To Become a Texian – The Letters and Journeys of Caroline Cox Morgan and Her Family 1839 – 1857.
Edited by Ann Macklin Peel. Frankfort, KY: the author, 1997. Paperbound $20.00 8 ½ X 10 183 pp. 6 pp photos. 2 maps. Afterword. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. Rev. by Donna Beth Shaw / P. O. Box 630231 / Houston 77263.
Ann Peel’s collection of old letters (now archived at the University of Kentucky) and notes chronicle real events of a family traveling and living between Kentucky and Texas and back, and their family relations in the mid-1800’s. Their intimate records reveal how ancestors might have been thinking. Peel, a descendant of James Morgan received a shoe box of letters from her aunt, and after years of deciphering and interviewing, the book emerged. The volume is virtually out of print. Digitization of the book will provide its availability on the University of North Texas Portal To Texas History by summer, 2007. This book is an excellent source of both local and national history, with first-hand accounts of the way things were, forming the foundation for further historical understanding.
Peel presents the letters in an organized, chronological manner. Narrations are provided between the letters, filling in gaps in time, and detailing the value of the family connections and their views.
The letters comment on more than foods and clothes; they also contain lengthy essays on local and national political events written by an active, literate, educated family. Social customs such as the first Christmas on the Texas south coast enrich the personal letters and document the lives of James Morgan and his family, Sidney Sherman, the Harris family and other known political characters of the Republic and post-Republic era.
They wrote to each other about the government, elections, weather and farming/ranching trends – providing contemporary observations of the times. Profound insights were offered on then-current events, written by citizens, regular people who lived generations ago. Caroline Cox's marriage to Kos Morgan, son of James Morgan, the land agent and employer of Emily D. West, is the focus of the family connections provided in the letters.
Historical narration between the chapters acquaints the reader/researcher with details of events summarized in other works but known as daily dynamics for individuals who experienced them in early Texas and Kentucky. Some chapter titles include: ‘Caroline becomes a Texian’, ‘A Texas Christmas’, ‘The gold road to El Paso’, and cover topics such as religion of the times, travel conditions, family challenges, Cornelius Cox and his Reminiscences and Diary, and comments on activities of James Morgan, a key figure in early Texas’ economy.