Texas Heritage, Volume 19, Number 1, Winter 2001 Page: 38
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lished maps have not been used would be
untrue. They have been used and used and
used. They really are the public maps of
Texas, and as the aforementioned quote,
from an O. Henry short story relates, public
use of the maps has been going on since
they were drawn.
Land Commissioner Borden resigned his
position in 1840, frustrated that his pleas
for more resources were not met and bothered
by the fact that he could not speed up
the land patent process without those
Henry Walton Raglin was named to
replace Borden and served until 1841,
when Thomas William "Peg Leg" Ward
was appointed and served for seven years.
An Irishman, Ward came to Texas in
1835 and fought at the December 1835
siege of Bexar, where he lost a leg. He
moved to Austin in 1839 as chief clerk of
the Congress and became mayor of Austin
in 1840, coordinating the sale of town lots
in the new city. By the time Ward was
appointed land commissioner, Sandusky
had left the Land Office to become
Mirabeau B. Lamar's secretary, but Upshur
Ward lost another limb, his right arm,
when a cannon misfired during the San
Jacinto Day celebration of 1841, but he persevered
- perhaps facing even more problems
in his work than from his wounds. His
reports to the Texas Congress conveyed the
same kind of frustration that Borden previously
expressed. His 1841 report to
Congress states: "From the services of the
draughtsmen of this office, the Country has
derived much benefit, and would be much
more benefited if we had two."
In 1841, Ward wrote county surveyors
reminding them that they were required by
law to make a connected map of all the surveys
in their county, with regular updates,
and to send a copy to the Land Office. He
offered this advice to the Nacogdoches
County surveyor about the copy for the
Land Office, saying that if the surveyor had
complied with drawing the original map,
"your work will be light - as a copy taken
from your map on tracing paper will be all
sufficient - and can be more easily forwarded
than though it should be made on heavy
drawing paper as also that the cost of making
a fine map would be avoided."
Then came the great Archive War of
1842, when "Peg Leg" was lucky not to lose
another limb. That spring, a division of the
Mexican Army took the town of San
Antonio. Houston called an emergency session
of Congress to convene in Houston
and ordered that all archives be moved
from Austin to Houston. A group of Austin
citizens believed Houston's real intent was
not protecting the archives from the
Mexican Army but to move the Capital
back to Houston. They formed a vigilante
group to keep the archives in Austin.
Austin innkeeper Angelina Eberly fired a
cannon at the men moving the archives,
Ward among them, and then the vigilantes
overtook the wagons carrying the documents
and moved them back to Austin.
With such a tumultuous beginning, it is
a wonder that any of those early land
records survived, but somehow they did.
"IF YOU SHOULD CHANCE TO VISIT THE GENERAL
LAND OFFICE, STEP INTO THE DRAUGHTSMEN'S
ROOM AND ASK TO BE SHOWN THE MAP OF SALADO
COUNTY. A LEISURELY GERMAN...WILL BRING IT
TO YOU. IT WILL BE FOUR FEET SQUARE, ON HEAVY
DRAWING-CLOTH. THE LETTERING AND THE FIGURES
WILL BE BEAUTIFULLY CLEAR AND DISTINCT.
THE TITLES WILL BE IN SPLENDID, UNDECIPHERABLE
GERMAN TEXT, ORNAMENTED WITH
CLASSIC TEUTONIC DESIGNS - VERY LIKELY
CERES OR POMONA LEANING AGAINST THE INITIAL
LETTERS WITH CORNUCOPIAS VENTING GRAPES
AND WEINERS." -"GEORGIA'S RULING" O. HENRY
n the mid-1800s, the Land Office was an
indirect beneficiary of political unrest in
Germany. Many German professionals -
including architects, engineers, surveyors,
and draftsmen - left their native land for
the frontiers of North America. These professionals
found a home at the Land Office.
Among them were Charles W. Pressler; his
son, Herman; William von Rosenberg; his
son, Ernst; Conrad Stremme; and Herman
The two Presslers drew many county
maps at the Land Office, as county boundaries
changed and new counties evolved.
Their county maps are considered among
the best, both in accuracy and artisanship.
In 1879, Charles W. Pressler and A.B.
Langermann compiled a map of the state
that was printed in three sizes - the largest
of which was more than eight by eight feet.
Two copies of this giant tinted lithograph
exist at the Land Office today, as well as
the many unique county maps they drew.
The von Rosenbergs also drew many county
maps in the latter half of the 19th century,
and their maps remain pertinent today.
In 1861, the Land Office temporarily
explored the use of photography to copy
county maps, with architect and draftsman
Conrad Stremme as chief of the photographic
department. He also drew wonderful
maps, such as an 1868 map of Houston
County with a fanciful friar-like character
holding a jug of wine. Stremme is probably
best remembered as architect of the old
General Land Office building, just southeast
of the Capitol, begun in 1856. Now
housing the Capitol Visitors Center, the
restored castle-like structure is on the
National Register of Historic Places.
HERITAGE * 38 * 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/m1/38/: accessed June 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.