Continued from Page 10
The records documenting these land transactions,
as well as the previously mentioned
headrights, are preserved in the
General Land Office Archives.
The granting of land did not cease after
the State of Texas was established. When
Texas entered the Union in 1845, it was
permitted to retain its public lands, the
only state allowed to do so. This right was
achieved through a compromise with the
U.S. Congress when the federal government
refused to assume the Republic's
public debt of $10 million. Texas has
been reaping the benefits of that deal ever
Once again, just as the Republic had
financial problems, so did the new state.
In an attempt to fund projects the state
needed and its citizens wanted, officials
again turned to the land for the answer.
Land was granted for a variety of reasons,
including to reward veterans of the Civil
War; endow public schools and colleges;
fund institutions for the mentally ill, deaf,
blind, and orphans; encourage the building
of steamships, factories, roads, and
railroads; dig artesian wells, canals, irrigation
ditches, and ship channels; and
construct a new state capitol. Again,
these records are to be found in the Archives
of the General Land Office. The
staff has started to make these records
more accessible through inventorying and
indexing projects. Once the projects are
completed, a master index will be created
and a descriptive guide will be published.
The policy of granting public land finally
had to stop. The Land Office made the
first move by refusing to issue any more
patents until an accounting could be made
to determine if any unappropriated land
remained. Officials began to realize that
the state had probably committed itself to
giving away more land than it had available.
Then, in the same year, the Texas
Supreme Court settled the matter by ruling
that because there was no more vacant
and unappropriated land, the state must
stop granting away the public domain. As
a result, the long history of Texas land
grants came to an end.
El Suprmw Poir Ejeuivo me .
El Supremo Poder jecutivo
nombrado provisionalmente por el
Soberano Congreso general constituyente,
i todos los que las presentes
vieren y entendieren SAmic
que el mismo Soberano Congreo,
ha decretado lo que sigue.
,Nam. 62. El Soberano Congreso
general constituyente de los Estados-Unidos
mexicanos, ha tenido
& bien decretar lo sijuiente.
1.0 Queda para siempre prohibido
en el territorio de lo Ftdoe-Unidos
mexicanos, el comerw
cio y trifico de Eaclavos, procedentes
de cualquiera potencia, y
bajo cualquiera banderp.
2.0 Los esclavos que, se introdujeren
contra el tenor del artlculo
anterior, quedan libres con solo
el hecho de pisar el territorio
3. Todo buque, ya. sea nacional
6 estrangero en que se tra.
porten, 6 iotroduzcan esclavoe at
territorio mexicano, serf irremisiblemente
confiacado con el resto de
Photo courtesy of the General Land Office.
As for the 216 million plus acres which
were vacant in March 1836, over 215 million
acres had been granted, leaving just
over one million acres under state control
in 1898. It must be pointed out, however,
that 67 million acres of that total were actually
ceded to the United States as part of
the Compromise of 1850, which established
the boundary of Texas. Today, however,
the General Land Office manages
22.5 million acres of land, including mineral
lands, wetlands, bays and estuaries.
In addition to the written records, the Archives
also have access to maps which are
prepared by the General Land Office draftsmen.
These maps show the original
grants and surveys for each county in the
state. The map collection includes both
historical maps drawn primarily in the
19th century and the current maps which
are revised whenever errors are found in
surveys. Booklets identifying both the
historical and the current maps are available
from the Archives and Records Division.
Blueline prints of the current maps
can be purchased.
Next year, the State of Texas will celebrate
its sesquicentennial. It is an event
for which the General Land Office will
have two reasons to celebrate. First, 1986
will mark the 150th anniversary of the establishment
of this important agency. But
second, because of the vast collection of
land records which it preserves, the General
Land Office will be an invaluable
source for those who wish to write a complete
history of Texas, a history which focuses
on the land as the key to the settlement
and development of Texas.
Genealogists, surveyors, land title companies,
energy-related companies, and attorneys
have made extensive use of the
records. As finding aids are developed
and information is disseminated, historians
should find the records an important
source for their studies. The land records
are open for research during regular business
hours, 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday
through Friday. Inquiries should be
addressed to Archives and Records Division,
General Land Office, 1700 North
Congress, Austin, Texas 78701.
Dr. Michael Q. Hooks received his
Ph.D. in History at Texas Tech University.
He worked at the Southwest Collection
at Texas Tech as Associate Archivist.
Currently, Dr. Hooks is Director and Archivist
for the Archives and Records Division
of the General Land Office. Dr.
Hooks has recently co-authored The
Spanish Collection: A Goldmine of Historical
Treasures Waiting to be Tapped,
in the publication, NUESTRO.
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 02, Number 03, Summer 1985. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45444/. Accessed August 28, 2014.