Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 3, Number 3, September, 1993 Page: 123
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Digest of the Book of Land Certificates
Compiled by Dinah Janak, Darlene Hayek, and Bill Stein
Introduction by Bill Stein
A project of the Historic Preservation Committee
of the Colorado County Historical Commission
Much of the best land in what is now Colorado County was snatched up by
settlers who came to Texas as part of Stephen F. Austin's original colony. These settlers
included: Joseph Duty, James Tumlinson, James Cummins, John Hadden, Rawson
Alley, Gabriel Straw Snider (or Strawschneider), A. W. McLain and James McNair,
James Ross, James Nelson, Clement C. Dyer, and Thomas Cartwright, all of whom
selected tracts along the north side of the Colorado River; Freeman Pettus, Elizabeth
Tumlinson, Benjamin Beeson, Rawson Alley, James Cook and William B. Dewees,
Nathaniel Whiting and Nathan Osborn, and Preston Gilbert, who selected tracts along
the south side of the river; and John Andrews, who selected a tract on Cummins Creek.
All but one of these settlers received their land in 1824. Preston Gilbert got his in 1827.
The Mexican colonization law under which Austin established his colony
defined a vara as "three geometrical feet," a league as "a straight line of five thousand
varas," a sitio as a square of land "each of whose sides shall be one league," a hacienda
as "five sitios," a labor as a square of land "one thousand varas on each side," and,
therefore, a sitio as twenty-five labors.' At some point, however, the word league came
to mean the same thing as sitio, and the latter word dropped out of use.
The same law stipulated that the land should be divided into farming land and
grazing land, dependent primarily on the availability of water, with farmers to be granted
at least one labor (about 177 acres) of farming land and ranchers at least one sitio, that
is, one league (about 4428 acres), of grazing land. These measurements and stipula-
tions were reiterated in the colonization law passed as Decree Number 16 by the
Congress of the State of Coahuila and Texas on March 24, 1825. In addition, Section
14 of the decree specified that farming families were entitled to one labor of farming land
and ranching families, whether or not they also engaged in farming, twenty-four labors
of grazing land. Section 15 declared that unmarried men were entitled to only one-fourth
as much as married men, that is, if they declared themselves to be both a farmer and
a rancher, they were entitled to one-fourth of a league.2
Some of Austin's original settlers, among them Daniel Gilleland, William B.
Dewees, and James Cummins, and later arrivals like Samuel Kennelly, Peyton R. Splane,
William R. Hunt, and Robert Cunningham, added to their holdings or secured their initial
tracts under later agreements between Austin and the government of the State of
Coahuila and Texas. With the establishment of the Republic of Texas, and the adoption
of its constitution on March 17, 1836, although titles to lands already allocated to
settlers remained secure, all colonization laws and impresario agreements were voided
and a new set of rules regarding the distribution of land adopted. By general provision
of the constitution, "all persons (Africans, the descendants of Africans, and Indians
1 See Ernest Wallace and David M. Vigness, Documents of Texas History (Austin: The Steck
Company, 1963), p. 47. The law was passed on January 4, 1823.
2 See Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., The Laws of Texas (Austin: Gammel Book Company,
1898), volume 1, pp. 99-106, 125-133.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 3, Number 3, September, 1993, periodical, September 1993; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151389/m1/15/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed March 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.