The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987 Page: 112
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Osterhout was born in 1826 at Lagrange, located in the Wyoming
Valley of northeastern Pennsylvania, where his ancestors had settled
generations before. The youngest of ten brothers, Osterhout spent his
early years on the family farm before attending Franklin Academy in
Harford and Wyoming Seminary in Bedford. He graduated from the
seminary in i847, taught in local schools while reading for the law, and
received his license to practice in 1851. Believing that great opportuni-
ties awaited a young man on the frontier, in 1851 he left Pennsylvania
for Texas, carrying letters of recommendation from his friends and
Osterhout's career in Texas began in the small town of Bellville, some
sixty miles west of Houston. The county seat of Austin County, Bellville
was a thriving farm community with several hotels, groceries, black-
smith shops, and other businesses. The Brazos River ran through the
county, and large plantations lined its banks. The population of the
area included many German settlers who owned few slaves. This mix-
ture of slaveholders and Germans made Austin County one of only
four Texas counties whose population in 1865 was 40 percent or more
black and 15 percent or more German. Osterhout's "Pennsylvania
Dutch" origin was probably an advantage in Austin County, for the
German residents welcomed him. Even though his family had lived
in America for generations, he wrote, "I am now considerable of a
The good relationship between the German community and the
American settlers was only one of many advantages the county offered.
The young Osterhout hoped to make his fortune in Bellville. He taught
twenty pupils at two dollars per student monthly, and also took a posi-
tion at the county court assisting the clerk, who drank "so much liquor
that he could not attend to the business." Osterhout hoped these oc-
cupations would be only temporary. His early letters indicate that slav-
ery did not figure prominently in his plans for the future. In 1852 he
wrote, "Raising stock is the most profitable business in Texas." He also
2Carl M. Moneyhon, Republicanism in Reconstruction Texas (Austin, 1980), 11; John P. Osterhout
to Sarah Osterhout, Dec. 11, 1853, John P. Osterhout Collection (Woodson Research Center,
Rice University Library). All Osterhout correspondence is from the Osterhout Collection,
which contains over 1,500 items. Correspondents include Osterhout's family and friends in
Pennsylvania, as well as family, friends, and business associates in Texas. Included are letters,
newspapers, postcards, drawings, maps, scrapbooks, and pamphlets. Osterhout's son, Paul,
lived in Panama, Nicaragua, and Columbia, where he practiced medicine and became a banana
planter and consul. The collection contains his personal and professional correspondence from
the late 18oos to the 1930s.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987, periodical, 1986/1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/m1/150/: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.