The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 65, July 1961 - April, 1962

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VIRGINIA H. TAYLOR HOUSTON
THE DISPOSITION OF TEXAS' public domain was virtually com-
plete in 190oo. By that date, four successive governments-
Spain, Mexico, the Republic and the State of Texas-had
granted title to and surveyed 166,598,400 acres of land. From
whatever sovereignty any title had emanated, it had been accom-
panied by the corresponding survey. Axiomatically, it is necessary
for the landholder to know the limits and location of his land.
Surveying, therefore, is prerequisite to orderly settlement, and the
surveyors have proved to be its vanguard on every frontier. In
Texas, they were the vanguards of Spanish, Mexican, and American
settlement, and with the science and energy of two civilizations
they challenged the most formidable frontier in America. Two cen-
turies passed before the last acres were measured and claimed.
Texas was new to Spanish settlers in 1730o and to Mexicans and
Americans in 182o, but surveying was an ancient art. Surface
measurement and the setting off of boundaries have gone hand in
hand with the cultivation of the soil, and each agricultural people
has had its system of land measurement and boundary marking,
however crude. The Hellenes and Italians, as far back as reliable
tradition reaches, had their land measurer who made his allocation
in the form of a rectangle and indicated the corners with boundary
posts.2 The Romans, along with their language and laws, im-
planted the custom of marking and measuring land in the Iberian
peninsula.
In Spain, the Castilian basic measure of length evolved into a
unit of approximately eleven inches, separate and distinct from
the Roman pes, which became known as the geometric foot. The
vara, an iron or wooden bar, commonly used as a three-foot
'With the exception of river beds, excess, vacancies, and submerged coastal areas
amounting to 6,o89,6oo acres.
2Theodor Mommsen (W. P. Dickson, trans.), The History of Rome (4 vols.;
New York, 1883), I, 21. The Romans held rigidly to the principle of the square and
did not accept even the sea or a river as a natural boundary.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 65, July 1961 - April, 1962. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101195/. Accessed September 22, 2014.