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Title: History of Texas Land
Author: Allcorn, Bill
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "History of Texas Land" ***

                               TEXAS LAND

                           With a preface by
                              BILL ALLCORN
                Commissioner of the General Land Office


                             AUSTIN, TEXAS

    YEARS 1856-1857 IN AUSTIN, TEXAS]

The Old General Land Office Building, pictured (above) as it appeared
about 1890, is located at the southeast corner of the Capitol grounds in
Austin. It is one of the oldest remaining buildings in the Capitol City.

It was designed in December, 1854, by a draftsman in the General Land
Office, Professor Doctor C. C. Stremme, who enjoyed considerable
prestige in Europe before his emigration to Texas. In addition to other
honors, Professor Stremme held a title at the Court of Emperor Nicholas
I of Russia.

poured his rich background into the Old Land Office Building. This
structure is German Romance in style.

It was built in 1856 and 1857.

Thirty years after its construction, the building was the working home
of William S. Porter, who was later to gain fame as a short story writer
under the name of O. Henry. He was a draftsman in the General Land
Office, and there he turned out numerous maps of rare beauty.

Later, O. Henry used the Old General Land Office Building in one of his
stories, entitled “Bexar Scrip Number 2692”.

Statistically, the old building is 62 by 94 feet, outside dimensions. It
has 11,656 feet of floor space in its two floors. Its exterior walls are
two feet in width. It is characterized by star-transomed windows.

Moving into the Old General Land Office Building shortly after its
completion, the General Land Office occupied the structure until 1918,
when it moved into its present building.

A new building to be occupied by the General Land Office and the State
Library and Archives is now in the planning stage.

More information about the historic Old General Land Office Building can
be obtained from Mr. August Watkins Harris, an Austin architect, 13
Niles Road, Austin, who created the picture (below) and with whose
permission it is printed.



Here is the story of Texas land.

And the story of Texas land is the story of Texas. This history begins
with the Spanish in Texas, goes through the period of the Mexican
occupation, tells about a courageous people who forced their
independence, set up a republic, and ten years later joined the United
States. The story of Texas oil development is also pertinent to the
history of Texas land.

Through the whole account shines the far-sightedness, honesty, and
devotion of early Texas leaders. By their efforts we enjoy much that
would not otherwise be ours, not the least of which are our two great
educational funds, the Permanent School Fund and the Permanent
University Fund.

Does it not seem proper that we treat the educational future of our
young people with at least as much respect as our ancestors? We should
continue to help these educational funds grow as much as possible now
while resources still exist on which to build them. Otherwise we run the
future risk of emaciated funds and no resources with which to develop
them further.

Section III of this booklet lists items of interest which may be found
in the General Land Office. We extend you a personal invitation to visit
the Land Office to see these historical treasures of Texas and the other
files which, collectively, spell out in detail the story of Texas land.

    [Illustration: signature]

                                                            BILL ALLCORN
                                                     General Land Office

Austin, April 10, 1958

                           TABLE OF CONTENTS

  PREFACE                                                             vii
  I. HISTORY OF TEXAS LAND                                              1
  II. DISPOSITION OF TEXAS LAND                                         8
  APPENDIX                                                             19


  OLD GENERAL LAND OFFICE BUILDING                                    iii
  PRESENT GENERAL LAND OFFICE BUILDING                                  v

                         HISTORY OF TEXAS LAND

When Christopher Columbus stepped ashore in the West Indies in October,
1492, he drew the curtain to an immense area of land, some fertile and
some desert—land of all types and for all purposes.

So vast was this discovery that land-conscious European powers who
sponsored New World exploration were soon giving away large areas with a
surprising disregard for their value. However, when rival powers
disputed their claims to specific territories in the New World, they
were quick to argue. The effect was that nations which matured in the
Western Hemisphere grew up with a high regard for land.

From this it may be inferred that the history of any nation or state has
been and continues to be largely a history of land. The political,
social, and economic superstructure of a people is traceable to the land
they control. Especially is this true of western nations and of Texas.

In what is now Southwestern United States there were several settlements
of Mexicans and Indians on both sides of the Rio Grande as early as
1750. These people held no title to their land. They had assembled for
reasons of economics and security.

Agents of the King of Spain finally arrived in the New World in 1767,
surveyed the river lands, and issued titles. With the exception of
Laredo, there was little colonization until 1815, when the Spanish
governor began to feel the French encroachment on the east. Before then,
Spain’s main effort had been directed toward the erection of missions,
which required constant support and defense, rather than toward
establishing civil settlements that could defend and support themselves.

Thus, the vast area of the Southwest was sparsely populated and lay as a
wilderness to American settlers who had pushed to its borders from the
United States. A grant to colonize was made to Moses Austin in January,
1821, to settle 300 families in Texas; this was the first deviation from
the Spanish policy of maintaining a predominately native population.

Later in 1821, the Spanish yoke was thrown off by Mexico, and the
Mexicans continued the policy of granting land to Americans. A liberal
colonization policy brought an immediate and widespread response. By
1835 it is estimated that there were over 30,000 people in the Texas
colonies—people who had come to Texas not as adventurers or speculators,
but to establish new homes. The fourteen-year period had wrought many
changes. Texas was no longer a complete wilderness. Many areas had been
cleared and turned into small agricultural districts where the people
were both industrious and self-reliant.

Because of the differences in the background and heritage of the
Anglo-Americans and the Mexicans, it was inevitable that conflicts would
develop. Differences in political views, religion, language, and mode of
living all served to kindle and feed the flames of the Texas Revolution.

At the very beginning of hostilities, Texans closed the colonial land
offices and assumed control of the land problems under one agency. This
was the foundation and beginning of the General Land Office, as it is
known today.

