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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Gone To Texas - GTT

In honor of the birthday of one of Texas' most prominent founders - Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 3, 1793) - I dedicate this blog post.

Few would argue that certain symbols of Texas are universally recognized. The outline or shape of Texas is one of them. This uncopyrighted image is seen everywhere on apparel, gourmet products, games, websites and much more. The word 'Texas' need not be present for the symbol says it all. Not many states have this kind of recognition factor.

Although Texas, as an occupied political entity, has been around since the Spanish laid claim in the early 18th century leading to the conquest of the local native tribes, the accepted geographical boundaries of today's map were not established until the Compromise of 1850 with some minor adjustments since. The image of Texas as we know it is only a little more than 150 years old.

While the shape of Texas is well-known, another symbol dear to the hearts of those interested in Texas history is 'GTT' or 'Gone To Texas.' Initially, this had a negative connotation. Those early pioneers who hastily scrawled it across the front door or fence post in Tennessee or other locations acquired a reputation as being debtors fleeing, one step ahead of the law. People were scornful of Texas and those going to this 'poor land' full of disease, wild animals, and Indians. Only the hardiest or total fools would risk it. But risk it they did! By 1830, sixteen thousand Americans had made their way there.

Whether it was the result of 'rugged individualism' or simply having no other alternatives, pioneers headed for Texas, especially following the success of the Texas Revolution in 1836. The floodgates opened with statehood in 1845. Such would be the case with Isaac Alexander Varnell (Tom P's father) and four of his siblings who arrived around 1846 to settle in the newly formed Walker County, having migrated from Mississippi. These four brothers and one sister sought a better life. For them, Texas offered opportunity.

Walker County is colored green.

Next: Settling in Texas

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