the benefits of economic growth. Farmers liv-
ing in and around the town had to rely on an unstable environment for
their welfare; crop failures often forced them into debt. Even the
*Thomas W. Miller received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and
is currently pursuing his Ph D. at the University of Virginia.
'Mary Starr Barkley, History of Travzs County and Austin, 2839-z899 (Waco: Texian Press,
1963), 67, 2 o, David C. Humphrey, Austin. An Illustrated History (Northridge, Cahf: Windsor
Publications, Inc., 1985), 43-
'For population data see Paul D Lack, "Slavery and Vigilantism in Austin, Texas, 1840-
186o," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LXXXV (July, 1981), 1 n. According to Lack, in 1850
there were 629 free people and 225 slaves in Austin; in 186o there were 2,527 free people and
1,019 slaves; Humphrey, Austin An Illustrated History, 43 (quotation)

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed September 16, 2014.