John P. Osterhout,
Yankee, Rebel, Republican
RANDY J. SPARKS*
DURING THE FLUSH TIMES OF THE 1850S THE STATES OF THE DEEP
South enjoyed great prosperity, which fueled the rapid westward
expansion of the cotton kingdom. Despite the rising tide of sectionalism
sweeping across the region, hundreds of thousands of northerners
settled south of the Mason-Dixon line. The number of native northern-
ers in the South is difficult to ascertain, but Fletcher M. Green, in
his study of Yankees in the antebellum South, estimated that 360,ooo
northerners lived in the region in 186o.' Many of these northerners
joined native southerners, German immigrants, and other adventurous
settlers on the rapidly expanding Texas frontier. The decade of the
186os was a critical one for all southerners, but native northerners, who
were often forced to choose between their adopted homes and the land
of their birth, faced especially difficult decisions. Slavery, secession,
war, and Reconstruction proved to be trying for many northern settlers.
Individuals responded to the controversial issues of the era in a variety
of ways, and their success in the South depended on the nature of their
Among these transplanted Yankees was John Patterson Osterhout, a
Pennsylvania native who settled in Austin County, Texas, in the early
1850s. Because Osterhout became a slaveholder, lawyer, newspaper
editor, district judge, and politician, his career provides valuable in-
sights into this turbulent period. His public opinions, expressed in his
newspaper, the Bellville Countryman, were mirrored by his more per-
sonal opinions, expressed in letters between Osterhout and his family
in Pennsylvania. An examination of his opinions and his actions reveals
a picture of a unique individual and his relation to the South and to
* Randy J. Sparks is a doctoral candidate in southern history at Rice University.
i Fletcher M. Green, The Role of the Yankee in the Old South (Athens, Ga., 1972), vii.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/. Accessed May 4, 2015.