Geology and Politics in Frontier Texas, 1845–1909 (Paperback)
Conservation and development of natural resources are issues of critical importance throughout the world. These issues have been matters of public concern in Texas since legislators first adopted the state-sponsored geological survey as a means of extending government funds to private citizens who would help develop and advertise the mineral and agricultural wealth of Texas.
Walter Keene Ferguson examines the relation of politics to geological exploration during a critical period in Texas history—the first half-century of statehood. Although Texas shared its frontier experience with many other areas, it could not rely on federal aid in the form of land grants because the state government controlled the destiny of the public domain at all times. Acrimonious debate between farmers and urbanites of East Texas and pioneer ranchers of arid West Texas rendered the disposition of public lands even more difficult.
As tools for developing and advertising resources, the geological and agricultural surveys of 1858 and 1867 fulfilled the demands of expectant capitalism made by politicians, speculators, and railroad entrepreneurs. Reconnaissance geologists publicized the wealth of Texas.
Drought in 1886 and popular agitation against squandering of state land caused the emergence of a new concept of the geological survey as an instrument of land reform and public assistance. Lobbying by reformers and scientific organizations led to the formation of the Dumble Survey in 1888 and the University of Texas Mineral Survey in 1901. Stratigraphic analysis of the “individualities” of Texas geology helped the state realize its full economic potential and led to legislation to protect public mineral land from exploitation.
The youthful oil industry finally removed geological exploration from the political arena. As part of the University, a permanent Bureau of Economic Geology was established in 1909 to extend the benefits of scientific research to private citizens and state organizations on a nonpartisan basis.
Ferguson’s analysis of geological surveys in Texas contributes to an understanding not only of the geology and history of the state but of the urgent problem of evaluating the natural resources of underdeveloped regions.