In separating from Mexico, Texans recognized the valid titles to land
which had been made by Spain and Mexico, but all vacant land within the
borders of the new republic became the property of Texas. These borders
were defined by the Congress of Texas in an Act of December 19, 1836,
and included all land within the present boundaries of the state (and
out to three marine leagues in the Gulf of Mexico), more than half of
the present State of New Mexico, and parts of Kansas, Colorado and
Wyoming. The first commissioners of the General Land Office, who were
given the momentous task of administering this huge domain, were John P.
Borden (who served from 1837 to 1841) and Thomas Wm. Ward (whose tenure
of office was 1841 to 1848). On December 29, 1845, the Republic became a

Events leading to the annexation of Texas by the United States were
significant in the land history of the state. Relations between the
Republic of Texas and the United States during this time may be
separated into three periods, each of which lasted about three years.

During the first period, Texas sought annexation. Partly as a result of
the slavery controversy then raging in the United States and partly in
fear of war with Mexico, the United States refused annexation.

In the second period, Texas altered her attitude, withdrew her
application for annexation, and made plans to perpetuate her republic.
During this period, Texas was recognized by powers such as Great
Britain, France, Holland, and Belgium. Americans, laboring under the
influence of what they considered a Manifest Destiny, feared the
influence of foreign powers in Texas.

This led to the third phase, which was characterized by renewed U. S.
interest in Texas. On June 8, 1844, a treaty of annexation was defeated
in the United States Senate, largely by partisan politics. This treaty
stipulated that the United States would pay Texas debts up to ten
million dollars, but that Texas would have to surrender title to all
public lands.

Texas was fortunate that this treaty was not approved, because only a
small part of the land that she would have traded for ten million
dollars has since put more than 625 million dollars in the Permanent
School and University Funds. Later that year, President John Tyler of
the United States proposed that the treaty of annexation be adopted by a
joint resolution of Congress, and this maneuver succeeded, the treaty
receiving approval on February 28, 1845.

Provisions of the treaty as confirmed by the joint resolution allowed
Texas to retain her public domain and provided also that the new state
should keep her debts, which amounted to about 13 million dollars at
that time. All in all, it was a better arrangement than the earlier
treaty which had been defeated.

Congressional approval was greeted in Texas by considerable enthusiasm.

The initiative in annexation proceedings now lay with Texas. President
of the Republic Anson Jones called a convention to meet at Austin on
July 4, 1845, to decide whether or not Texas should accept the proposal.
The decision being in the affirmative, the State of Texas was admitted
into the Union on December 29, 1845, and the State government was
formally installed on February 19, 1846. Thomas Wm. Ward, who had been
Commissioner of the General Land Office under the Republic, assumed the
same position in the State government. His duties remained essentially
the same.

Shortly after Texas was annexed by the United States, war broke out
between Mexico and the Union over the newly-acquired territory. Mexico
had never relinquished her claim to Texas, and had repeatedly warned the
United States that annexation of what she considered a rebellious
province would mean war. From the beginning of hostilities, however, the
United States experienced a minimum of difficulty in subduing her
southern adversary. Less than two years after the war began, it came to
a conclusion with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, signed February 2,
1848. Among other provisions, Mexico gave up her claim to Texas.

Hardly had the war come to an end than a dispute arose between the
United States and Texas over 78,892,800 acres of land claimed by Texas.
When Mexico concluded the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, she sold this and
other land to the United States for $15,000,000. Mexico had never
recognized Texas’ claim to the land in question, which included parts of
what is now New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming.

However, when the United States began taking possession of this land,
anger in Texas mounted. The Legislature passed a resolution renewing
Texas’ claim to the disputed area.

A solution to the problem was worked out in the Compromise of 1850 by
which the United States was to pay Texas $10,000,000 for the area. On
February 28, 1855, Congress paid Texas an additional $5,496,477.77 for
this land. Therefore, Texas profited handsomely by some shrewd
bargaining on the part of its early leaders. Not only was Texas able to
pay its public debt, but the State reserved its present domain to itself
as well.

This public domain of land has been the basis of growth for the State’s
two big educational funds, the Permanent School Fund and the Permanent
University Fund, as the result of mineral exploration within Texas and
especially because of oil development on public land set aside for the
benefit of these funds.

As a result, the history of oil exploration and development within Texas
is directly related to the story of Texas land. For that reason, it is
briefly told here.

Tradition says that one John A. Veatch arrived in what is now East Texas
but which was then a province of Mexico. After meeting certain
requirements, he was authorized as an immigrant to select a league of
land. Veatch chose his property in two parts: one three miles south of
the present city of Beaumont and the other near Sour Lake in present
Hardin County. Seventy-five years later, two of Texas’ greatest oil
discoveries were made almost on top of his two tracts of land.

Ironically enough, Veatch is reported to have believed that oil existed
in those localities and, for that reason, consistently declined to sell.

The first oil well in Texas was probably drilled near Saratoga in Hardin
County in the early 1860’s, but the first oil discovered in
commercially-suitable quantities was produced in Nacogdoches County 20
years later. The first commercial use of oil appears to have been as a
tick remover.

First important oil production in Texas occurred in the Corsicana area
in 1895. The Corsicana field was of such importance that it attracted
numerous geologists and operators to Texas.

Before the Corsicana field came in, however, efforts had been made to
develop the Beaumont location as an oil-producing area. Nearly ten years
passed before the famous Lucas gusher came in producing a spectacular
4,000 barrels a day. Other wells were drilled in the same area, and the
Texas coast suddenly became a paradise for oil developers.

The next major development in Texas oil history came in that same
coastal region. At Sour Lake in Hardin County, a gusher came in in 1902,
and it is reported that some wells have produced 10,000 barrels a day in
this field. Drilling in this field had been going on since 1893. When
the 1902 gusher was drilled, the supply of oil suddenly exceeded the
demand, and oil was being sold for 15 cents a barrel. An average 1957
price was about $2.85 per barrel.

