A Presbyterian Minister in the Republic of Texas
120. McCALLA, W[illiam] L[atta]. Adventures in Texas, Chiefly in the Spring and Summer of 1840; with a Discussion of Comparative Character, Political, Religious and Moral; Accompanied by an Appendix, Containing an Humble Attempt to Aid in Establishing and Conducting Literary and Ecclesiastical Institutions with Consistency and Prosperity, upon the Good Old Foundation of the Favour of God our Saviour. Philadelphia: Printed for the Author, 1841. 8 -199 pp. 16mo, original blind-stamped dark brown cloth, title in gilt on upper cover. Fine.
First edition. Clark, Old South III:209. Graff 2575. Howes M34. Phillips, American Sporting Books, p. 242: "Hunting experiences." Rader 2275. Raines, p. 142. Streeter 1387: "Account by a Presbyterian minister of a journey by sea to Galveston and then to Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Goliad.... The rest of the book is made up of general but rather favorable observations on Texas, an attack upon 'Popery,' a discussion taking several pages to the effect that Texas is at a disadvantage in not having ministers with degrees of Doctor of Divinity, and so on. One of the items in the index is the Proposed Charter of Galveston University." Vandale 107.
The first half of the book recounts the controversial minister's trip though Texas "alone on a pony," interspersed with adventures with Native Americans and hunting; the latter sections contain reflections on Texas morals and manners. "The Reverend Mr. McCalla was living in a tent on the beach, not choosing 'to go into any public house or private family,' and trying to establish a university at Galveston when [Daniel] Baker encountered him. Baker heard him deliver an 'elaborate address' in favor of the university, but his efforts came to naught, as might have been expected, for Galveston was certainly not a proper location for such an institution" (Sibley, Travelers in Texas, pp. 16 & 213).
McCalla (1788-1859) was one of the more controversial Presbyterian clergy of his time. His small sojourn in Texas gives various insights into his character and religious feelings not available in his other more controversial writings. Arriving in Galveston after a horrendous sea voyage around Cape Hatteras, in which the passengers were nearly suffocated by the captain’s actions, he spent his time in Texas visiting various locales, such as Houston, Austin, and Goliad. His adventures, which he often describes with his tongue in his cheek, almost remind one of Icabod Crane. Never in the annals of Texas travel has a man been so mired so often in the bayous and rained on so frequently and so incessantly. In one amusing incident he recounts how he was cured of a near-fatal disease by his insistence on being fed watermelon, no doubt one of the early instances contributing to the present-day glorious reputation of the fruit as it is grown in Texas.The second half of the book is taken up with a vivid defense of Texas morals and character, which he believes have been wrongly depicted by other writers as vicious and irreligious. McCalla, in fact, believes Texas to be relatively pure and unpolluted, although it certainly is not without its problems. At the very least, he says, it is not overrun, as the East is, by ministers whose title ends in D.D., which McCalla says various stands for “Dismal Dreamer, Dull Disciple, Dizzy Dolt, Dastardly Drone, Dare Devil, Double Dealer, or Dumb Dog.” He also remarks that the use of the stiletto has prevented Mexico’s population from being twice its size. See DAB. ($2,000-3,000)
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