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03.16.05 Smithwick, Noah, The Evolution of a State: Recollections of old Texas Days, published in 1900

Notes Concerning the Author

“Smithwick came to Texas in 1827 and left to go to California in 1861.  In between he lived in San Felipe, Bastrop, Webbers Prairie near Austin and Burnet.  He served in the revolutionary army of 1835-1836.  Afterwards he was a Texas Ranger, and became extremely effective as a hunter of game.  By trade he was a blacksmith, farmer, and miller, professions not unusual in his time.  Politically he was sympathetic toward the Sam Houston-Anson Jones faction as opposed to the ideologies of Mirabeau B. Lamar. . . . Smithwick’s refusal to support the Confederacy led him to California in 1861, and he died there on October 21, 1899.” (Abstract from an introduction by James M. Day, editor.)

Our Review

The following review is taken from

          “I was but a boy in my nineteenth year, and in for adventure when I started out from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, with all my worldly possessions, consisting of a few dollars in money, a change of clothes, and a gun, of course, to seek my fortune in this lazy man’s paradise.”  Noah Smithwick was an old man, blind and near his ninetieth year, when his daughter recorded these words. He had stayed on in “paradise”—Texas—from 1827 to 1861, when his opposition to secession took him to California. TheEvolution of a State is his story of these “old Texas days.”

          “A blacksmith and a tobacco smuggler, Noah Smithwick made weapons for the Battle of Concepción, and he fought in that battle. With Hensley’s company, he chased the Mexican army south of the Rio Grande after the Battle of San Jacinto. Twice he served with the Texas Rangers. In quieter times, he was a postmaster and justice of the peace in little Webber’s Prairie.

           “Eyewitness to so much Texas history, Smithwick recounts his life and adventures in a simple, straightforward style, with a wry sense of humor. His keen memory for detail—what the people wore, what they ate, how they worked and played— vividly evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of the frontier.

           “First published in part by the Dallas Morning News, Smithwick’s recollections gained such popularity that they were published in book form, as The Evolution of a State, in 1900. This new edition of a Texas classic makes widely available for the first time in many years this “best of all books dealing with life in early Texas.”

Note by Thomas R. Reid, reviewer:

          Smithwick’s rejection of the Acts of Secession and Texas’s stand with the Confederacy was an extremely unusual one to have taken at the time.  A popular referendum concerning secession taken in 1861 passed with a majority of 80% in the state.  It may have been the result of his long association with the then Governor of the state, Sam Houston, who was forced to resign following his refusal to take the oath of loyalty to the Confederacy that was required, following the actions of the Secession Convention called in Texas that year. (see entry in The Handbook of Texas Online:

Walter L. Buenger, “SECESSION CONVENTION,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed August 22, 2014.  Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on March 8, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Availability of this book

        The Evolution of a State: Recollections of old Texas Days, was published in 1900.  A facsimile of the 1900 edition, edited by James M. Day, has been republished by  Stack-Vaughn Co., Austin, Texas, 1968.  Beyond that it has been reprinted many times with a number of introductions and editors, most recently by the University of Texas Press of Austin, Texas.  We suggest   Click here to view the offerings at AbeBooks: