The best books on the American westward movement

Who am I?

I've always had a passion for epic events in history, especially Texas history. I'm the fifth generation of my family born in Travis County, Texas. Both my parents were from early pioneer settlers. My great-grandmother Elnora Van Cleve was the first child born in Austin on April 14, 1841. When I first heard the family story of Elnora’s nine-year-old cousin Fayette, kidnapped by Comanche Indians on Shoal Creek, I knew the story must be told. I approached two well-known authors about writing the book. Both said, only I could write the story to my satisfaction. They were right and I wrote the award-winning Comanche Trace.


I wrote...

Comanche Trace: Book IV in the Westward Sagas

By David Bowles,

Book cover of Comanche Trace: Book IV in the Westward Sagas

What is my book about?

Comanche Trace is about a nine-year-old boy wounded and captured by Comanche Indians in Austin, Texas. His father murdered during the attack as Fayette struggled to escape. Fayette’s Uncle Will, a Texas Ranger sets out alone to track down the renegades, that killed his brother and captured his nephew. The well documented novel is based on the authors family. The story has two journeys. Fayette’s travels with the Indians to New Mexico and Uncle Will’s determination to return Fayette to family.

The sequel Sheriff of Star County is set to be released in early 2023.

The books I picked & why

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Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition

By George Wilkins Kendall,

Book cover of Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition

Why this book?

I highly recommend this 2-volume set of books The Texan Santa Fe Expedition to anyone interested in the days of the Republic of Texas 1836-1845. The narrative written by George Wilkins Kendall, the only American on the so-called trade expedition from Round Rock, TX to Santa Fe, NM. The author was editor of the New Orleans Picayune at the time. Kendall was invited by President Lamar to travel as an observer on the Santa Fe Expedition. The caravan left Brushy Creek on June 21, 1841, consisting of 248 militia and 49 merchants. Less than one hundred men survived. Fortunately, one was Kendall who survived to write about it. His well-written narrative provided me fodder for my award-winning novel.

Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition

By George Wilkins Kendall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Narrative of the Texan Santa Fe Expedition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and…


Memoirs of Mary A. Maverick: A Journal of Early Texas

By Mary Adams Maverick,

Book cover of Memoirs of Mary A. Maverick: A Journal of Early Texas

Why this book?

Memoirs of Mary Maverick is a journey of early Texas written in her own hand, edited and published by her family. This extraordinary journal of Mary’s life; married to Samuel Maverick, a signor of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The word maverick originated from Samuel Maverick not branding his cows. Meaning any cow not branded was a maverick belonging to Samuel Maverick. My three great grandfather Thomas W. Smith’s family lived on the Coosa River in Alabama near the home of Mary Adams-Maverick. It was Mary’s new husband Samuel that convinced eleven members of my family to come to Texas in the early days of The Republic of Texas. 

Memoirs of Mary A. Maverick: A Journal of Early Texas

By Mary Adams Maverick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memoirs of Mary A. Maverick as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Memoirs of Mary Maverick is a rare source of information about the history of Texas during the days of American colonization and the Republic of Texas. Replete with details and encounters with some of the biggest names in Texas history, Mrs. Mavericks’s stories reflect the personal tales of sacrifice, fear, joy, and indomitable spirit that characterized the pioneer spirit of Texas settlers. Alacrity Press is proud to make this book available to a new generation of reader’s interested in the true, unfiltered history of Texas.


The Old Santa Fe Trail

By Stanley Vestal,

Book cover of The Old Santa Fe Trail

Why this book?

First published in 1939, The Old Santa Fe Trail was written under the pen name of Stanley Vestal by college professor Walter S. Campbell. The author was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. His book is a wealth of knowledge about the 200-year-old trading route from Missouri-Westport to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The author/professor turned a textbook subject into a readable and enjoyable story. The 900-mile route would become Route 66 around the time of Campbell’s death in 1957. His stories of those that used the trail; like William Becknell, Kit Carson, and Jim Bridger kept my attention. The 27-page appendix with index and bibliography was immensely helpful in my research for my book.   

The Old Santa Fe Trail

By Stanley Vestal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Old Santa Fe Trail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'What is distinctive in Vestal's account is the admirable reconstruction of the facts and feelings of the life of the trail. To read his book is to realize that life as vividly as if you had seen it in a movie...Obviously, he loves the Trail and knows it as well as one knows one's own sidewalk. His enthusiasm makes his knowledge infectious' - "New York Times". 'Anecdotal history at its best, history come to life...This is the way people lived along the trail' - "Christian Science Monitor".The Santa Fe Trail was one of the two great overland highways originating in…


Anson Jones: The Last President of Texas

By Herbert Gambrell,

Book cover of Anson Jones: The Last President of Texas

Why this book?

I highly recommend Anson Jones the Last President of Texas to anyone researching the Republic of Texas (1836-1846). Herbert Pickens Gambrell a college professor and well-known Texas historian published his Anson Jones research in 1948. From this book I learned Jones paid my ancestor James W. Smith, the first Supreme Court Justice of Travis County $50 to perform the marriage ceremony to Mary Smith in Austin. The story details how Jones behind the scenes maneuvering for Texas Annexation was almost sabotaged by Sam Houston. The story has a true but sad ending to Jones’ life. Gambrell does an excellent job of detailing the last President of Texas accomplishments.

Anson Jones: The Last President of Texas

By Herbert Gambrell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anson Jones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the story of a New Englander who came penniless to Mexican Texas in 1833 and within the next decade helped to bring his adopted country through the turbulent disorders of settlement, revolution, political experimentation, and statehood. Within a year of his arrival, Anson Jones was successfully practicing medicine, acquiring land, and resolving to avoid politics; but then the Revolution erupted and Jones became a private in the Texas Army, doubling as surgeon at San Jacinto. Military duty done, he resumed medical practice but some acts of the First Congress so irked him that he became a member of…


Dead Man's Walk

By Larry McMurtry,

Book cover of Dead Man's Walk

Why this book?

Dead Man’s Walk is the third book in the Lonesome Dove series. It is difficult for me to write a review because the book and film are part of my family story. Dead Man’s Walk is a true story inspired by McMurtry’s research into the failed Santa Fe Expedition of 1841. His fictional characters Matilda Jane Roberts, Gus McCrae, and Woodrow Call make a brutal story of humanity, a fun read. Most of the characters' names are fictitious, however, the Comanche Indian Chief named Buffalo Hump was real. His tribe in 1841 killed my great-great-great grandfather Thomas W. Smith and his son James in separate attacks. The Comanche also captured my great-grandmother’s nine-year-old cousin Fayette Smith in the attack that killed his father Judge James Smith on the banks of Shoal Creek. I have written their story in my book and its soon-to-be-released sequel.   

Dead Man's Walk

By Larry McMurtry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dead Man's Walk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first of Larry McCurtry's Pulitzer Prize–winning Lonesome Dove tetralogy, showcasing McCurtry's talent for breathing new life into the vanished American West through two of the most memorable heroes in contemporary fiction: Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call.

As young Texas Rangers, Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call ("Gus" and "Call" for short) have much to learn about survival in a land fraught with perils: not only the blazing heat and raging tornadoes, roiling rivers and merciless Indians, but also the deadly whims of soldiers. On their first expeditions—led by incompetent officers and accompanied by the robust, dauntless whore known as the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Texas, ranches, and family?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Texas, ranches, and family.

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