Wonderful books have been written about the history of Texas rivers and even many of its creeks, though no books have been written about one of the state's major rivers, yes the Trinity! To the west of the Trinity on the Brazos there's Kenna Lang Archer's recent Unruly Waters and to the east Thad Sitton's Backwoodsmen covers the history of the Neches.
Sitton's book, Backwoodsmen : Stockmen and Hunters along a Big Thicket River Valley, describes a world that had long been divorced from the get-rich mentality that powered Texas' growth. From the start of Anglo settlement the Neches was a backwoods, backwater area where subsistence rather than commercial growth proved the rule, but unlike the Neches, the larger Trinity did not start out that way.
As I've been writing the actual dissertation this summer, I have realized the extent to which the Trinity was not peripheral but central to Texas' economic growth in the antebellum period. The Trinity was one of the major plantation regions in the state. It's likely/possible that planters forced more slaves to plantations along the Trinity than any other area in Texas in the five years leading up the Civil War. By the 1850s the Trinity was the place where planters wanted to live--with its navigable river (albeit not always so) and its abundant fertile lands. While the Neches was always a backwater, it's all the more striking that the Trinity went from being so important to the state's growth to becoming a backwater by the 1890s. To a large extent this change happens because of the river. Explaining why and how this happens, especially in relation to the rise of an urban Texas centered around Dallas, will be the much of the work of the dissertation.
Apologies for the sporadic postings, but I have been busy writing the actual dissertation as the impending birth of my son has given me the benefit of a clear and non-negotiable deadline!