Geology and Politics in Frontier Texas, 1845-r909. By Walter Keene
Ferguson. (Austin: University of Texas Press, i9g6g. Pp. xii+233.
Appendices, bibliography, index. $6.50.)
Walter K. Ferguson discusses the physical provinces of Texas and
explains how and why early travelers either gained a foothold or per-
ished. He traces the Spanish Land Grants, purchased grants, and the
frontiersmen who simply came and settled. The early geologists who
explored the area, their ideas of mineral deposits, and the various land
and geological surveys are described.
The first scientists who studied Texas geology were in the area
before the people won independence from Mexico. They differed in
their ideas regarding mineral deposits, but in reports and letters they
agreed the chances were good that such deposits existed in abundance.
Among the early studies were the Shumaral Survey; the Central Texas
Survey based on a framework laid by Frederick Roemer; studies by
Robert T. Hill; and the Dumble Survey. Dumble and his associates
prepared published reports on the geology, paleontology, physiography,
vegetation, and animal life.
All of the early investigators experienced difficulties. The state was
sparsely settled, towns were few and far between, transportation was
limited to horseback and wagon, and there was always the possibility
of Indian attack. Probably the greatest handicap to scientific studies
was the political situation. The governments of the area-under Spain,
Mexico, Texas Republic, or the United States-were not too stable
and any geologist was "duty bound" to follow the wishes of his politi-
cal boss. Consequently, there was a rapid turnover in geological per-
sonnel and there were too many hours spent on noncritical detail.
Regardless of the handicaps, each investigator contributed a founda-
tion to the geological knowledge of Texas.
The Phillips Survey was the beginning of a well-planned geological
study. Quicksilver had been discovered at Terlingua, silver at Shafter,
and coal was being located in several parts of the state; it was not many
years until oil was found on University lands in West Texas. Follow-
ing the Phillips Survey the Bureau of Economic Geology was estab-
lished, and under its four directors the known mineral deposits studied,
prospected, and mapped.
Ferguson has prepared an interesting and accurate report on the
geology and politics of early Texas. He successfully proves the role
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 28, 2014.