The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995 Page: 505
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clare many of them a waste of trees, such is not the case with The Cartwrights of
San Augustine. Margaret Swett Henson and Deolece Parmelee have collaborated
to produce a study of a family of entrepreneurs that played an important role in
early Texas. Strong on genealogy (sometimes too strong for this reviewer), the
book nevertheless focuses on an important period stretching from before Texas
independence to the end of the nineteenth century. Moreover, the authors
weave the family in and out of the times, thereby giving us a human view of the
By treating three generations of agrarian entrepreneurs (to paraphrase the
subtitle), the authors have produced a book that will appeal both to historians
and genealogists. Beginning with the Cartwright family's removal to Texas prior
to the Texas Revolution, they lead the reader through the tumultuous problems
with Mexico, the difficult period of the Republic, the coming of the Civil War,
and the insecurity of Reconstruction. The human element prevails throughout,
as the authors trace the day-to-day activities of an extended family bent on suc-
ceeding, whether in business or real estate. The Cartwrights rubbed shoulders
with many of the early heroes of Texas history and played their own role in
building up the early Anglo settlement of San Augustine.
The Cartwright saga began when John Cartwright (b. 1787) brought his fami-
ly from Tennessee to Texas in 1825 after a brief sojourn in Mississippi, thus be-
coming the third generation of Cartwright to move to a new frontier. He arrived
at a time when land was easily available under Mexican rule. Settling in the Ayish
Bayou area, near the future site of San Augustine, he began to acquire the land
which would form the basis of his family's fortune.
The Cartwrights were not large slave-owners; they mainly made their money
from business ventures including mercantile interests, ginning, and land acquisi-
tion. Working with his sons, particularly Matthew (1807-1870), the elder
Cartwright weathered such unsettling events as the Fredonian Rebellion in near-
by Nacogdoches and the trouble with Mexico, as well as the rough environment.
By the time of his death in 1841, John Cartwright had laid the basis of his fami-
ly's future fortune.
Matthew Cartwright took up where his father left off. Despite problems over
land titles and business setbacks, he proved a capable businessman. As the au-
thors note, Matthew "reveled in the intricacies of sharp trading, whether for
land, livestock, or produce, always maneuvering for profit" (p. 141). He made a
good buy in 1849 when he acquired the Isaac Campbell house in San Augustine,
one of the finest examples of the architecture of the period, which remains in
the family today. It was there that he watched his family mature in the years pri-
or to the Civil War, a comfortable "colonel" in the old southern tradition. His
own sons would serve in the war, but they returned to take up the family busi-
ness. Reconstruction strained the Cartwrights, but Matthew got his pardon and
proceeded to amass more land. Upon his death in 1870, he owned land in fifty-
six counties totaling more than 350,000 acres. His total wealth amounted to
more than $400,000, making the Cartwright estate the fourth-largest in Texas.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995, periodical, 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/m1/561/: accessed September 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.