The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973 Page: 234
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234 Southwestern Historical Quarterly
United States, a culture whose bearers ventured only reluctantly and
late into the unforested tracts. Webb, following the example of a num-
ber of plant geographers, drew a line which supposedly divided the for-
ested East from the prairies and plains of the West, a line entering
Texas near Sherman, cutting the state "on a north-and-south line about
the center, passing near Waco, Austin, and San Antonio," from where
"it swings eastward to the now extinct town of Indianola, on the Gulf
of Mexico."3 Pioneers crossing this line were, according to Webb,
obliged to change many facets of their way-of-life, since the techniques
and material items associated with the culture of the eastern forests
were poorly suited to settlement on the grasslands. "Let us visualize the
American approach to the Great Plains," he wrote, "by imagining our-
selves standing on the dividing line between the timber and plain ....
As we gaze northward we see on the right side the forested and well-
watered country and on the left side the arid, treeless plain." Anglo-
American man entered the scene: "a nation of people coming slowly
but persistently through the forests." In the first half of the nineteenth
century, continued Webb, "we see the advance guard of this moving
host of forest homemakers emerge into the new environment." These
pioneers, "armed and equipped with the weapons, tools, ideas, and in-
stitutions which had served them so long and so well in the woods that
now lay behind them," met with failure in the grasslands until they
adapted to the new environment.4 This theme forms the central thesis
of The Great Plains.
It is here suggested that the view of Webb and the other scholars
mentioned, while possessing a large measure of validity in a general
overview of the West as a whole, distorts the actual state of affairs con-
cerning the settlement of a large part of Texas by Anglo-Americans in
the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the generally held belief that
prairies as such were avoided represents a serious misreading of pioneer
preferences. It is here argued (1) that the vegetational pattern encoun-
tered by Anglo-American pioneers in Texas was far more complicated
than the simple dichotomy of forested East and treeless West and that
the failure to recognize this complexity greatly distorts the vegetational
reality upon which Texas pioneers based their decisions in choosing
settlement sites, and (2) that the early Anglo-Texans, rather than being
repelled by grasslands, were quite favorably inclined toward them and
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973, periodical, 1973; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101202/m1/276/: accessed March 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.