Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Texas Travel Diary, 1838

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, August 2009

Summary Information
Title: Texas travel diary
Creator: Anonymous
Inclusive dates: 1838
Extent: 1 volume
This travel diary records the daily progress of a team of prospectors exploring possible routes for stagecoach lines in Texas, 1838. The entries primarily document details relevant to stagecoach operations such as terrain, populations, soil types, climate, and distances traveled.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991. M-2615.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Texas Travel Diary, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The travel diary, from 1838, two years after Texas became an independent republic, was written by a man prospecting routes for stagecoach lines across northern Texas. Neither the author nor the identities of the prospecting team are known. In concise prose, the author records distances traveled, the availability of timber, grass and potable water, the presence of Indians, and major geographical features.

The expedition traveled 2,100 miles, from Jefferson City, Missouri, through Fort Smith, Texas, to Franklin, Texas (now El Paso), and back to the Texas-Oklahoma border at Preston. They averaged 21 miles per day and completed the journey in 14 weeks and 2 days (Monday January 4th- through Sunday April 11, 1838).

Collection Scope and Content Note

This Texas travel diary records the daily progress of a team of prospectors exploring possible routes for stagecoach lines. The author does not record his personal experiences and includes only details relevant to operating a stagecoach line: terrain; banks and depths of rivers to be forded; costs of oats, corn and hay for feeding horses; the presence of Indians; populations to support mail delivery and transportation over the route; availability of timber for building bridges and ferries; competition from other stage lines; availability of potable water; agricultural potential of the land along the route; and mileages from one place to another.

The team set out from Jefferson City in mule-drawn wagons on January 4, 1838, and traveled southwest into Oklahoma. They crossed into the Oklahoma Cherokee Indian Territory at Neosho on January 18, and then headed south to Fort Gibson, where the author went alone on horseback to Fort Smith on the Arkansas border, and rejoined the group later.

They crossed Texas at Preston on the Red River (North of Dallas) at the end of January and arrived at Franklin (now El Paso) on March 17. On March 21, they set out on the return trip, taking a slightly different route, and returned to the Oklahoma-Texas border at Preston on Sunday, April 11.

Of special interest are the descriptions of the terrain diagonally southwest across Oklahoma and Texas in the early days of United States possession, while Texas was still an independent republic. The author notes the difficulties that would be encountered in establishing a mail and stage coach line through this terrain and comments on the agricultural possibilities of the land. He describes streams and rivers and recommends potential settings for stations.

Subject Terms

    • Arkansas--Description and travel.
    • Indians of North America.
    • Missouri--Description and travel.
    • Oklahoma--Description and travel.
    • Stagecoach lines.
    • Texas--Description and travel.
    • Travel--19th century.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Texas travel diary,  1838 [series]