In 1903, the Batson field in Hardin County was discovered. The Permanent
School Fund experienced its first sensation from this field. A surveyor
discovered a scrap of unsurveyed school land near the oil field and
filed to purchase it at $10.00 per acre, thinking the General Land
Office unaware of its true value. To the contrary, the chief clerk of
the Land Office held out for $1,500.00 per acre. He received what he
asked for, and the School Fund profited by $23,025.00 from the sale.

One of the most productive oil fields in Texas was developed at Humble
in January, 1905. The well that brought in the field began producing at
8,500 barrels per day.

Matagorda County caused some excitement in 1908. Its best producer
yielded 7,200 barrels per day, but the field soon declined.

About 1910, exploration in Wichita County was active. Development moved
at a snail’s pace originally, but discoveries near Burkburnett in 1912
and 1917 resulted in renewed attempts, and a field that was regarded as
shallow suddenly became one of extensive resources. The field was even
extended into the channel of the Red River. In general, the land was in
the hands of small farmers, so this was the little man’s field.

Far to the south, the Goose Creek field in Harris County had been
attracting attention since 1907. By 1911, a well on the edge of San
Jacinto Bay was reported to be flowing several hundred barrels a day. In
1913, the Legislature enacted into law at the recommendation of
Commissioner of the General Land Office J. T. Robison a plan whereby San
Jacinto Bay, which was owned by the State, could be opened for
development on a royalty basis. The first permit for this purpose was
issued on August 18, 1913.

The first royalty, $33.97, was paid to the General Land Office in April,
1914. Six years later, royalties from this source had increased to

The Goose Creek field is still producing.

An interesting chapter in the history of Texas oil has to do with
natural gas. In 1913, a well was drilled on top of 50-foot-high chalk
cliffs on Nueces Bay near Corpus Christi. As the drill cut through the
cap rock and into the gas chamber at about 2000 feet, the well blew out,
a hole was torn in the ground, the derrick fell in, and the gas burned
with a roar that was audible for miles. Four hundred yards away another
well was drilled, and precautions were taken to avoid the previous
calamity. The precautions were without avail, however, and the
experience was repeated. An eyewitness described the scene:

  Rushing gas came out with such tremendous force that a crater was torn
  some two hundred feet in diameter and made the ground and housetops
  snowlike with white sand for some six miles. The gas was dry. It
  ignited. A flame some one hundred and fifty feet in diameter shot up
  two hundred or more feet high and tossed up boulders as large as a
  peck measure as one would a baseball. The light could be seen forty
  miles and when I approached to within warming distance of the flame
  the earth trembled like a mass of jelly.

In northeast Texas, some small production was discovered on Tar Island
in Caddo Lake in 1914. Caddo Lake is on the Marion-Harrison County line.

Three years later, oil discoveries began shifting to West Texas.

At Ranger in Eastland County on October 17, 1917, oil was discovered.
Uncontrolled, the producers allowed their wells to flow thousands of
barrels a day, and in many cases wells were practically exhausted within
six months. Though the Ranger field is still producing today, the great
period of activity lasted only about five years.

From Ranger, oil exploration drifted to the north in Stephens County.
The Stephens County field is reported to have produced up to 90,000
barrels a day at its zenith.

Other oil developments in West Texas in the first quarter of the
Twentieth Century came at Blue Ridge field in Fort Bend County in 1919,
in Potter County near Amarillo in 1919, and in Wilbarger County in 1920.

Near the coast in 1919, the West Columbia field in Brazoria County came
in. Reports say that a 29,600-barrel well was drilled in July, 1920.
Though small, the field was quite productive.

The Mexia field was discovered in 1920, and the Powell field near
Corsicana was reopened in 1924. As a result, Texas oil production shot
above 200,000,000 barrels in 1927. Early in the 1920’s, oil was
discovered in the Texas Panhandle. In 1925, Spindletop field near
Beaumont was redeveloped, and proved more productive than when first

In the last half of the 1920’s, oil was discovered in Howard and Winkler
Counties in West Texas. Other discoveries included Raccoon Bend on the
coast, Van Zandt County in East Texas, and Bee County in 1929.

But the most prolific field of all was the East Texas field, which C. M.
(Dad) Joiner brought in in October, 1930. Haunted by two failures,
Joiner drilled a well in Rusk County where geologists said no oil
existed. The overwhelming success of the well resulted in the wildest
battle for leases in the history of the petroleum industry.

The discovery of the East Texas field, which soon covered a large area,
led to a decline in the price of oil. After much struggle—some verbal
and other physical—the field was put under martial law by Governor Ross
Sterling in August, 1931. The reason for the struggle—the desire of some
to reduce the amount of production and divide it among the producers—was
solved as the Texas Legislature gave the Railroad Commission authority
to ration production.

A number of major fields were discovered in the 1930’s, mostly in West
Texas and along the Gulf Coast.

The next sensational discovery, however, came in 1948 in Scurry and
adjoining counties. The discovery well in this field was brought in on
November 21, 1948. This led to further exploration and further
discoveries of oil in West Texas.

In 1953, the Neches Field in Anderson and Cherokee Counties was
discovered. It has been labeled a major field.

Another area of oil development in Texas has been the so-called
“tidelands”, the submerged lands under the Gulf of Mexico to the
three-league limit. Production in the tidelands began as early as 1940
but drilling exploration has never developed to the desired extent. One
reason has been the controversy between the United States and Texas over
the ownership of the tidelands. After some litigation, Congress passed a
law in 1953 placing ownership of the “tidelands” in the hands of Texas.
Until then, Texas had claimed land out to the outer edge of the
continental shelf, an average of about 85 miles.

In another area of petroleum development, the first oil discovery on
University of Texas land makes an interesting story. A stubborn
professor and a broken-down wagon played key roles.

In the early 1920’s, the governing body of The University of Texas
decided to sell the University’s vast land endowment in West Texas. The
late Dr. J. A. Udden, then director of the Bureau of Economic Geology
and a renowned scholar, protested the sale and insisted that the land
had possibilities for mineral development.

