A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from August 03, 2006
Gone to Texas (GTT)

"Gone to Texas” was a popular expression in the mid-late 1830s. When a person who owed bills or who committed a crime was nowhere to be found, that person had “gone to Texas” (i. e., far away, our of the jurisdiction of the law). The term was abbreviated “G. T.” and “G. T. T.”

There is an isolated 1825 citation of “gone to Texas” (below), but the term was not popularized until about 1835. The abbreviated term came in 1839.

Wikipedia: Gone to Texas
Gone to Texas, often abbreviated G.T.T. or GTT, was a phrase used by Americans immigrating to Texas in the 19th century often to escape debt, especially in the South and Midwest. It was often written on the doors of abandoned houses or posted as a sign on fences. The phrase is well known in Texas due to the state government’s policy of requiring Texas history courses in grades four and seven.

Outside of Texas the phrase is less well known, although it has gained notoriety recently due to the publishing of Gone to Texas! by Randolph B. Campbell, considered to be the most recent authoritative work of Texas’s history by scholars. The phrase has also been used as the title of a 1986 CBS TV movie Gone to Texas: The Sam Houston Story and as the first trade paperback in the Vertigo comic book series Preacher. Gone To Texas is also the title of a novel by Forrest Carter, which was adapted into the film The Outlaw Josey Wales starring and directed by Clint Eastwood. In 2006, American rock band Jessica’s Crime released a concept album entitled Gone to Texas, which shares similar themes of vengeance and retribution with Carter’s novel, while the album’s protagonist recalls the man with no name character, portrayed by Eastwood in his earlier spaghetti western films, such as the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Recently, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development has revised the use of “Gone to Texas” as part of its plan to attract businesses to Texas under its current advertising campaign “Texas. Wide Open For Business”.

“Gone to Texas”
From the “National Gazette and Literary Register” - December 29, 1825
LOUISVILLE (Ky.) Dec. 10.
Speaking of the Senators whose places have to be supplied by the election of others, the editor says, Col. McGuire has resigned, Mr. Carr has removed from the State, Mr. Brown is at Santa Fe, in the service of the General Government, and Col. Palmer is said to have taken French leave and gone to Texas.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
G.T.T. (orig. G.T.), gone to Texas; absconded (U.S.)
1839 Daily Eastern Argus (Portland, Maine) 17 May 2/2 *G.T. This is said to be a common mode of making Sheriff’s returns in the South West. It means, ‘Gone to Texas’. 1839 Georgia Messenger (Macon, Ga.) 1 Aug. 2/6 G.T.T.—General Nathaniel Smith..has fled to Texas, with from $70,000 to $100,000 of Uncle Sam’s money in his pocket. 1884 (title) G.T.T. Gone to Texas. Letters from our boys, ed. by Thomas Hughes. 1949 Sat. Even. Post 4 June 30/2 That famous old initialed forwarding address: ‘G.T.T.’

28 May 1836, Atkinson’s Saturday Evening Post, pg. 2:
How cheerless then for him to look at the end of the year to the black list of defaulters, who when payment is required have vanished, and are to be seen no more. Scarcely a week passes in which some returned paper from some dishonest subscriber is not handed to us, with an intimation that the party has gone to Texas or elsewhere.

July 1836, The Western Literary Journal, pg. 74:
He being dead, or gone to Texas, borrow fishing tackle, and seat yourself on the bank of the Licking.

14 April 1837, Philanthropist, pg. 2:
With the proof of all these matters shining around them as the day, the Grand Jury found, we believe, two or three Bills against the persons entirely insignificant and irresponsible, (one of whom it is said is gone to Texas,) for assault and battery on Mr. Rankin.

February 1838, Western Messenger Devoted to Religion, Life, and Literature, pg. 431:
Our subscription list at present is so small, the number of delinquents who have gone to Texas or elsewhere without paying us is so large, the discontinuances so many, that we cannot in conscience go forward with the work except we see that our true friends are willing to make some exertions in our behalf.

7 May 1839, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), pg. 2, col. 4:
G. T.—This is a return frequently made in the south-western States, on the writs in the hands of the sheriff, and is an abbreviation for “Gone to Texas.”

11 June 1839, The Journal of Belles Lettres, pg. 3: 
A collector is sent out of his way to see a subscriber, who owes perhaps four or five years’ subscription. He reaches the spot, and is told that Mr. A. B. removed two years ago to Iowa, or had gone to Texas.

26 June 1839, New York (NY) Times, pg. 1:
G. T. This is said to be a common mode of making Sheriff’s returns in the South West. It means, “Gone to Texas.”

16 August 1839, Vermont Phoenix (from the Kennebec Journal), pg. 1:
There was Tom Nokes owed $6 marked G. T. (gone to Texas.)

31 August 1839, Connecticut Courant (Hartford, CT), supplement, pg. 310:
There was Tom Nokes, owed $6, marked G. T. T. (gone to Texas.)

21 March 1840, The New-York Mirror, pg. 311:
Gone to Texas.—We confess that we see with great pain the frequent and ungenerous—ay, and palpably unjust and unmerited—attacks made in the papers on the young and prosperous republic of Texas. If a public defaulter absents himself, the rumour is, “he is gone to Texas;” if a banker rifles the vaults of his institution, he has escaped to Texas; if a burglary is committed, and the culprit is not to be found, he is said to be a candidate for Texas—that country is uncourteously referred to as the Botany Bay of our continent, and G. T. T. is the stigma attached to every absconding debtor or missing felon.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Thursday, August 03, 2006 • Permalink