El Paso del Norte (modern Ciudad Juárez) was the most northerly Rio Grande settlement remaining in the possession of Mexico at the close of the Mexican War. This old and thriving community was confined to the west bank of the river; the east bank, which was recognized after 1848 as being within the boundaries of the United States, was virtually unpopulated. Professor Strickland writes about the early occupation of this sandy strip of valley which became El Paso, Texas. Depending primarily on manuscripts and contemporary newspapers, he tells the stories of six who pioneered its settlement. Three became prominent, longtime residents; three remained for comparatively brief periods. There is no attempt to achieve equal balance among the six subjects, nor to weight them in respect to the permanence of their respective contributions. A personable rascal, Parker H. French, whose three days in the area made no lasting impression, is allotted approximately the same space as the combined total given Hugh Stephenson and Simeon Hart, two of the true founding fathers.

This carefully researched work is relatively free of the minor factual errors which plague the most careful craftsmen, and there are few such inaccuracies as the one which places Hugh Stephenson in Las Cruces before there was such a town. It would have been helpful, however, to have included a sketch map, since there are frequent references to rather obscure local sites. Such a map also might explain the ambiguous use of “right bank” and “left bank” (page four).

Professor Strickland has performed a very real service in stripping the early El Paso settlements of much of the folklore which has enshrouded them. He has also presented a cross-section of early residents, combining the stabilizing influence of permanent settlers with the exciting overtones provided by restless adventurers. In so doing, he has preserved a small place in history for some who would otherwise probably be forgotten.