Land, Climate, and Settlement
on the Texas Frontier
MYRON P. GUTMANN AND CHRISTIE G. SAMPLE*
THE LOCATION OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC FRONTIER AND THE FACTORS
that determined its location constitute one of the persistent if not al-
ways adequately addressed questions in the history of Texas and the
western United States. Like many other historians, we ask why people
settled where they did at certain times, and why they didn't settle else-
where. Our first goal for this paper is the empirical description of the lo-
cation of the Euroamerican frontier. After we locate the moving frontier
in Texas, we want to approach the question of why the frontier was locat-
ed where it was at certain times, and what were the forces that advanced
and retarded those locations. The answer to those questions lies in the
nature of the land and the resources it offered for agricultural and other
forms of development, and the ways in which man exploited the land.
Our approach is as much descriptive and cartographic as it is analytic.
We want to show the where as well as the why. Our maps and figures
have revealed to us as many questions as answers. We went looking for
an explanation for population that was dependent on water, either natu-
rally available from rain or artificially provided by irrigation. We found
that water was important, but that man's other means of manipulating
the environment-especially the transportation network-probably con-
tributed as much or more to the extent to which people lived in rural
* Myron P. Gutmann is professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin, where he
studies the demographic, economic, and environmental history of Europe and the United
States. Chnstle G. Sample is writing her doctoral dissertation in the History Department at the
University of Texas at Austin on the social and demographic effects of the Revocation of the
Edict of Nantes in Loriol, France. This paper was originally prepared for presentation at the an-
nual meeting of the Social Science History Association, Baltimore, Maryland, in November 1993,
and for the annual meeting of the Texas State Historical Association, Austin, Texas, in March
1994. This research was supported by grant no. Rol HD23693 from the National Institute of
Child Health and Human Development, and by grants from the John D. and Catherine T.
MacArthur Foundation and the University Research Institute of the University of Texas at
Austin. We are grateful to Daniel Scott Smith, Jonathan Mark Smith, Neil Foley, Charles Stutzen-
berg, Kenneth Foote, and Thomas Hall for their comments and suggestions.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/. Accessed May 18, 2013.