The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970 Page: 125
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Marlin, Texas. This book has far more than local or regional ap-
peal, however. The family travelled extensively and what each member
observed is written in vigorous, forthright style.
Zenas Bartlett, writing from the California gold fields, vividly
described the mountainscape and life in the mining camps. He dis-
covered, as did others, that making a fortune was no easy matter.
After his western experience he settled in Marlin as a merchant and
the sire of a large family. In later years he made old age tolerable
by inviting Baylor faculty members for dinner so that he could bait
them on theological issues.
The letters also bring to life other memorable characters: Churchill
Jones-a southern planter as much concerned with his turnips and
collards as with corn and cotton; J. W. Watkins, who fought for the
Confederacy in Louisiana and wrote sometimes brooding, but al-
ways highly informative, letters about his campaigns; sixteen-year-old
Mollie Dickson, at school in Virginia, whise high spirited journal
entries are especially engaging; and, above all, salty old Tom Bartlett
who, on walking through the family cemetery, came to a headstone
which had been cast in the form of an electric light pole to com-
memorate a man who had been accidentally electrocuted. Observing
this memorial, "Uncle Tom said this was a dangerous precedent,
lest there follow a steady erection of granite in the shape of phallic
symbols and whiskey bottles."
Again, it was Tom Bartlett who developed a penchant for horse
race gambling in his old age. He even managed to spread the disease
to his friend Prentice Oltorf, a conservative old bachelor who had
served as district judge. When Judge Oltorf complained that the
pastime was becoming too expensive, Uncle Tom looked him in the
eye and said, "Prentice, you and I don't have but a year or two to
live. People on the streets are saying how bad you look. You had
better open your purse and enjoy yourself. And don't talk to me
about saving your money for a rainy day because for you, it's raining
The editor has done an excellent job of stitching together this
narrative. He has resisted any impulse to gloss over human weakness.
No important new historical fact is uncovered, but the book is
brimfull of life. In appearance, the volume is attractively designed,
with a handsome binding, tasteful title page, and pleasing typeface.
Institute of Texan Cultures
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970, periodical, 1970; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117147/m1/141/: accessed October 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.