Virtually unknown today, Stillman's observations have eluded even historians who have sought nineteenth-century travel accounts of Texas and the South. Stillman was a full-fledged member of a generation that had fallen completely in love with America's natural beauty, represented in the works of Emerson and Thoreau. His letters reflect that sensitivity and gift for description.
Nowhere have I seen nature display so much of the chastened beauty, or rugged grandeur . . .; nowhere have I seen realized, in so high a degree, the charms of the classical. Arcadis as in the rolling grassy regions of West Texas.
From Port Lavaca Stillman traveled alone by horse through Anaqua, Goliad and Helena, much the same route that his friend and fellow diarist, Frederick Law Olmsted, had followed just a few months before. Upon arrival in San Antonio he tarred, visiting with Adolph Douai, editor of the San Antonio Zeitung.
From San Antonio, Stillman ventured west as far as the Pecos River in the company of an army wagon train along the newly-opened road from San Antonio to El Paso. He penetrated unsettled areas, risking Indian attack to see first-hand the "wilds" of Texas.
. . .the water was now over the whole ground, and by floundering and swimming we reached the margin of the first slough. Here the flood had taken a shortcut . . . Shouts of distress were heard in the rear, when presently Antonio's mule came swimming past without his rider.
Wilderness flash floods, rough rides over long and muddy roads, and periodic residences in poorly-constructed log houses did not deter his romantic spirit. He carefully recorded his observations regarding the settlers and their surroundings, the botanical wonders and curiosities, and Indian conflicts.
Stillman wrote extensively concerning his travels, both in Texas and California during the gold rush period. He published essays in The Overland Monthly, and in 1877 published his memoirs, Seeking the Golden Fleece, a Record of Pioneer Life in California. Three books were published in the 1960s and 1970s containing his diaries and letters concerning his California experiences.