Georgia's Ruling Page: 499

Georgia's Ruling

weeks of his absence. His chief clerk
had done what he could, but there were
questions of law, of fine judicial decisions
to be made concerning the issue of pat-
ents, the marketing and leasing of school
lands, the classification into grazing, agri-
cultural, watered, and timbered, of new
tracts to be opened to settlers.
The Commissioner went to work silently
and obstinately, putting back his grief as
far as possible, forcing his mind to attack
the complicated and important business
of his office. (On the second day after his
return he called the porter, pointed to a
leather-covered chair that stood near his
own, and ordered it removed to a lumber-
room at the top of the building. In that
chair Georgia would always sit when she
came to the office e for him of afternoons.
As time passed, the Commissioner
seemed to grow more silent, solitary, and
reserved. A new phase of mind devel-
oped in him. He could not endure the
presence of a child. Often when a clat-
tering youngster belonging to one of the
clerks would come chattering into the big
business-room adjoining his little apart-
ment, the Commissioner would steal softly
and close the door. He would always
cross the street to avoid meeting the
school-children when they came dancing
along in happy groups upon the sidewalk,
and his firm mouth would close into a
mere line.
It was nearly three months after the
rains had washed the last dead flower-
petals from the mound above little Georgia
when the "land-shark " firm of lamlin
and Avery filed papers upon what they
considered the "fattest" vacancy of the
It should not be supposed that all who
were termed " lanrd-sharks " deserved the
name. Many of them were reputable
men of good business character. Some
of them could Nwalk into the most august
councils of the State and say: " Gentle-
men, we would like to have this, and that,
and matters go thus." Iut, next to a
thrcc years' drought and the boll-worm,
the Actual Settler hated the Land-shark.
The land-shark haunted the Iand Office,
where all the land records were kept, and
hunted " vacancies "---that is, tracts of
unapplropriated public domain, generally
invisible upon the official maps, but actu-
ally existing " upon the ground." The

law entitled any one possessing certain
State scrip to file by virtue of same upon
any land not previously legally appropri-
ated. Most of the scrip was now in the
hands of the land-sharks. 'Thus, at the
cost of a few hundred dollars, they often
secured lands worth as many thousands.
Naturally, the search for " vacancies
was lively.
But often-very often-the land they
thus secured, though legally " unappro-
priated," would be occupied by happy and
contented settlers, who had labored for
years to build up their homes, only to
discover that their titles were worthless,
and to receive peremptory notice to quit.
Thus came about the bitter and not un-
justifiable hatred felt by the toiling settlers
toward the shrewd and seldom merciful
speculators who so often turned them forth
destitute and homeless from their fruitless
labors. The history of the State teems
with their antagonism. Mr. Land-shark
seldom showed his face on " locations"
from which he should have to eject the
unfortunate victims of a monstrously
tangled land system, but let his emissaries
do the work. There was lead in every
cabin, molded into balls for him; many
of his brothers had enriched the grass
xwitli their blood. The fault of it all lay
far back.
When the State was young, she felt the
need of attracting newcomers, and (of re-
warding those pioneers already w ithin her
borders. Year after year she issued land
scrip--Headrights, ]irouties. Vctcrn I)o-
nations, Confederates; and to railroads,
irrigation companies, colonies, and tillers
of the soil galore. All required of the
grantee was that he or it should have the
scrip properly surveyed upn the public
domain by the county or district surveyor,
and the land thus appropriated became
the property of him or it, or his or its
heirs and assigns, forever.
In those clays-and here is where the
trouble began-the State's domain was
practically inexhaustible, and the old sur-
veyors, with princely-yea, even \Western
American-liberality, gave good measure
and overflowing. Often the jovial man of
metes and bounds would dispense alto-
gether with the tripod and chain. 'Mounted
on a pony that could cover something
near a "vara " at a step, with a pocket
compass to direct his course, he would

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Henry, O., 1862-1910. Georgia's Ruling, prose (fiction), June 30, 1900; New York. ( accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.