To prove his point, he located a site to drill an oil well and made
arrangements for the drilling. When the drilling rig was being
transported to the location, the wagon on which it was carried broke
down and was extensively damaged. It was decided to drill at the site of
the breakdown. On May 28, 1923, oil was discovered there.

The well was named Santa Rita and was the discovery well for the Big
Lake field in Reagan County.

Ironically enough, a well was drilled later at Dr. Udden’s original
location. It was a dry hole.

Santa Rita, though shallow, is still producing. Since its discovery,
wells have been drilled nearby at seven levels, and the Big Lake field
has yielded a total of 113,878,857 barrels to September, 1956. In terms
of dollars and cents, this amounts to $18,874,527.09.

From the meager beginning provided by the Santa Rita well, the Permanent
University Fund has grown today to more than 280 million dollars.

As a direct result of oil exploration and development in Texas, the
Permanent School Fund and Permanent University Fund have mushroomed.
Much oil exploration and development have been done on State-owned
lands. This has been the major source of income for these funds, which
now total more than 625 million dollars.

Even today these permanent funds are growing as a result of oil and
other mineral development on State-owned lands. As a result, the public
school systems and higher education in Texas will continue developing in
a manner befitting the Lone Star State.

Thus, the history of Texas land is still being written.

                       DISPOSITION OF TEXAS LAND

The disposal of land within the present boundaries of Texas constitutes
an interesting segment of the State’s history.

The disposition of these lands actually began while they were still part
of Spain’s colonial empire. In the areas around Nacogdoches, San
Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley, Spain gave away a few very large
tracts of land. When Mexico obtained her independence, she granted title
to other large areas in Texas. The means by which Mexico disposed of
these lands were three: sale, special grants, and empresario contracts.
The most famous of the last of these was the contract with Moses and
Stephen F. Austin. The total number of acres granted by Spain and Mexico
approximated 26,250,000.

When Texas earned her independence, she recognized the legitimacy of
titles to land granted by Spain and Mexico. In addition, Texas set about
disposing of more land.

In general, Texas parted with land in three ways. She gave some away,
traded other for services, and sold some.

Land given away was designed to encourage immigration, reward good
citizens and veterans of military service, encourage settlement and
improvement of land, help the growth of railroads and other internal
improvements, and foster development of educational systems.

Texas traded more than 3,000,000 acres of land for the construction of a
state capitol building.

There was but one reason to sell land, and that was important: to pay
debts of the State.

Grants of land were given numerous names, depending upon the purpose of
the grant. HEADRIGHTS were to encourage immigration and reward native
citizens. BOUNTIES and DONATIONS were given to men who had fought with
the Army of the Republic during the Texas Revolution. PRE-EMPTIONS (or
HOMESTEADS) were given in the late 1850’s to encourage families to
settle permanently on and to improve a plot of land. CONFEDERATE SCRIP
rewarded Texas veterans who had fought for the Confederacy. CONTRACTOR
SCRIP was given for construction of railroads and other internal
improvements. Two other classes of scrip were sold: TOBY SCRIP, named
for the man who sold it; and SALES SCRIP; these were designed to help
pay the public debt. Land granted without any particular designation was
that given to public schools, counties, The University of Texas, and
eleemosynary institutions to use in developing an educational system.

Here is a detailed study of circumstances surrounding the disposition of
all land given, traded, or sold by the Republic and State of Texas.


There were four classes of HEADRIGHTS.

The first was granted by the delegates who adopted the Constitution of
the Republic of Texas in March of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos. It
provided that “all persons except Africans and their descendents, and
Indians, living in Texas on the day of the Declaration of Independence,
are entitled to headright grants, if they be heads of families one
league and one labor, and if a single man, 17 years old or older,
one-third of a league”.

Second Class Headright Certificates went to heads of families and single
men who arrived in Texas as immigrants after the Declaration of
Independence and prior to October 1, 1837, provided they remained in the
Republic three years and performed the duties of citizenship. Heads of
families were to receive certificates for 1280 acres and single men a
certificate for 640 acres.

The Third Class of Headright Certificates were granted to heads of
families and single men who immigrated to Texas after October 1, 1837,
and before January 1, 1842. Heads of families under this class were
entitled to 640 acres of land and single men to 320 acres.

Fourth Class Certificates were issued to immigrants who arrived in Texas
after January 1, 1840, and before January 1, 1842. Young men who were
permanent residents and became 17 years of age before January 1, 1840,
were also eligible for this certificate. Heads of families could receive
certificates for 640 acres, and single men for 320 acres. The recipient
was required to perform the duties of a citizen for three years.

A number of famous men connected with Texas history, or their heirs,
received the First Class Headright Certificate. They included James
Bowie and David Crockett, who died at the Alamo. Another interesting
First Class Certificate went to Thomas Lagow, who immigrated to Texas in
November, 1835. His property was located on White Rock Creek in Dallas
County, and covered a large part of what is now the southeast part of
the City of Dallas.

Among Third Class Certificates will be found all colonial grants. The
Republic of Texas encouraged immigration by contracting with numerous
people who agreed to settle a number of immigrants on public domain.

Each immigrant who was head of a family was to receive 640 acres of
land, and a single person 320 acres. The colonizers were to receive
their pay in land.

Four of the better-known colonies were Peters’, Mercer’s, Castro’s, and
Fisher and Miller’s. The first two were located in the North Central
part of the state. Dallas County, for example, was a part of Peters’
Colony, which was headed by W. S. Peters. Mercer’s Colony was located to
the southeast of Peters’. These two colonies were settled by immigrants
from the United States.

Castro’s Colony, which was established southwest of San Antonio, was
settled by Germans and Alsatians. More Germans settled to the northwest
of San Antonio in Fisher and Miller’s Colony.

The total number of acres in these four colonies was 4,494,806. All four
contracts were signed during the first half of the 1840’s.


The purpose of Headrights was to encourage settlers to immigrate to
Texas. Pre-emptions (or Homesteads) had the same basic objective.

