Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 3, Number 3, September, 1993 Page: 125
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Digest of the Book of Land Certificates
Three weeks later, on January 4, 1838, the legislature attempted to boost
immigration by offering those free white persons who had come to Texas after October
1, 1837, and those who would come before January 1, 1840, 640 acres if they were
the head of a family and 320 acres if they were single men who were at least 17 years
old when they arrived or who turned 17 before January 1, 1840. The recipients of these
grants, however, could not take title to the land until and unless they resided in Texas
for three years and performed "any and all duties required of other citizens."6 On January
4, 1841, the legislature took care of later immigrants, entitling free white persons who
came to Texas between January 1, 1840 and January 1, 1842 to 640 acres if they were
the head of a family and 320 acres if they were single men, but preventing them from
taking title until they had resided in Texas three years and then cultivated at least ten
acres of the land they received.7
Conditional certificates did not entitle their holders to any land. When the
conditions specified in the law under which the certificate had been received had been
met, the holder could apply for an unconditional certificate. Holders of unconditional
certificates, whether or not they had first received conditional certificates, could apply
to the General Land Office in Austin for title to, or, in land office terms, a patent on, the
tracts of land they had selected and had had surveyed.8 Title usually would be allowed,
provided that no portion of the land already had been patented, and provided that the
applicant paid surveying fees and other charges. Section 36 of the law of December 14,
1837 specified that persons who received land had to pay "as government fees the prices
fixed by the colonization laws of Coahuila and Texas in force at the time they
emigrated."9 Therefore, persons who came to Texas between March 24, 1825 and April
28, 1832 had to pay $1.20 for each labor of grazing land, $2.50 for each labor of non-
irrigable land, and $3.50 for each labor of irrigable land,10 and those who came between
April 28, 1832 and March 2, 1836 had to pay $2.40 for each labor of grazing land and
$5.00 for each labor of farming land.11
Though the various land laws set out strict and well-defined requirements
for the certificates, they allowed applicants to "prove" they met the requirements simply
by having two other citizens say that they did. As one can readily see by examining the
Colorado County Book of Land Certificates, men often appeared before the board and
served as witnesses for each other. Usually, when three men appeared, two of them
left with land certificates. There was so much evident fraud that, on January 29, 1840,
6 See Gammel, volume 2, pp. 35-36. These entitlements have come to be known as third class
7 See Gammel, volume 2, pp. 554-557. These entitlements have come to be known as fourth class
8 Only about one-fourth of the 350 or so tracts of land that were eventually located and patented
by virtue of certificates issued by the Colorado County Board of Land Commissioners were located in Colorado
9 See Gammel, volume 1, p. 1416.
10 See Article 22 of Decree Number 16 passed by the Congress of Coahuila and Texas on March
24, 1825 in Gammel, volume 1, pp. 102 and 129. These charges amount to about .67 cents, 1.4 cents, and
2.0 cents per acre.
11 See Decree Number 309 of the Congress of Coahuila and Texas, Gammel, volume 1, p. 407.
These prices amount to about 1.4 cents and 2.8 cents per acre. The translation of the decree refers to the
more expensive land as "temporal land." This phrase is defined in Article 8 of Decree Number 190, passed
May 2, 1832, as "land cultivated during ordinary rains" (see Gammel, volume 1, p. 299).
Decree Number 309 allowed persons who came to Texas between April 28, 1832 and the date the
law was passed, May 2, 1835, to purchase land at the stated prices. Section 36 of the law passed by the
Congress of the Republic of Texas on December 14, 1837 extends the prices to those who came to Texas
between May 2, 1835 and March 2, 1836.
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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/m1/17/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.