Heritage, Winter 2004 Page: 18
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Several pages from a printed broadside that detailed the settlement agreement for the Spanish-Mexican colonization of 1825.
And in those tales, land meant different things to different
people. To the explorer, land represented adventure and discovery.
To the empresario, it was an investment. For the homesteader,
it was a livelihood, and to the speculator, an easy dollar. For
those fleeing debt, it was a new start, and for the soldier, a
reward. The cowboy saw land as an open range, the oilman as
black gold, and the educator, a perpetual source of money for
For all though, the importance of land and the opportunity it
represented could not be understated. Letters archived with land
records at the Texas General Land Office give intimate voice to
this abstract idea.
It was his own homestead on Cibilo Creek that one young
Texas immigrant wrote about even as the Mexican Army bore
down on him and the other doomed defenders at the Alamo.
"There is a fine field open to you all no matter how you are situated,"
David Cummings wrote to his father from the Alamo.
"At least, come and see the county, as a farmer, mechanic or a
soldier you will do well - I believe no Country offers such strong
inducements to emmigration ... nothing could induce me from
my determination of settling here."
Long before settlement, though, for almost 25,000 years, the
land remained undivided, unpolluted, and untamed by the
native inhabitants who lived in what we now call Texas.
But with the arrival of the Europeans, there came a belief in
the right to individual land ownership, to appropriate and segregate
the earth's resources into discrete parcels that could be possessed
and exploited for private gain. The new occupiers of the
land gradually filled its seamless expanse with lines dividing
nation from nation, public from private, and a neighbor's tract
from those adjoining.
The long and often complex history of public lands in Texas is,
in the end, a history of these lines.
The authority to partition the land derives from the assertion
of sovereignty over it. Spain based its claim to sovereignty on its
discovery and conquest of the modern Texas territory and on a
papal decree issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493. Three other
governments-Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the state of
HERITAGE fWINTER 2004
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Winter 2004, periodical, Winter 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45372/m1/18/: accessed August 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.