Sweeney publishes articles in history journals

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Kevin Sweeney, assistant professor of geography and history at Wayland Baptist University, recently published articles in two scholarly journals.

“Nights of the Full Moon and Cloudless Days: Drought and the Northwest Texas Frontier” will be published in the October 2005 edition of the West Texas Historical Association Yearbook.

“Wither the Fruited Plain: Factors Influencing the Long Expedition’s Appraisal of the ‘Great American Desert’” was published in the Spring 2005 edition of the Great Plains Quarterly.

“Nights of the Full Moon and Cloudless Days” deals with the recession of the Texas frontier during the mid 1850s to 1860s, blamed by many historians on increased Indian raids. In his article, Sweeney proposes that environmental factors might have played a large role, since Indian raids had been going on for decades already. Sweeney’s article lays blame for the outmigration of pioneers on the drought of 1854-65, which was more severe than the 1930s Dust Bowl and made farming nearly impossible; the withdrawal of Civil War troops that took away markets for frontier farmers; and the famine accompanying the great drought.

“Wither the Fruited Plain” discusses the 1820 expedition of Stephen Long across the central Plains into the Rocky Mountains in search of the Red River. Sweeney said the Long party traveled through the plains during the hot, dry summer months and found little game to live off since the prolonged drought has sent most away in search of water. Their experience, coupled with a mistaken following of the Canadian River rather than the Red, led Long to declare the plains a vast wasteland, calling it the “Great American Desert” on their official map.

“The Long Expedition's report was influential in retarding the settlement of the plains for years as their map was included in most geography texts of the 1820s-1860s,” Sweeney said. “Those of us residing on the southern plains today can chuckle at Long’s mistake, but it would take a massive railroad advertisement campaign aimed at selling company land to convince settlers to purchase land or homestead on the high plains.”