Essentially, the Homestead Laws provided that a person who had settled
upon a tract of land and who had improved it could claim the land.
However, the settler could not claim more than a certain number of
acres, and he could not claim the property if someone else had already
claimed it.

The meaning of PRE-EMPTION becomes clearer with the dictionary
definition: “The act or right of claiming property before others”.

Homestead or Pre-emption grants were made under a number of laws.

The first, passed January 22, 1845, declared that the settler could
claim up to 320 acres. He was required to present land certificates
within three years. Later, this time was extended to January 1, 1854.

The next law was dated February 7, 1853, but there was very little
difference between this and the 1845 legislation.

Both the 1845 and 1853 laws were repealed, however, by the Act of
February 13, 1854, which reduced the amount of land which a settler
could claim as a pre-emption to 160 acres. The 1854 law further
specified that the pre-emptor was required to live on the land for three
years. This law was repealed on August 26, 1856, and Acts of November
12, 1866, and August 12, 1870, restored pre-emption laws similar to the
1854 legislation. The 1866 and 1870 laws were made a part of the
Constitution of 1876, and settlers continued to claim land under
pre-emption laws until 1898, when litigation in the courts brought this
class of claims to an end.

The main reason for the end of pre-emptions was that homesteaders ran
out of public domain on which to settle. However, 4,847,136 acres were
granted under Homestead or Pre-emption laws.


After the Texas Revolution, the Republic of Texas granted its soldiers
certificates for 640 acres of land. This was to go to all who were
engaged in the Battle of San Jacinto, all who were wounded the day
before, all who guarded the army’s baggage near Harrisburg, all who
entered Bexar from the morning of the 5th to the 10th of December, 1835,
all who took part in the reduction of the fort at Bexar, all who were in
action under Colonels Fannin and Ward on March 19, 1836, and to the
heirs of those who were killed at the Battle of the Alamo on March 6,

An interesting feature of the Act of December 21, 1837, which granted
these lands, was that veterans receiving lands under this act could not
sell or mortgage those lands.

More than 40 years later, on April 26, 1879, the State Legislature
granted another 640 acres to indigent veterans of the Texas Revolution,
after repealing an act which granted those veterans a pension of $150
per year.


Texas rewarded its fighting men again after the Civil War (or War
Between the States).

Carpetbaggers who were in control of the State government during
reconstruction sought to reward men who fought in the Union army “during
the late Rebellion”, but no grants of land were made under this act,
which was passed on August 21, 1868.

When Texans regained control of the State government, they provided that
veterans who had been permanently disabled while in Confederate service
could receive 1280 acres of land.

This act, which was passed April 9, 1881, further specified that anyone
receiving land under this provision could not have an estate valued at
more than $1,000.

Titles to land granted under this provision are called CONFEDERATE


The people of Texas have always been interested in better educational
systems. Early Texas newspapers reflect this fact. Consequently, land
was set aside by the Republic or State at one time or other for the
benefit of The University of Texas, county schools, eleemosynary
institutions, and public schools. In many cases, this land has been
sold, and the systems have benefited from the fund thereby created.

                        The University of Texas

By the Act of January 26, 1839, the Congress of the Republic of Texas
set aside 50 leagues of land to be used in the establishment of two
colleges or universities. This land was not surveyed until August 30,
1856, and The University of Texas actually received a fraction over 49
leagues, that is, about 217,000 acres. Most of this land, which was
located in Grayson, Hunt, Fannin, Cooke, Lamar, Collin, McLennan,
Callahan, and other counties, was sold. From them the University
received about $653,000. A fraction of one league remains in the hands
of the University.

The Act of August 30, 1856, provided that income from sales of
University lands should compose a fund subject to appropriation by the
Legislature for the University.

Earlier, an Act of January 30, 1854, which was primarily concerned with
encouraging the growth of railroads in the State, gave the University
one of every ten sections allotted for railroads. To this, the
Legislature added on February 11, 1858, $100,000 in bonds, and one
section of land in ten granted to the Galveston and Brazos Navigation

The Constitution of 1876 provided the first real basis for the
University, granting the school one million acres from the unclaimed
public domain, providing that the one of every ten railroad sections
were not taken by the University. An Act of April 10, 1883, added
another million acres to this.

The Constitution of 1876 also provided for the establishment of a
Permanent University Fund which was to be composed of all land belonging
to the University and all income from the sale of this land. In later
years, this fund has grown by leaps and bounds as royalties and bonuses
from oil exploration and production on University lands have been added
to it. At the end of 1957, the Permanent University Fund stood at about
$292,000,000. This money is invested, and income from these investments
goes into an available fund from which The University of Texas draws
two-thirds and Texas A & M College one-third for current expenses.

                             Public Schools

The other great Texas educational fund is the Permanent School Fund,
which amounted to nearly $360,500,000 in July, 1957. Like the Permanent
University Fund, this money is invested, and income from the investments
is spent for current needs. Unlike the University Fund, the Permanent
School Fund may have one per cent of its value appropriated by the
Legislature each year for current expenses. Of course, this
appropriation—if made—is approved during the Legislature’s biennial
session. The bulk of the Permanent School Fund, like the Permanent
University Fund, has come from mineral development on specific lands set
aside for the benefit of the fund.

These lands were provided by the Constitution of 1876, which said that
one-half of the public domain of the state, alternate sections of
railroad land, and all money from the sale of these lands should
constitute the Permanent School Fund. An Act of February 23, 1900, gave
the then remaining public domain to the Permanent School Fund, except
for rivers, lakes, bays, and islands along the Gulf of Mexico. In 1939,
the Texas Legislature dedicated the mineral estate of these rivers,
lakes, bays and islands to the Permanent School Fund. For sometime
before the dedication, most income from these sources had been channeled
into the Permanent School Fund.

