Excerpts from Journey through Texas, or a Saddle-trip on the Southwestern Frontier
The San Antonio Road

The San Antonio River in 1856

The San Antonio River in 1856

The two Olmstead brothers did continue on their journey, excited to see the old Spanish city of San Antonio. From Neu-Braunfels it was a short journey of 30 miles. They traveled over a rolling prairie dotted with oaks that Frederick described as bringing “to mind a tedious sea voyage, where you go plodding on, slow after slow hour, without raising a single object to attract the eye.” They crossed a few creeks, including, “the Cibolo (pronounced by Texans “Sewilla”) a creek which has the freak of here and there of disappearing in its course for miles, leaving its bed dry” and passing several more “neat stone houses upon the prairie” built by the Germans.


Jose Arpa San Antonio

After several more miles and upon crossing the Salado Creek, “and shortly after, rising a hill, saw the domes and white clustered dwellings of San Antonio below us. We stopped and gazed upon the sunny scene.”

“The City is closely-built and prominent, and lies basking on the edge of a vast plain, through which the river winds slowly off beyond where the eye can reach. To the east are gentle slopes toward; to the north a long gradual sweep upward to the mountain country”


As the pair approached the city they entered a thicket of mesquite, “by a wall of these thorns the road is soon closed in. Almost all the roads of entrance are thus lined, and so the city bristles like a porcupine, with a natural defense.”

“The Singular composite character of the town is palpable at the entrance. For five minutes the houses were evidently German, of square-cut blocks of creamy limestone, mostly a single story and humble proportions, but neat, and thoroughly roofed and finished. Some were furnished with the luxuries of little bow windows, balconies and galleries.

Rear of Alamo, detail of a painting by Herman Lungkwitz, 1857

Rear of Alamo, detail of a painting by Herman Lungkwitz, 1857

 From these we enter the square of the Alamo. This is all Mexican. Windowless cabins of stakes, plastered with mud and roofed with river-grass, or “tula;” or low windowless but better thatched, houses of adobes, with groups of brown idlers lounging at their doors.

Jacal con enramada, Gentilz

Jacal con enramada, Gentilz

The principle part of the town lies within a sweep of the river upon the other side. We descend to the bridge, which is close upon the water, as the river, owing to it peculiar source, never varies in heights or temperature. We irresistibly stop to examine it, we are so struck by its beauty. It is of rich blue and pure as crystal, flowing rapidly but noiselessly over pebbles and between river banks. One could lean for hours over the bridge rail.”

Julian Onderdonk, Early Morning on the San Antonio River at Mill Bridge (1919)


To be Continued…