Texas Heritage, Volume 19, Number 1, Winter 2001 Page: 35
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budget, staff, supplies, and repository,
Borden set about gathering records, trying
to protect land titles that already existed,
and dealing with new land transactions
that were occurring fast and furiously.
Even today, most of the archival records
that Borden collected are valid public documents.
They trace the history of land
ownership in Texas and are still used by
surveyors, title companies, attorneys,
landowners, and genealogy researchers.
Borden faced the challenges of his job
head-on. He bluntly reported to the
Republic leadership his lack of resources,
problems of relying on district and county
surveyors working in the wilderness,
boundary conflicts, erroneous information,
outright fraud by some land speculators
and officials - and a shortage of reliable
maps. In April 1838, he enumerated some
of his difficulties: "The Surveyors have not
been able to discharge their duties for want
of proper reference maps...Claims are presented
in so many different ways and so
very complex in their nature, that no two
ordinary men are capable of deciding justly
upon them... Sections of the land law
being vague and difficult to be understood
has already occasioned irregularities in the
operations of different surveyors..."
Yet Borden was given no budget to hire
draftsmen. He reported in 1840: "I would
still insist upon the necessity of allowing a
draftsman for this office, who would afford
great facility in the construction of county
maps..." According to records, Borden did
hire William Sandusky and H.L. Upshur,
who were classified as clerks but functioned
as draftsmen without the titles or
higher salaries. Some of their earliest work
In 1839, the year Austin was founded,
Sandusky drew what is probably the first
map of the City of Austin and Vicinity, a
beautifully water-colored preliminary concept
of Austin. In 1840, he drew a revised
map of the city.
Upshur drew a large 1839 map of the
Bexar District that includes San Antonio,
the planned community of Avoca (near
present-day Alamo Heights), and a colorful
Texas flag in the heading. Three years
later, Upshur drew a marvelous map of
Fannin County showing settlements along
As was the case with Borden, Sandusky
and Upshur were both surveyors; after
their Land Office years, they went on to
work in drafting and surveying - Sandusky
in Galveston and Upshur in Bexar County.
"THE RECORD BOOKS, SPREAD UPON LONG
TABLES IN THE BIG ROOM UPSTAIRS,ARE OPEN TO
THE EXAMINATION OF ALL. OPEN THEM, AND YOU
WILL FIND THE DARK AND GREASY FINGERPRINTS
OF HALF A CENTURY'S HANDLING. THE QUICK
HAND OF THE LAND GRABBER HAS FLUTTERED
THE LEAVES A MILLION TIMES; THE DAMP CLUTCH
OF THE PERTURBED TILLER OF THE SOIL HAS LEFT
TRACES OF HIS CALLING ON THE RAGGED LEAVES."
- "BEXAR SCRIP NO. 2692" 0. HENRY
T hese very early maps and thousands
more still reside in the Land Office.
There are multiple maps of all 254 counties,
redrawn when county boundaries
changed, corrections were needed, or older
maps began to wear out. There are old
maps of the large districts that preceded
the state's present counties. Most are manuscript
maps - original hand-drawn artwork
- and many have never been published.
However, to say the never-pub(Opposite)
Mason County. 1859 manuscript map by
F.H. Arlitt using people as the letters in Mason.
(Left) Kent County. 1889 manuscript map by W.S.
Porter, better known as the short story writer O. Henry.
HERITAGE * 35 * WINTER 2001
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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 19, Number 1, Winter 2001, periodical, Winter 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45384/m1/35/: accessed March 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.