The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970

Cotton Marketing in Antebellum Texas

ABIGAIL CURLEE HOLBROOK*
IN THE EARLY STAGES OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN TEXAS, COTTON
marketing depended largely upon credit from abroad and barter
at home. The pioneer settlers, being resourceful, quickly adapted the
marketing customs of the United States to their new land. The farmers
had come to Texas to obtain cheap and fertile soil for growing cotton
as a money crop and corn as food for man and beast. Not far behind
them came the merchants, the middlemen who were to play a vital
role in this undeveloped land. They, too, usually acquired land for
producing cotton. But the bankers and men of large capital came not:
raw land on a distant frontier offered them little opportunity as an
investment. Undaunted by their lack of money, the farmers and mer-
chants resorted to transactions based on the exchange of commodities
rather than on money, the grower supplying the staple-cotton or corn
-while the merchant imported goods to be traded for the products of
agriculture. Consequently, a barter-credit economy prevailed for al-
most a generation. Clumsy at best, the system proved costly indeed
in a land on the fringes of civilization with long distances, uncertain
transportation, and inadequate communication.
Naturally, the first area settled by cotton farmers adjoined the
United States near the Camino Real where traders had for years been
accustomed to pass. Among the first farmer-merchants who came into
the area was John Cartwright from Tennessee, the father of Matthew
Cartwright, who was also to farm and keep a store. Near San Augustine
in 1824, John Cartwright raised his cotton gin, the first in Texas. The
next year Tennessee-born Elisha Roberts, quarrelsome John A. Wil-
liams, and John Sproul, each erected a gin on the "Red Lands" of
East Texas. Habitually they carted or wagoned their cotton across the
Sabine River to Natchitoches, Louisiana, thence down the Red River
to New Orleans. Here Peyroux, Arcueil and Company took charge of
Cartwright's cotton. In 1832, for instance, the Cartwrights and O. H.
*Mrs. Abigail Curlee Holbrook has been interested in the cotton industry for many
years. Her article on a Texas slave plantation appeared in the Quarterly, Vol. XXVI,
and she is the author of the item on Robert Mills in the Dictionary of American Biog-
raphy and of a forthcoming book on the Texas slave plantation system.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117147/. Accessed December 29, 2014.