The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957 Page: 220
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
to be forced by their government to colonize a region which was
considered too unproductive, too exposed to hostile Indians. The
Americans came because of the cheap land and the generous
policy of Stephen F. Austin in regard to debtors and also-in
spite of complaints about mosquitoes and heat and alligators-
because of the mildness of the climate. Among the early travelers,
there are many accounts (like that of Noah Smithwick in 1827
and that of the Reverend William L. McCalla in 1840-1841)
which tell of nights spent outdoors sleeping either on the ground
or, to avoid snakes and panthers, in a hammock in the trees. And
in one instance, at least, Henry Fanthorp, an Englishman who
later ran an inn, built a cabin for his supplies but slept outdoors
himself until he could build a larger house for living quarters.2
Still the traveler on horseback was always glad when he could
spy a cabin in the distance. If he were willing to help with the
chores, he could certainly earn a night's rest and a meal. And so
he would ride up to the place, confident of hearing, in answer
to his "Hallo," the customary "Light and tie!" or the drawling
"Walk in, stranger!" followed by a vigorous pumphandling of
There are many descriptions of the early houses. Most of them
were built of logs. The floors were either dirt or puncheon, and
the windows-without glass, of course-were formed of a swing-
ing shutter, attached by leathern or wooden hinges and locked
on the inside by a bar and a wooden peg.4 Perhaps one of the
earliest homes which was used as a boarding house is that de-
scribed by Mrs. Mary A. Baylor in her reminiscences of 1827 and
later. Her father, Joseph Polley, "kept a public house in the
country where travelers stopped."" Among these travelers were
Stephen F. Austin, Mrs, Josiah Bell, Mrs. Freeman Pettus, Mrs.
Mary Austin Holley (Austin's cousin) accompanied by her nieces,
President David G. Burnet, and Governor Henry Smith. The
Polley house was situated in the present Columbia, and was evi-
dently there in the days when Josiah Bell, who moved to the place
1William Latta McCalla, Adventures in Texas (Philadelphia, 1841), 6.
2Eric Lee Blair, The Early History of Grimes County (Austin, 1930), 121.
sFiske, A Visit To Texas (New York, 1836), 51.
4Mary Rabb, Reminiscences (MS., Archives, University of Texas Library), 7.
IMary A. Baylor, Reminiscences (MS., Archives, University of Texas Library), 17.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957, periodical, 1957; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/m1/241/: accessed March 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.