The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966 Page: 287
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Jkalth Seekers in sarl
Ai lo-Americaf rKas
BILLY M. JONES
MANY OF THE IMMIGRANTS WHO SETTLED TEXAS WERE DES-
perate men. Among them, according to tradition, were
bankrupts, horsethieves, and murderers. But tradition,
and historians, have ignored one of the largest groups of fugitives
who, in contemporary literature of the nineteenth century, were
identified rather inconsistently as lungers, consumptives, phthis-
ics, coughers, hackers, invalids, valetudinarians, sanitorians, asth-
matics, white plaguers, and even pukers. They were the health
seekers-so numerous and so common on the frontier as to be
overlooked in all historical analyses of the development of the
The search for health was a persistent characteristic of the
nineteenth century and actually accounted for some twenty to
twenty-five per cent of the total westward immigration during
that period. The presence of so many invalids in the frontier
movement indicates that nineteenth century Americans faced
a serious health problem-one of such magnitude that anxious
pioneers were forced repeatedly to abandon valuable farming
lands in older, more-settled regions and to surge westward, some-
times well in advance of the lines of settlement, in search of lands
where life was not in continuous conflict with the environment.
Many of these diseased and debilitated men came to Texas, and
some of them in time literally coughed their way to glory in the
struggle for independence.
A majority of early Texans came from the Mississippi Basin,
which for three decades had been the scene of intense homestead-
ing activity. Those who had entered that fabulously rich valley
had done so with great hope; seemingly nothing but hard work
and Indians stood between them and a heaven on earth. But
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966, periodical, 1966; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117144/m1/347/?rotate=90: accessed December 14, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.