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The Trans-Nueces Country

beyond the belt of prairie was a low ridge of sand hills, which seemed to have marked the ancient limits of the coast, and here for the first time going toward the interior, one encountered clumps of post oaks, called "motts." The trees were crooked, wind-beaten, and generally unfit for lumber.[9]  The vegetation began to assume a spinose stunted character; and as one approached within a few miles of the Río Grande, it was almost entirely chaparral. The river bottoms were well wooded with oak, pecan, walnut, and hackberry. West of the Nueces, and between it and the Río Grande, the country suffered from excessive and long-continued droughts, and the aridity of the area became more marked as the Río Grande was approached. This region was traversed by deep gullies, called arroyos. Immense and starkly beautiful, the barren lands of the trans-Nueces country could scarcely be expected, in the early days of the Republic, to support a handful of towns and ranches. Yet, it was in and across these lands that an intense border warfare was to be fought for years,

Passing through Laredo in 1822 on his way to Mexico City, Stephen F. Austin described the country between the Medina River and the Río Grande as "the poorest I ever saw in my life. It is generally nothing but Sand, entirely void of Timber, covered with scrubby thorn bushes and Prickly Pears."[10]  Laredo, he wrote, "is as poor as sand banks, and drought, and indolence can make it." The country between the Nueces and the Río Grande, wrote the editor of the Galveston Civilian in 1843, is represented by travelers "as unfit for any purpose but grazing," and even for this it is lacking in water and grass, except immediately upon the rivers by which it is bounded.[11]  Ten years later (1853), the picture had not materially changed, although there were a few more inhabitants in the area. It was still the range of wild cattle and horses, and was inhabited only along the rivers and there sparsely. "It is infested by thieves, robbers, and murderers from Mexico and Texas, and a few outrages committed there under these circumstances

9. William H. Emory, Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, Made under the Direction of the Secretary of the Interior, I, 55-56.

10. Stephen F. Austin to James E. B. Austin, Loredo, March 23, 1822, in Eugene C. Barker (ed.), The Austin Papers, in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the year 1919, vol. II, pt. I, 487-488. See also, Telegraph and Texas Register, Dec. 8, 1841; Branch T. Archer to Messrs. Roman, Price, McDonald, Cunningham, O'Riley and Newcombe, War Department, Austin, July 14, 1841, in ibid., Aug. 11, 1841.
11. Quoted in Telegraph and Texas Register, July 12, 1843.

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AFTER SAN JACINTO: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1836-1841
Joseph Milton Nance, 1963