The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982

Maps of an Empresario:
Austin's Contribution to the Cartography of Texas
ROBERT S. MARTIN*
WHEN STEPHEN F. AUSTIN CAME TO TEXAS IN THE SUMMER OF
1821, he entered a land that was not only sparsely populated,
but also generally unknown. Over the course of the next fifteen years
the flood of Anglo-American immigrants led by Austin settled the
region and wrested its lands from the wilderness. During the same
period the geography of Texas became known to the world at large for
the first time through accurate published maps. Austin's role in the
colonization of Texas has long been recognized; his role in the ex-
ploration and mapping of the region, although less well known, was
equally important.
Although Spain considered the Texas area a part of her New World
empire from the beginning of her activity in the Americas, her prog-
ress in exploring and occupying the region was slow. The official Span-
ish maps of the eighteenth century reveal that Spain's knowledge of
the interior of Texas remained vague and imprecise, apparently re-
stricted to a general notion of the major rivers, coupled with more
detailed conceptions of the vicinities of Bexar, La Bahia, and Nacog-
doches and the well-traveled routes between them. Moreover, most of
these maps remained unpublished and the knowledge they contained
generally unavailable. As one student of map making observed, "The
policy of Spain that locked up such cartographic illustrations of its
exploratory efforts may have been politically expedient, but it cer-
tainly kept hidden much emerging knowledge."'
The paucity of general knowledge of the geography of Texas and
the consequent dearth of adequate maps is best revealed by the ex-
*Robert S. Martin is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
1For example, see the discussion and reproduction of the maps of Francisco Alvarez y
Barreiro, NicolAs de Lafora, Jose de Urrdtia, Miguel Costanso, and Manuel Mascar6 in
Carl I. Wheat, Mapping the Transmississippi West, 1540-1861 (5 vols.; San Francisco,
1957-1966), I, The Spanish Entrada to the Louisiana Purchase, 154o-1804 (1957), 80-83,
87, 88, 89 (quotation), 121-124. The only printed Spanish map of the period is reproduced
in James C. Martin and Robert S. Martin, Contours of Discovery: Printed Maps Delin-
eating the Texas and Southwestern Chapters in the Cartographic History of North
America, 1513-193o (Austin, 1981).

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/. Accessed December 18, 2014.