Gilbert Onderdonk traveled to Texas in 1851 as a twenty-two-year-old invalid in search of health. By the time of his death in 1920 at the robust age of ninety-one, he had been a pioneer botanist and horticulturist, a rancher, a Confederate soldier, a traveler throughout Mexico for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a prolific letter writer and essayist, a travel writer for newspapers, and a man of family, property, international recognition, and fame among horticultural experts in Europe for his work in South Texas.
It was Gilbert Onderdonk who began and developed production of fruit in Texas and contributed much to the knowledge and later work of Luther Burbank in California. Onderdonk literally planted the foundation of the vast production of Texas fruit today.
From Onderdonk’s letters and travelogues, Oppenheimer weaves a biography that tells of roping wild mustangs, of growing and shipping fruits and seedlings to growers as far distant as France, and of writing the first popular travel reports on Mexico.
The earliest catalogs from the nursery business that Onderdonk had begun in 1870 are most striking for his sparkling writing and drawings, as well as his astute forecasts of agriculture in the state. His 1888 catalogue is reproduced in the book.
" . . . a useful collection of primary materials about this important horticulturalist. It should gain the interest of scholars and general readers."—Southwestern Historical Quarterly
"A thoroughly engaging and insightful biography of . . . a pioneer botanist and horticulturalist whose travels spanned from New York to Mexico . . . For horticulturalists and pomologists as well as . . . history buffs."—Review of Texas Books
"Whether telling tales of roping wild mustangs, posting travel reports on Mexico, forecasting the future of Texas agriculture, or detailing the many varieties of fruits and flowers in his 1888 . . . catalog, Onderdonk’s narrative is great reading."—Lone Star Library
"This neat book traces the life and career of a sickly, New York invalid who moved to Texas and became the ‘Father of Texas Pomology’ . . . Confederate P.O.W., premier essayist, newspaper reporter, U. S. Department of Agriculture plant explorer, and internationally recognized horticulturist . . . I highly recommend this work."—Journal of Small Fruit & Viticulture