Heritage, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1987 Page: 34
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documentation pertaining to the specific
tract of land.
Each county map has its genesis in
these official land records. A compiling
draftsman or county surveyor constructs
the boundaries of a grant based on the
field notes of the survey of each tract.
Using a comer marked in the field notes
of the first grant as a starting point, the
compiling draftsman marks the adjacent
grant on the map. Slowly, the individual
grants come together inside the boundaries
of the county. After several months of
drawing the surveys, the lines are inked
in. On the earlier versions, the draftsman
added ornate legends and drawings as
time and imagination allowed.
Land Office draftsmen and county surveyors
have compiled and drawn over
1,000 county maps. The earliest map,
dated 1838, is for Austin County, the
center of Stephen F. Austin's first colony.
During the following year, maps were
prepared for Jasper, Matagorda, Milam,
Robertson, Sabine, and San Augustine
counties. As additional counties were
created, maps were prepared. As more
land was granted and surveyed, new maps
were drawn to replace the previous ones.
Although the earlier maps are considered
retired, they provide a valuable historical
record of the progression of land distribution
in each county. Unfortunately an
early map does not exist for every one of
the state's 254 counties. However, each
county is now represented among the current
The maps show skill and artistry, but
unfortunately, the draftsmen are not always
identified on the maps, so proper
credit cannot always be given for their
work. Names for many do appear, however,
such as Charles W. Pressler, Conrad
C. Stremme, and Robert Creuzbaur.
Pressler was a Prussian-bom surveyor who
came to Texas in 1846 and settled in Austin.
After a stint as surveyor for land promoter
Jacob de Cordova and then a brief
return to his homeland to marry, Pressler
joined the General Land Office in 1850
as a draftsman, a position he held almost
continuously until his retirement in
1899. He prepared not only county maps
but also his own map of Texas in 1858,
which he revised in 1862 and again in
1867. He also published a map of Texas in
1879 with A. B. Langermann, another
Land Office draftsman. These maps are
preserved today in the Land Office. A
colleague of Pressler's, Stremme began his
career as an architect in his native Germany.
Several years after he immigrated
to Texas he became chief draftsman at the
Land Office. In addition to preparing
county maps, in 1856 he designed the
Land Office Building, which still stands
as the Old Land Office Building on the
southeast comer of the State Capital
grounds. Another contemporary of Pressler
was Creuzbaur, who also worked on
county maps. In 1849 he compiled a map
of Texas for Jacob de Cordova and another
of the route taken by John S. Ford
from Austin to Paso del Norte.
These maps are certainly valuable, not
only for the information they depict but
also as works of art. The 1889 Kent
County map by Porter, for example, displays
a farm scene across the top. Porter
drew a rider and his horse, some houses,
a windmill, two telephone poles, and
mountains as a backdrop. Porter's drawings
make this map more colorful than
most, but even unillustrated maps might
include decorative lettering or colorcoded
tracts and waterways. These ornate
additions add to the beauty of the maps
and show the fine artistic ability of many
of the draftsmen.
The county maps are the centerpiece
of the Land Office map holdings, but
there are other maps of which researchers
should be aware. They depict the Texas
republic and state, colonies and land districts,
towns and cities, and the Texas
and Pacific Railway lands. Others show
asylum lands, military expeditions, and
sketches of routes. The majority of these
maps were prepared by Land Office draftsmen
or were compiled with the use of
Land Office records. The remainder may
be photostatic or published copies. The
earliest item in this collection is a photostatic
copy of the 1829 Mapa original de
Tejas. Other Republic of Texas maps include
those prepared in 1837, one of
which is a manuscript based on information
compiled by Stephen F. Austin. Perhaps
one of the best maps is the 1849 J.
De Cordova's Map of the State of Texas.
Compiled by Creuzbaur, it shows land
districts, colonies, and towns.
Maps have also been sponsored by the
General Land Office. John P. Borden authorized
the first agency map of Texas in
1839. An 1891 hand-drawn copy of the
original is still preserved by the agency.
Not until the 1950s were other maps commissioned,
one in 1954 by Bascom Giles
and another in 1959 by Bill Allcorn. Now
a new map has been unveiled by Garry
Mauro. This map, titled The National
Heritage of Texas, illustrates the state's
vegetation regions, river systems, geographic
landmarks, physiography, major
political boundaries, county seats, and
cities. Another distinctive feature is the
color drawings of endangered animals and
plants. Mauro states, "This Sesquicentennial
contribution to Texas from the
General Land Office is in keeping with
this agency's historic responsibility, dating
from the Republic of Texas, for commissioning,
preserving, and maintaining rare
Texas maps and plats for the use of the
public." Copies are on sale through the
General Land Office.
Two agency-produced publications,
Old Map Collection of the General Land
Office and County Maps of Texas provide
only limited information about the vast
holdings, but a guide based on an inventory
of all maps is projected. Work on
the inventory began last summer with
special attention to dates; the names of
the surveyors, draftsmen, lithographers,
and photographers; scale; dimensions;
and major landmarks or land grants. An
index will be prepared from the inventory
so that researchers can move quickly to
Far too often, researchers neglect maps
when searching land records. If they become
more aware of the value of the
maps, they may increase their use of these
visual records of Texas lands. For additional
information, including requests for
reproductions, please contact the Archives
and Records Division, General
Land Office, 1700 N. Congress, Austin,
Michael Q. Hooks is the director of archives of
the General Land Office of Texas.
Travis County, 1894. The first land title recorded for Travis County was issued to Santiago del Valle.
As far as is known, del Valle never located on his large grant, part of which is now the site of
Bergstrom Air Force Base outside of Austin. According to the map, del Valle received title to his land
on June 12, 1832, and the title is located in volume 29, page 1 in the Spanish Archives.
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Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 1, Spring 1987, periodical, Spring 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45438/m1/34/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.