Under these acts, 46,500,000 acres of land, including the mineral estate
alone of 7,160,000 acres, have been granted to the Permanent School
Fund. Of the former figure, 42,500,000 acres are surveyed uplands, of
which only about 900,000 remain unsold. The first school land sold was
160 acres in Bowie County in 1874. Since 1905 all sales have been on a
competitive sealed bid basis.

Moneywise, oil production royalties alone brought the Permanent School
Fund more than $14,000,000 in 1956. Of the 7800 oil leases in force,
production was experienced on about 1400.

Another source of income—small though it is—for the Permanent School
Fund comes from tracts of unsurveyed land. These are called “vacancies”.
People occupying this land usually believe that they own it. In 1939 the
Legislature passed an act designed to protect the occupants of the land
in their rights and to insure that the Permanent School Fund receives
its rightful share of the value of this unsurveyed land.

Of a similar nature to vacancies is excess land—acreage within a tract
in excess of what was granted to the first claimant. These were usually
created by inadequate surveying equipment and hardships under which
surveyors worked during the early years of Texas. For example, a tract
of land when first surveyed might have measured 160 acres. Today, with
more precise surveying equipment and methods, the tract might survey out
to be 180 acres. The difference between the two—20 acres—is excess
acreage. It has been estimated that about one per cent of the total area
of the state, or about 1,750,000 acres, was at one time excess land.

Owners of property containing excess land were also covered by the June
19, 1939, law mentioned above. These owners, and property holders
occupying vacancies, were allowed by the 1939 law to pay a reasonable
price for the land and receive a clear title to the property.

As examples of money coming into the Permanent School Fund from these
sources, excesses have put about $2,000,000 into the fund since the 1939
law was enacted, and vacancies have brought the fund about half a
million dollars.

In conclusion, it will be of interest to note that lands now belonging
to the Permanent School Fund are channels, lakes, bays, and other areas
within tidewater limits including part of the Gulf of Mexico. In
addition, vacant lands and 900,000 acres of surveyed uplands belong to
the Permanent School Fund. All minerals within the remaining public
domain have, therefore, been dedicated to this school fund.

                             County Schools

The general education act of January 26, 1839, which gave The University
of Texas 50 leagues of land, also made provision for local schools
throughout Texas. This act granted each county in the then-Republic
three leagues for school purposes. An Act of March 13, 1875, increased
each county’s grant to four leagues. All but 18 of the state’s present
254 counties received this land, and most of them sold it, receiving
small sums. Some counties retained their land, and many have had oil
discovered on their property. Each county set up its own permanent
school fund into which goes money from sale of county lands or money
from mineral leases. Most counties that did not sell their land today
have permanent funds of several hundred thousand dollars.

These county lands are under the control of each county commissioners
court, and are not supervised by the General Land Office.

                       Eleemosynary Institutions

An endowment for these institutions was created by the Legislature with
an Act of August 30, 1856. By this act more than 100,000 acres were
given to each of these institutions: State Insane Asylum, Institute for
the Blind, Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, and the State Orphan Home.
When this land was surveyed, it was found to contain about 410,600
acres. Under various sales acts from 1881 through 1897, this land was
sold mostly to settlers who improved it. Price of this property was from
$1 to $2.50 per acre. Most of the land was suitable for farming.



There was much agitation in the early Texas press for the development of
railroads in Texas. Accordingly, the State began granting lands as early
as 1852 in return for the laying of track. On January 30, 1854, general
railroad legislation was enacted granting 16 sections of land per mile
to companies that would build at least 25 miles of track. In locating
their land, railroads were required to locate a like amount for the
State. Railroad lands were usually surveyed in tracts of a section each,
odd-numbered tracts going to the railroad companies, and even-numbered
tracts going to the State of Texas.

Railroad companies were required to dispose of this land within a
specified period of time, which originally was 12 years. This was later
increased to 21 years and, finally, reduced to seven years. The
Legislature’s reason for enacting this requirement was probably to
encourage settlers to these railroad lands and to discourage the
formation of huge railroad estates.

The State halted its railroad grants by an Act of April 22, 1882. Total
acres granted to railroads reached 32,153,878.

Memphis, El Paso and Pacific Railroad Company provides an example of the
large areas that were granted for this purpose. A reservation eight
miles wide, and later 40 miles wide, was set aside in which this
railroad company could select its land.

              Canals, Irrigation, Making Rivers Navigable

Construction of canals and irrigation systems and clearing rivers of
obstructions to navigation began to interest the State of Texas to such
an extent after 1870 that legislation was enacted to encourage these

The main reason for this interest was the speedy, direct transportation
which canals and rivers could provide. Railroads were only then
beginning to stretch their steel fingers across the state, and Texans
still needed other ways to get themselves and their goods from one place
to another.

On February 22, 1875, the Capital Canal Company was organized to dig a
canal from Marble Falls to Austin—a distance of about 40 miles—and the
company was to be granted 20 sections of land for each mile of canal.
General Land Office files indicate that the canal, if constructed, was
never paid for in land grants.

A general act designed to encourage construction of canals and
irrigation ditches was passed on August 21, 1876. The legislation
provided that contractors who dug canals or irrigation ditches at least
two miles in length could receive from two to eight sections of land,
depending upon the size of the passage.

Most of the land granted for these purposes went for irrigation ditches.

Earlier, on June 2, 1873, the Legislature allowed four sections of land
for each mile of the Trinity River that was cleared of snags and sand


Another improvement encouraged by the State was the use of more
efficient machinery for the preparation of iron from ore, the conversion
of cotton or wool into thread, or paper. An Act of December 15, 1863,
provided that any person or corporation installing improved equipment by
March 1, 1865, would be granted 320 acres of land for each $1000 worth
of machinery.

Shortages arising out of the Civil War undoubtedly compelled this
legislation. Southern States had been cut off from northern and European
manufactures and took this, among other, means of encouraging
Southerners to establish their own industry.

One of the few companies that took advantage of this legislation was the
Waco Manufacturing Company, which received 58 certificates for 320 acres
each on January 6, 1873, and which later claimed and received the land
to which they were entitled.


