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As a native Texan, I know what this means. I grew up hearing about it and it was part of my 7th grade Texas History class. But I had never seen it in a written record until I went to Coosa Co, Alabama to research my ancestor, Jeremiah Castleberry.

For those of you who may not know, "GTT" meant "Gone to Texas." I am familiar with this term, but decided to conduct a search on it anyway.
Randolph B. Campbell in his book Gone To Texas states:

"Gone to Texas." These three words--often abbreviated "GTT" on the doors of abandoned homesteads across the southeastern United States during the 1830s and 1840s--provide a key to the story of Texas from prehistoric times to the beginning of the twenty-first century.

The Online Handbook of Texas says this about GTT:

GTT. The initials GTT ("Gone to Texas") came into use in the first half of the nineteenth century, when Texas had the reputation for producing and harboring outlaws. The letters were often chalked on the doors of houses in the Southern states to tell where the occupants had gone, but the exact date at which they came to be a synonym for "at outs with the law" is not known. Frederick Law Olmsted, in his Journey Through Texas (1857), says that residents of other states appended the initials to the name of every rascal who skipped out, and that in Texas many newcomers were suspected of having left home for some "discreditable reason." In 1884 Thomas Hughes, in the preface of his book G.T.T., observed, "When we want to say that it is all up with some fellow, we just say, `G.T.T.' as you'd say, `gone to the devil, or `gone to the dogs.'"

I knew that "GTT" was painted on the side of buildings and written in books and that it usually meant a hasty exit. What I didn't know was that it stemmed from two different sets of events.

The First "GTT" Migration

One was the Panic of 1819. This was the first serious economic downturn that the United States had ever experienced. In 1820 Congress passed the Land Act of 1820, changing the rules for acquiring land. About the same time, the Mexican government offered free land in Texas. The Spanish had been unsuccessful in getting large settlements in Texas for a variety of reasons, so free land was offered to "Anglo" settlers from Europe and the United States. It was a perfect match. Mexico needed settlers and US citizens needed new land and a place to start over during the economic recession in the US. So they migrated to Texas, leaving the letters "GTT" on their barns and houses so their friends and relatives would know where they had gone. From 1821 to 1830, approximately 10,000 settlers migrated into Texas.

The Second "GTT" Migration

The second set of events that created mass migration to Texas was the Civil War and the difficulties imposed on Southerners during Reconstruction. With culture and economy of the culture crushed at the end of the Civil War and during Reconstruction, many people from the Deep South, especially Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi left the South. Their primary points of destination were Texas and Arkansas.

Three things had happened to make Texas attractive to those needing a new start. The end of the Indian wars in Texas came in 1875, when the last of the Comanche's were captured and sent to reservations in Indian Territory. The railroad had expanded and it was easier to travel. Lastly, Texas still had vast areas of unclaimed land. Unlike the states east of the Mississippi, there were huge tracts of land as yet unclaimed, which could be had for free or for very little money.

It is estimated that over 100,000 whites migrated from the Deep South into Texas and large numbers of former slaves migrated into Texas for the free land. They had been promised free land in the Southern States, but that never happened, so the Freedman's Bureau encouraged them to go to Texas.

This was the era in which my Texas families came to this state. They came from Missouri, Arkansas, and Alabama during the years from 1870-1920. And Jeremiah Castleberry left a pension record in Alabama that indicates that he has "Gone to Texas."

Why Jeremiah and His Family Migrated

I have family stories that Jeremiah and his family moved because the land had been divided too many times and there was not enough left for he and his grown children to farm. Another family story suggested that Jeremiah left Alabama because he had committed murder and had to flee the state. That would fit with the story of individuals who left for Texas in a hurry. But I have researched the murder story and that wasn't why he left. And then there is the fact that his son-in-law, Henry Miller, had family near where they settled. And perhaps he came because of men he met during the Civil War. The cemetery he is buried in has a large number of former Confederate soldiers buried there.

The more logical explanations fit the historical events in post-reconstruction Alabama--the poor economy, the weariness of the land, the abundance of land in Texas, whose economy was burgeoning in 1904 when the family migrated to Erath Co. And while he didn't leave "GTT" emblazoned on his home (at least as far as we know), he did leave a record as being one of the 100,000 or so individuals who left the South and came to Texas.

What I Learned

I learned that when I combine the records I have collected with the stories I know and add the historical events associated with that time and place, I can find explanations for my ancestor's migrations.

I learned that even when I think I "know" the history I should still do some additional research to be sure all my facts are straight and that I have all the information that is available.

I learned that my memory is not as good as it used to be, so now I check all my facts before committing them to paper.

Click here learn systematic ways to find answers to your genealogy question.



  1. Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family sagas
    and "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"

  2. Thanks for the welcome.