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History > U.S. History > Local and Regional > Southwest

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Frontier Crossroads Cover

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Frontier Crossroads

Fort Davis and the West

By Robert Wooster

Galveston Cover

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Galveston

A History and a Guide

David McComb

Indians! Pirates! Rebels! Blockade Runners! Smugglers! Murder! Beaches! Beauty Contests! Hurricanes!

These are all a part of the colorful history of an island city that once called itself “The Free State of Galveston.” Located at a natural harbor on the northeastern part of a thirty-mile-long sand barrier island, the city dates its beginning from the end of the Texas Revolution. Before then, the harbor had attracted Jean Lafitte, a pirate from Louisiana, and the revolutionary Texan government fleeing in front of the attack of Santa Anna’s Mexican Army.

After independence in 1836, Michel B. Menard, along with nine associates, bought the harbor property and founded the town. Galveston grew on the strength of the harbor—the best between New Orleans and Veracruz—and the city became a major entry point for immigrants to Texas. During the Civil War it was a haven for Confederate blockade runners and the site of one of the major battles of the war in Texas. Afterward it was a center for occupation forces and the point from which Major-General Gordon Granger announced emancipation for Texas slaves on June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth Day). The city later became a major cotton port for the Southwest and the location of the University of Texas Medical School.

In 1900 Galveston was struck by a hurricane and flood that killed approximately six thousand people: the greatest disaster in the history of the United States. Afterward, the citizens built a sea wall, raised the grade of the island, and constructed a causeway for future protection. The city led the way with a commission form of government, and in the first half of the twentieth century, became noted for its illegal drinking, gambling, and prostitution.

After the Texas Rangers cleaned it up, Galveston developed into a tourist town with its attractions of the beach, hotels, celebrations, and fishing. Historic preservation projects such as houses, buildings, museums, and the square-rigged ship Elissa completed its evolution.

This authoritative and well-written history of Galveston provides an overview of the city’s rich and colorful past and provides readers, researchers, and tourists with information about today’s historical points of interest. Galveston: A History and a Guide is a delightful read and a useful traveling companion.

George Hunt Cover

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George Hunt

Arizona's Crusading Seven-Term Governor

David R. Berman

George W. P. Hunt was a highly colorful Arizona politician. A territorial representative and seven-time Arizona state governor, Hunt joined Woodrow Wilson in making the Democratic Party the party of Progressive reform. This political biography follows Hunt through his years in the territorial legislature, and then as governor. Author David R. Berman’s well-researched and detailed work features Hunt’s battles to stem the powers of large corporations, democratize the political system, defend labor rights, reform the prison system, abolish the death penalty, and protect Arizona’s interests in the Colorado River. He had a special concern for the down and out. He found the "forgotten man" long before Franklin Roosevelt.

Hunt was proof that style and physical appearance neither guarantee nor preclude political success, for the three-hundred-pound man of odd dress and bumbling speech had a political career that spanned the state’s Populism of the 1890s to the 1930s New Deal. Driven by causes, he was very active in public office but took little pleasure in doing the job. Called names by opponents and embarrassed by his lack of formal education, Hunt sometimes showed rage, self-pity, and bitterness at what he saw as betrayals and conspiracies against him.

The author assesses Hunt’s successes and failings as a political leader and take-charge governor struggling to produce results in a political system hostile to executive authority. Berman offers a nuanced look at Arizona’s first governor, providing an important new understanding of Arizona’s complex political history.

The Governor's Hounds Cover

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The Governor's Hounds

The Texas State Police, 1870–1873

By Barry A. Crouch and Donaly E. Brice

Granbury's Texas Brigade Cover

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Granbury's Texas Brigade

Diehard Western Confederates

John R. Lundberg

John R. Lundberg’s compelling new military history chronicles the evolution of Granbury’s Texas Brigade, perhaps the most distinguished combat unit in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Named for its commanding officer, Brigadier General Hiram B. Granbury, the brigade fought tenaciously in the western theater even after Confederate defeat seemed certain. Granbury’s Texas Brigade explores the motivations behind the unit’s decision to continue to fight, even as it faced demoralizing defeats and Confederate collapse. Using a vast array of letters, diaries, and regimental documents, Lundberg offers provocative insight into the minds of the unit’s men and commanders. The caliber of that leadership, he concludes, led to the group’s overall high morale. Lundberg asserts that although mass desertion rocked Granbury’s Brigade early in the war, that desertion did not necessarily indicate a lack of commitment to the Confederacy but merely a desire to fight the enemy closer to home. Those who remained in the ranks became the core of Granbury’s Brigade and fought until the final surrender. Morale declined only after Union bullets cut down much of the unit’s officer corps at the Battle of Franklin in 1864. After the war, Lundberg shows, men from the unit did not abandon the ideals of the Confederacy—they simply continued their devotion in different ways. Granbury’s Texas Brigade presents military history at its best, revealing a microcosm of the Confederate war effort and aiding our understanding of the reasons men felt compelled to fight in America’s greatest tragedy.

Great Cruelties Have Been Reported Cover

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Great Cruelties Have Been Reported

The 1544 Investigation of the Coronado Expedition

Only two years after Coronado’s expedition to what is now New Mexico, Spanish officials conducted an inquiry into the effects of the expedition on the native people Coronado encountered. The documents that record that investigation are at the heart of this book. These depositions are as fresh as today’s news. Published both in the original Spanish and in English translation, they provide an unparalleled wealth of information about the Indians’ responses to the Europeans and the attitudes of the Europeans toward the native peoples.

