A Wild and Vivid Land

An Illustrated History of the South Texas Border

978-0-87611-167-3 Hardcover - Limited Edition
8 x 11 x 0 in
216 pp. 156 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 05/01/1998


With more than 150 images, many never before published, historian Jerry Thompson tells the story of what Pulitzer Prize–winning historian William H. Goetzmann has called a "wild and vivid land." From the Coahuiltecan Indians and the Spanish colonizers who clustered along the banks of the Rio Grande, to the cattlemen and oil wildcatters who conquered the brush country, Thompson details six centuries of exciting and entertaining history in a thoroughly researched and comprehensive text, lavishly illustrated by the work of artists Lino Sanchez y Tapia, Theodore Gentilz, and Frederic Remington, photographers Robert Runyon, E. O. Goldbeck, and Russell Lee, and many others.

It was on the South Texas border that the Mexican War began and the Civil War ended. Over the centuries the border area has been the setting for extraordinary endeavors and events, many of them related in A Wild and Vivid Land: José de Escandon's gallant band of colonizers, the grandiose dreamers who struggled to shape the 1840 Republic of the Rio Grande, the ill-fated Mier expedition, and the soldiers who fought at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in 1846. The dramatic historical events and the strong personalities that influenced the region's growth and development are skillfully presented in words and pictures. Readers will see the steamboat commerce on the Rio Grande, where Richard King of King Ranch fame began to amass his fortune; the Civil War cotton trade; the sheep and cattle industries; the coming of the railroads in the 1880s; and the citrus and oil and gas industries of the twentieth century. Thompson also recounts Juan Cortina's brazen raid on Brownsville; the Union occupation of the Lower Rio Grande Valley in December 1863 and the Confederacy's legendary defense of Laredo in 1864; Catarino Garza's run from the Texas Rangers in the chaparral in the 1890s; and the ordinary men and women who, throughout, survived floods and depressions, bandits, revolutions, and drought.

The exciting history presented here is distinguished by scrupulous scholarship and by the author's clear enthusiasm and love for South Texas. This book of remarkable pictures and stories is the kind of book one returns to again and again, that causes one to muse and dream on the past. The South Texas border becomes vivid in the mind—a singular and an unforgettable encounter.


• The Land

• Coahuiltecans

• Spanish Exploration

• José de Escandón

• Camargo, Reynosa, Revilla, and Mier

• Dolores

• Laredo

• San Patricio, Corpus Christi, and Dolores

• Revolutions

• Republic of the Rio Grande

• Second Texas-Mexico War

• Mier Expedition

• Mexican War

• Steamboats on the Rio Grande

• Brownsville

• Cortina War

• Secession and Civil War

• Guerrilla Warfare in the Nueces Strip

• Reconstruction

• Catarino Garza

• Gregorio Cortez

• Mexican Revolution

• Railroads

• Sheep and Cattle Industry

• Jovita and Nicasio Idar

• Citrus

• Oil and Gas

• Falcon Dam and Reservoir

Published by Texas State Historical Assn