Ferris merited fame even before he came to Texas in 1837. While working as a trapper and fur trader in the Rocky Mountains for six years, Ferris kept a diary of his adventures. This journal, the classic Life in the Rocky Mountains, accompanied by a map which he drew from memory, provided a unique and valuable picture of trapper and Indian life in the 1830s. Ferris also gave the public its first written description of Yellowstone's amazing geysers. As a businessman seeking to become a landowner, fur trader Ferris followed his brother Charles to Texas the year after the Texas Revolution. He became the official surveyor for Nacogdoches County, which then included much of northeast Texas west to the Trinity River. Although his brother returned to their hometown of Buffalo, New York, Warren Ferris spent another thirty-five years of his eventful life in Texas.
Surveying at the Three Forks of the Trinity in 1839, Ferris entered the area before John Neely Bryan, the traditionally recognized founder of Dallas, and Ferris's surveys determined the line of streets and roads that shaped the future county. In 1847, Ferris settled down to farming east of White Rock Creek where he raised a family and helped build a community. This literate and versatile character was also a prolific letter writer, and much of the family correspondence to and from Buffalo has been preserved. These Ferris letters, and other family materials covering the period 1828–1885, help reconstruct the exciting life and times of Warren Ferris.
Although Ferris might appear to be a stereotypical figure of Frederick Jackson Turner's trans-Mississippi West—fur trapper, surveyor, farmer—he is a complex and fascinating man. His long and varied career reveals some of the best and worst characteristics of the nineteenth-century frontiersman. A man worthy of the Romantic period, he was a flawed hero. His moods and motives often conflicted, producing a tension between his ideals and behavior. Warren Ferris's life is rich in human drama, an important frontier story of violent aggression, intrigue and scheming, poignant romance and bitter family quarrels. Susanne Starling has told a fascinating tale about an important figure of American frontier life.
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Published by Texas State Historical Assn