Dear Portal friends: Do you enjoy having history at your fingertips? We’ve appreciated your support over the years, and need your help to keep history alive. Here’s the deal: we’ve received a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Now it’s time to keep our word and raise matching funds for the Cathy Nelson Hartman Portal to Texas History Endowment. If even half the people who use the Portal this month give $5, we’d meet our $1.5 million goal immediately! All donations are tax-deductible and support Texas history: yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Not Now

Heritage, Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 1985

In doing research into our Kennedy family
history, we came upon this letter from
John Sheppard, Jr., who settled in Jackson
County, Texas in the 1860's, to a Mr.
Whitcomb, the editor of the Charleston,
Missouri Courier. The letter was published
March 23, 1860.
Betty Kennedy Norman
Earl Craig Kennedy
6312 Kathy Lane
Shreveport, LA 71105

Hine's Bay, Refugio Co., Texas
Friend Whitcomb:
With pleasure I embrace this leisure
hour to write you a few lines in compliance
with your request when I left you.
I hope you will not consider my long silence
an act of indifference or neglect; the
cause of which has been my unsettled
condition. I have traveled over a considerable
portion of Texas, which is one of
the most delightful countries to look at
that I have ever seen. The Eastern portion
of the State is generally a poor, sandy,
meanstock country; occasionally there is
some very good bodies of land. This is the
character of the most of the timbered portion
of the State, with the exception of the
river bottoms or water courses, which is
the most valuable lands for farming purposes
in the State. The North-Eastern
portion of the State is a fine wheat growing
country. I saw some of the best wheat
in that portion of the State that I ever saw
any where, especially on the black, waxy
prairie land. Although there was a considerable
portion of the crop cut off last
spring by the late frost, there was large
fields of wheat that was entirely destroyed,
having headed out before the frost came.
The North-Eastern portion of the State is
destined to be a great wheat growing
country. There is a large portion of the
country that is beautiful rolling prairie, of
a deep black soil, affording fine grazing
for stock, but the scarcity of water is a
great objection to this portion of the
country for that business, which objection
applies to all the Eastern portion of the
State. The country West of the Brassos is
much better watered, being more broken
or hilly. It affords some of the finest
springs I ever saw, some of which is sufficient
to propel considerable machinery. I

saw an overshot mill on the Lampasses,
that appeared to be doing a fine business
in the grinding of grain, that was propelled
entirely by the water from one of
those springs, though nothing in comparison
to others in the volume 'of water
they afford. The springs at Bolisons, on
the Solado Creek, is the most beautiful
that I have seen, especially the one on the
road; the orifice or opening in the rock
where the waters burst forth is I think
about one foot in diameter, out of which
the water boils with such force that it is
thrown up some twelve or fifteen inches
above the common surface of the water;
as it runs off it is the most transparent that
I ever saw. It rushed up with such force,
that it appears to be separated into goblets
from the size of an egg to that of a tin cup,
and each particle appears to exert itself
for the supremacy in height, to present itself
to the spectators who must be struck
with admiration and delight when viewing
this beautiful spring. The water is so
transparent that you can see the least particles
of sand when the water is four feet
deep; it appears rather to magnify the size
of anything than otherwise. This is a fine
stock country, especially for horses and
sheep, and cattle does well, but it is so
inconvenient to market that they do not
command as high a price as they do in
some other portions of the State. Farming
is rather a precarious business in this
portion of the State, on account of the uncertainty
of the seasons. The crops is very
short this season, in all the Western portion
of the State, with the exception of the
coast country, which has raised fine crops
both of corn and cotton.
Austin is pleasantly situated on the
East bank of the Colorado River, and has
some very good buildings, but is not near
so large a place as I expected to see.
Travis County is generally poor, and the
crop this year is almost an entire failure,
at least in the portion of the County that I
traveled through. I do not think it is a
place of much business. San Antonio appears
to be the most business place in the
West. There is an immense amount of
business done at that place, most all the
goods for the West passes through that
place, besides the most of the government
supplies for the army which makes San
Antonio one of the most business places in

Texas. In passing from San Antonio to
Victory (Victoria), I passed and met from
twenty-five to one hundred Mexican carts
and wagons per day, which were engaged
in hauling goods from the ports to that
place. I have been as far South as Corpus


Christy Bay, which is a beautiful sheet of
water; there is but very little attention
given to farming in this portion of the
State, stock raising being the principal
business followed here, in fact there is but
little done in farming West of the San Antonio
River, it is but recently that they
have given it any attention there, though
cotton and corn does well. I have seen as
fine corn grow on the San Antonio and
Gaudalope Rivers, as we raise in Mississippi
County, and cotton grows remarkably
fine in all of the coast country. So far
as it has been tried, they raise from one to
one and a half bale to the acre, and from
seven to ten bales to the hand, and corn
sufficient for the farm. The coast country
is also the best grazing country, especially
for cattle, which is raised here by
thousands. It is astonishing to think of the
number of cattle that is raised on the
coast, you seldom hear a man in speaking
of his stock count them by the hundred,
but by the thousand. There is one man
here this year branded five thousand
calves, and it is said that he has twenty
thousand head of cattle. Not long since he
was offered one hundred thousand dollars
for his stock; twenty years ago he was
quite poor, but by industry he succeeded
in getting a few cattle and giving them
some attention, and by increasing his
stock as his means and opportunity would
offer, he is now thought to have the
largest stock in the State.
I have not purchased any property yet,
though I intend to locate on or near the
coast. I think I will rent for the next year,
which will give me an opportunity to
know more of the country and to satisfy
myself in relation to health; it will also
give me an opportunity to inquire into the
land titles, there appears to be a great
many conflicting claims in this portion of
the State, which is a great obstacle to the
improvement of the country. My family
has all become quite healthy and is well
pleased with the country, we are very
pleasantly situated where we have a most
beautiful view of the bay, the fowls and
fish, of which constitutes a large portion
of the blessings of our table. There is
plenty of deer and prairie fowls also on
the prairies, which we also appropriate to
our use. I want you to write to me as soon
as you get this and let me know how you

are getting along, how they are progressing
with the Railroad and the effect it has
had on the country generally, and such
other things as may be of interest to one
that feels a deep interest on the prosperity
of the country. Give my respects to my
friends generally. Your friend,
John Sheppard

Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 1, 2016.

Beta Preview