GTT came into use as an abbreviation for “gone to Texas” in about 1820, when folks starting heading for greener pastures in the Mexican province after losing everything in the financial panic of 1819. As they abandoned their homes, families painted “GTT” on their doors or hung signs from fenceposts so often that the initialism became widely known with amazing speed.
In Texas, men found unbounded opportunity and adventure. Women found unprecedented freedom and civil rights — like the legal right to own separate property. Texas’ Anglo population grew to 20,000 in the 1820s and exploded to more than 140,000 by the 1840s.
Around the middle of the 19th Century, GTT acquired a darker meaning: “at outs with the law.” When folks wanted to discreetly indicate a man’s disreputable reputation, they appended the letters “GTT” to his name. In his 1857 book JOURNEY THROUGH TEXAS, Frederick Law Olmstead noted that many newcomers to the state were suspected of having skipped out on something “discreditable” back home. Thomas Hughes, in his 1884 book G.T.T., wrote “When we want to say that it is all up with some fellow, we just say, `G.T.T.’ as you’d say, ‘gone to the devil,’ or ‘gone to the dogs.'”