The Republic was interested in highway building as early as 1844. On
February 5 of that year the Legislature provided for the construction of
“The Central National Road of the Republic of Texas”, later called the
Kiamisha Road. The legislative body decreed that the cost of the road
should not exceed 160 acres of land for each mile constructed.

The road was to stretch from near the mouth of the Elm Fork of the
Trinity River to the Red River opposite the mouth of Kiamisha Creek,
from which the road took its name. The highway was to be at least
30-feet wide, and all bridges were to be at least 15-feet wide.

The Kiamisha Road was never built.


On February 20, 1879, the State Legislature set aside 3,050,000 acres of
land in West Texas to pay for a new State Capitol building.
Interestingly, the act provided for the survey of this land and detailed
a force of Rangers to protect the surveyors in their work.

The cornerstone of the Capitol was laid on March 2, 1885, and the
building was formally dedicated on May 16, 1888. The pink granite which
forms the walls of the Capitol came from Granite Mountain near Marble
Falls in Burnet County.

Forty years after construction of the Capitol, it was discovered that
too much land had been given to the contractor in exchange for building
the structure. The State recovered 57,836 acres of land in 1924. This
recovered land is in Dallam and Hartley Counties.


Governments almost always have experienced a need for money to pay
debts. Texas the Republic and Texas the State have been no exceptions.

An Act of the Congress of the Republic of Texas on December 10, 1836,
empowered the President to issue scrip which could be traded for land in
Texas. This scrip was to be sold by agents in the United States for not
less than 50 cents an acre. Thomas Toby of New Orleans, Louisiana, was
the most famous agent, and the land located with scrip he sold is
classified in the General Land Office files today as “Toby Scrip”.

On July 14, 1879, large parts of the public domain were again offered
for sale through land scrip at 50 cents per acre. Most of this land was
located in 52 counties in West Texas.

Today, this land, which sold for 50 cents per acre, is worth many times
more. All in all, about 3,000,000 acres of land were sold to help pay
the public debt of Texas.


About 48,500,000 acres of the Texas Public Domain have been set aside
for public education. This is about one-fourth the area of the state.
The State of Texas still has an interest in about 16,000,000 acres, and
the Commissioner of the General Land Office has charge of these. This
land, which is scattered all over the state, offers leases on oil, gas,
sulphur, and other minerals, timber, and grazing. Altogether, this land
brings the State nearly $30,000,000 per year in income.

This study reveals that early Texas leaders were farsighted. They
maintained faith in the future of Texas and utilized the most abundant
resource of the state—land—to insure a prosperous future of their
beloved Texas.


1. THE SPANISH ARCHIVES. These archives contain some 4,000 original
      titles written in Spanish and issued by the Spanish and Mexican
      authorities when Texas was under their control. In addition, there
      are approximately 4,000 sets of field notes written in English by
      American Surveyors during the colonization program initiated by
      Spain and carried out by Mexico. These documents date as far back
      as 1745 but mainly encompass the period from 1823 to 1835. See
      Spanish translator.

      F. AUSTIN. See chief of engineering division.

      records division.

      THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS from which the final draft was taken. See
      director of records division.

5. PATENT (a quitclaim deed) ISSUED BY THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS under
      President David G. Burnet. See director of records division.

6. PATENT ISSUED BY THE STATE OF TEXAS under Governor Sam Houston.
      Located in Milam Scrip 329. See chief file clerk.

7. COPY OF SAM HOUSTON’S WILL. Located in Nacogdoches I-1134. See chief
      file clerk.

8. COPY OF ROBERT E. LEE’S WILL. Located in Bexar III-6947. See chief
      file clerk.

      “BETTY POWELL”. Located in Fannin Scrip 495. See chief file clerk.

      BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, then American Consul in Liverpool. See
      director of records division.

      (see reference to Professor Stremme in note about Old Land Office
      Building on the back of picture of this structure). Tyler County
      map dated May, 1858. Houston County map dated October, 1868. See
      chief of engineering division.

      BEAUTY. See chief of engineering division.

      Scrip 87. See chief file clerk.

      of records division.

      S. PORTER (O. HENRY). See chief clerk.

      of engineering division.


                                Table A.


                                Table B.

                             MINERAL ESTATE

                         LEASED MINERAL ESTATE

                           PRODUCING ACREAGE

                             ANNUAL ROYALTY
                     Period Ending August 31, 1956

                                Table A.


  Grants to promote citizenship and to induce
    By Spain and Mexico                          26,280,000
    Headrights and bounties                      36,876,492
    Colonies (Peter’s, et al)                     4,494,806
    Homesteads (Pre-emptions)                     4,847,136
  Donations to veterans.
    San Jacinto veterans (Acts of 1879 and 1881)  1,169,382
    Confederate veterans (Acts of 1881)           1,979,852
  Sold to pay public debts by Republic            1,329,200
  50 cents Sales Scrip Act of 1879 and $2 Sales   1,660,936
      Scrip Act of 1887
  Internal improvements.
    Irrigation, drainage, canals, industrial,     4,088,640
    highways, etc.
    Grants to railroads                          32,153,878
  State Capitol Building                          3,025,000
    University of Texas                           2,329,168
    Public Schools                               42,561,400
    County Schools                                4,229,166
    Eleemosynary Institutions                       410,600
  Total surveyed land                                        167,435,656
    Less conflicts (estimated at ½ of 1%)                        837,256
  Net acreage in original surveys                            166,598,400
  Excesses (estimated at approximately 1.1%)                   1,747,600
  River beds and vacancies (estimated)                         1,091,000
  Submerged coastal area to 3-league limit                     4,145,674
  Total                                                      173,682,674

                                Table B.

