Longhorns, Silver and Liquid Gold

The Irvin Family's Pioneer Ranching, Mining and Wildcatting in Texas and New Mexico

Non-Fiction - Biography
319 Pages
Reviewed on 10/15/2020
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Author Biography

Tom Scanlan, a retired professor of physics and astronomy, has edited a college newsletter and published several short stories and poems, as well as an illustrated autobiography. Raised in a military family, he traveled extensively and developed a strong sense of American history. He sometimes lived with his mother’s extended family in northwest New Mexico when his father was at sea. Those favorite childhood memories helped inspire this book. His interest in the history of southwest United States only intensified as he did research for this book. He is an active member of several local and state historical societies in both Texas and New Mexico. He currently resides in Fletcher Hills, California, suburb of San Diego.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Steve Leshin for Readers' Favorite

Longhorns, Silver and Liquid Gold by Tom Scanlan is a well-researched biography of the author's family history. By tracing the maternal side of his ancestry, Tom Scanlan presents a colorful and interesting story of a young rancher and his family going as far back as the 1830s. Through diligent research, the author tells how Absalom Irvin, his great-great-great-grandfather on his mother’s side, migrated to Texas. Using census records, town, and museum records, the reader can follow the Irvin family descendants as they deal with surviving in the rugged terrains of Texas and New Mexico territories with historical background information about New Mexico and the Texas territory struggles. You can read how the Irvin clan moved around these two future states dealing with Apache and Comanche raids, the Civil War, economic changes and so much more. The first names of some members of the family are unusual as well. Powhatan Irvin, for example. I also liked the many photographs of people and places to augment Scanlan’s narrative.

The reader will journey with each generation of the Irvin family as they grow and move closer to the 20th century as well as the economic fortunes of the Irvin family that change with the times. They try cattle ranching, and possibly cattle rustling, to silver mining and the oil business. Also mentioned are the changes to the family through the Great War, the Spanish Flu, and World War II up to the present. I especially liked the story of Levina Ricetson who married Nathanial Irvin. She was a pioneer woman who traveled with her husband by covered wagon to New Mexico territory. Levina and Nathan dealt with hostile Native American raids. Levina was pregnant with their first child during one of those raids. She may even have known the Chiricahua Apache chief Geronimo during his last years. As the story goes, he often came to visit the Irvin homestead and Geronimo would water his horse and may even have held her infant son and complimented Levina on his appearance. It is stories like this one that make Longhorns, Silver and Liquid Gold a cut above most genealogy studies. A good read for anyone interested in family histories.