The Harness Maker's Dream Cover

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The Harness Maker's Dream

Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas

Nick Kotz

Both historical study and ancestral narrative, The Harness Maker’s Dream follows the story of Ukrainian immigrant Nathan Kallison’s journey to the United States in search of a brighter future. At the turn of the twentieth century, over two million Jews emigrated from Czarist Russia and Eastern Europe to escape anti-Semitic law. Seventeen-year-old Kallison and his brothers were among those brave enough to escape persecution and pursue a life of freedom by leaving their homeland in 1890. Faced with the challenges of learning English and earning wages as a harness maker, Kallison struggles to adapt to his new environment.

Kallison moves to San Antonio, Texas, where he finds success by founding one of the largest farm and ranch supply businesses in south Texas and eventually running one of the region’s most innovative ranches. Despite enormous changes in environment and lifestyle, Nathan Kallison and his beloved wife Anna manage to maintain their cultural heritage by raising their children in the Jewish faith, teaching them that family values and a strong sense of character are more important than any worldly achievement.

The son of Nathan Kallison's daughter Tibe, author Nick Kotz provides a moving account of his ancestors’ search for the American dream. Kotz’s work has received recognition by the Texas Jewish Historical Society for eloquently depicting the reality of life for Jewish immigrants in Texas during this time and delineating their significant contributions to society. Kotz’s insight into the life of this inspiring individual will prompt readers to consider their own connections to America’s immigrant past and recognize the beauty of our nation’s diverse history.

Harsh Country, Hard Times Cover

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Harsh Country, Hard Times

Clayton Wheat Williams and the Transfsormation of the Trans-Pecos

Janet Williams Pollard and Louis Gwin

Clayton Wheat Williams—West Texas oilman, rancher, civic leader, veteran of the Great War, and avocational historian—was a risk taker, who both reflected and molded the history of his region. His life spanned a dynamic period in Texas history when automobiles replaced horse-drawn wagons, electricity replaced steam power in the oilfields, and barren and virtually worthless ranch land became valuable for the oil and gas under its surface. The setting for Williams’s story, like that of his father before him, is Fort Stockton in the rugged Trans-Pecos region of Texas. As a youngster accompanying his father on surveying trips through the land, and subsequently as a cadet at Texas A&M, he developed a toughness that served him well in France and Flanders. His letters home provide an unusually nuanced picture of what life was like for an American officer in Europe during the Great War. After the war, he returned home, where he taught himself petroleum geology—so effectively that he picked the site of what would become in 1928 the deepest producing oil well in the world. With his brother, he mapped the structure of what later became the Fort Stockton oil and gas field, and he went on to hammer out a successful career in the boom and bust cycles of the West Texas oil industry. On the civic front, Williams served for fourteen years as a Pecos County commissioner, and he held offices in a number of social and civic organizations. Imbued with a deep love for the history of his region, he wrote (with the editorial help of historian Ernest Wallace at Texas Tech University) Texas’ Last Frontier: Fort Stockton and the Trans-Pecos, 1861–1895, published by Texas A&M University Press in 1982. Nonetheless, by some of his neighbors he may be best remembered for his role in drying up the town’s famous Comanche Springs by pumping water feeding the spring’s aquifer to irrigate his and others’ farms west of town. Williams left behind a treasure trove of letters, personal papers and writings, and interviews with his family, helping document in rich detail the history of an unforgiving land as well as what life was like during a pivotal period of American history. These materials, which form the core of the present manuscript, reveal a life that made a difference in the economy and history of the region and the nation at large.  

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A Harvest of Reluctant Souls

Fray Alonso de Benavides's History of New Mexico, 1630

Baker H. Morrow

The most thorough account ever written of southwestern life in the early seventeenth century, this engaging book was first published in 1630 as an official report to the king of Spain by Fray Alonso de Benavides, a Portuguese Franciscan who was the third head of the mission churches of New Mexico. In 1625, Father Benavides and his party traveled north from Mexico City to New Mexico, a strange land of frozen rivers, Indian citadels, and mines full of silver and garnets. Benavides and his Franciscan brothers built schools, erected churches, engineered peace treaties, and were said to perform miracles.

Benavides’s riveting exploration narrative provides portraits of the Pueblo Indians, the Apaches, and the Navajos at a time of fundamental change. It also gives us the first full picture of European colonial life in the southern Rockies, the southwestern deserts, and the Great Plains, along with an account of mission architecture and mission life and a unique evocation of faith in the wilderness.

The Hawkins Ranch in Texas Cover

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The Hawkins Ranch in Texas

From Plantation Times to the Present

Margaret Lewis Furse

In 1846, James Boyd Hawkins, his wife Ariella, and their young children left North Carolina to establish a sugar plantation in Matagorda County, in the Texas coastal bend.
In The Hawkins Ranch in Texas: From Plantation Times to the Present, Margaret Lewis Furse, a great-granddaughter of James B. and Ariella Hawkins and an active partner in today’s Hawkins Ranch, has mined public records, family archives, and her own childhood memories to compose this sweeping portrait of more than 160 years of plantation, ranch, and small-town life.

Letters sent by the Hawkinses from the Texas plantation to their North Carolina family in the mid-nineteenth century describe sugar making, the perils of cholera and fevers, the activities of children, and the “management” of slaves. Public records and personal papers reveal the experience of the Hawkins family during the Civil War, when J. B. Hawkins sold goods to the Confederacy and helped with Confederate coastal defenses near his plantation. In the 1930s, the death of their parents left the ranch in the hands of four sisters, at a time when few women owned and ran cattle operations.

The Hawkins Ranch in Texas: From Plantation Times to the Present offers a panoramic view of agrarian lifeways and how they must adapt to changing times.

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