                              MINERAL ESTATE

  A. Permanent School Fund
    1. River Beds                                           1,000,000.00
    2. Unsold surveyed P.F.S.L.                               878,415.00
    3. Sold P.F.S.L. with all minerals reserved             7,281,949.00
    4. Free Royalty Lands                                     729,339.00
    5. Bays and Inlets                                      1,536,900.00
    6. Area from Coast to 3-League Limit                    2,608,774.00
       Total                                               14,035,377.00
  B. Permanent University Fund—All Minerals
    1. Sold                                      3,377
    2. Unsold                                2,127,700      2,131,077.00
  C. A&M Fund                                                  35,008.00
  D. East Texas State Teachers’ College Fund                      337.00
  E. Prison Fund                                               73,099.00
  F. Game & Fish Fund                                          69,076.00
  G. State Parks Board                                         30,580.00
  H. State Hospital and Special Schools                        12,903.00
       Total acres in Mineral Estate                       16,387,457.00

                          LEASED MINERAL ESTATE

  A. School Lands                                           4,275,703.00
  B. University Lands                                         667,496.00
  C. A&M Lands                                                  2,017.00
  D. East Texas State Teachers’ College Lands                     337.00
  E. Prison Lands                                              11,818.00
  F. Game & Fish Lands                                          2,838.00
  G. State Park Lands                                           1,531.00
  H. State Hospital and Special Schools Lands                   4,634.00
     Total Leased Acreage                                   4,966,374.00

                            PRODUCING ACREAGE

  A. School Lands                                             428,177.00
  B. University Lands                                         252,230.00
  C. A&M Lands                                                  1,579.00
  D. Prison Lands                                               5,889.00
  E. State Park Lands                                             112.00
  F. State Hospital and Special Schools Lands                     356.00
     Total Leased Acreage                                     688,343.00

                               ANNUAL ROYALTY
                       Period Ending August 31, 1956
                              Oil             Gas             Total

  A. School Lands        $11,987,467.00   $2,115,954.00   $14,103,421.00
     (Other Royalty)                                          288,351.00
  B. University Lands     13,132,713.00      470,650.00    13,603,363.00
  C. A&M Lands                 8,664.00           - 0 -         8,664.00
  D. Prison Lands             39,957.00          993.00        40,950.00
  E. State Park Lands             56.00           - 0 -            56.00
  F. State Hospital and        9,790.00           - 0 -         9,790.00
  Special Schools Lands
  Total Annual Royalty   $25,178,647.00   $2,587,597.00   $28,054,595.00

                    H. B. No. 93.]    Chapter XCVI.

An Act to regulate the running of automobiles and motor vehicles, and
      the requiring of the owner of such machine to register his name
      and the number of his machine with the county clerk of the county
      in which he resides, for the violation of which a penalty is

Section 1. _Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas:_ All
owners of automobiles or motor vehicles shall before using such vehicles
or machines upon the public roads, streets or driveways, register with
the county clerk of the county in which he resides, his name, which name
shall be registered by the county clerk in consecutive order in a book
to be kept for that purpose, and shall be numbered in the order of their
registration, and it shall be the duty of such owner or owners to
display in a conspicuous place on said machine the number so registered,
which number shall be in figures not less than six inches in height. The
county clerk shall be paid by such owner or owners a fee of fifty cents
for each machine registered.

Sec. 2. No automobile or motor vehicle shall be driven or operated upon
any public road, street or driveway at a greater rate of speed than
eighteen miles an hour, or upon any public road, street or driveway
within the built up portions of any city, town or village, the limits of
which shall be fixed by the municipal officers thereof, at a greater
rate of speed than eight miles an hour, except where such city or town
may by an ordinance or by-law allow a greater rate of speed, provided
the speed limit shall not apply to race courses or speedways.

Sec. 3. No person in charge of an automobile or motor vehicle on any
public road, street or driveway shall drive the same at any speed
greater than is reasonable and proper, having regard to the traffic and
use of the public road, street or driveway by others, or so as to
endanger the life or limb of any person thereon.

Sec. 4. All drivers or operators of automobiles or motor vehicles are
prohibited from racing upon any public road, street or driveway.

Sec. 5. Any person driving or operating an automobile or motor vehicle
shall at the request, or signal by putting up the hand, or by other
visible signal from a person riding or driving a horse or horses or
other domestic animal, cause such vehicle or machine to come to a
standstill as quickly as possible and to remain stationary long enough
to allow such animal to pass.

Sec. 6. Every driver or operator of an automobile or motor vehicle shall
have attached thereto a suitable bell or other appliance for giving
notice of its approach, so that when such attachment is rung or
otherwise operated it may be heard a distance of three hundred feet, and
shall carry a lighted lamp between one hour after and one hour before

Sec. 7. Every one who violates any of these six sections shall be
punished by a fine of not less than five dollars nor more than one
hundred dollars.

Sec. 8. The near approach of the end of the session and the demand for
immediate legislation on this subject constitutes an imperative public
necessity that the constitutional rule requiring bills to be read in
each house of the Legislature on three several days be suspended, and
this act take effect from and after its passage, and it is so enacted.

  Approved April 15, 1907.
  Takes effect ninety days after adjournment.

                       _TEXAS FIRST TRAFFIC LAW_
                    PASSED BY 30TH LEGISLATURE, 1907

    [Illustration: _A picture of a picture_]

_Little did this group of Sunday drivers realize they were making
history one day 56 years ago when they stopped to have their picture
taken. But today the original photograph, in the form of a glass plate,
is kept on display at the Dallas Historical Society Museum as the first
automobile to be licensed in Dallas County. Marvin Bradshaw, Right of
Way Agent at Dallas in District 18 of the Texas Highway Department,
visited the museum and asked permission to take a picture of the
picture. Under the supervision of a museum attendant, the glass plate
was taken outside in the sunlight, where Bradshaw placed a piece of
sensitive paper under the plate to obtain a “sun proof.” A temporary
image was then taken to the photo lab where camera copy was made of it.
The car was registered under the name of J. M. Oran in 1907._


                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—Silently corrected a few palpable typos.

—Transcribed handwritten in-photo captions.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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