A Guide to the Fisher-Miller Colony Records, 1842-1856
Henry Fisher, Burchard Miller, and Joseph Baker* received a colonization grant on June 7, 1842 that gave them three years to bring in 600 families from Germany. Because they got a late start, they took the added measure of obtaining the same contract in September 1, 1843 thus buying them an extra year to fulfill the contract. In 1844, Fisher and Miller secured a third contract with the option to bring up 6000 families.
Fisher was able to bring 96 immigrants to Texas himself before selling part of his (and Miller’s) interest in the colonization contract to the Adelsverein ("Nobles Society") aka the German Emigration and Railroad Company aka the German Emigration Company. The German Emigration Company was incorporated in Germany and founded by 40 wealthy noblemen with the philanthropic goal of fostering responsible emigration from Germany to Texas. Their intent was to create a German colony in Texas that would continue German values and traditions in foreign lands. Henry Fisher became their representative in Texas.
The Fisher-Miller Grant was far from the coast and (at the time) deep into Comanche territory. These and other unforeseen circumstances caused delays and led Henry Fisher to continually secure extensions through the Texas Legislature. He secured many extensions directing the Commissioner of the GLO to continue the issuance of certificates to colonists until 1855. From approximately 1846-1850, the colonists were required to sign contracts transferring half of the acreage they were entitled to over to the German Emigration Company to pay for roads, plows, livestock, etc. These contracts were deposited with the General Land Office though they were rendered invalid by an 1848 law. The colonists received the full amount of land that they were entitled to by the State land laws that governed 3rd class headright certificates (640 acres for a family, 320 acres for a single man).
In 1847, the commissioner-general for the German Emigration Company, John O. Meusebach secured a treaty with the Comanche. While this opened up the land grant area to colonization, many of the immigrants had already settled in the areas in and around New Braunfels and Fredericksburg, both outside of the Fisher-Miller land grant.
Over the next 6 years, 1849-1855, 3488 certificates for land were issued to colonists. But because many had settled outside the land grant area, the vast majority sold their certificates to other parties.
By 1851 the German Emigration Company was being sued by its many creditors, including Fisher and Miller. In 1851, the owners of the German Emigration Company gave up all of their interests in the Company to their creditors. Fisher and Miller were compensated with 160 certificates for 640 acres and 100 certificates for 320 acres. The remaining creditors constituted in-name-only the German Emigration Company and received 20 certificates for 640 acres and 40 certificates for 320 acres.
*Baker's name appears on the application for the colonization contract, but does not appear on the contract itself, nor does it appear on subsequent contracts.
The Fisher-Miller Colony Records contain original documents and original (handwritten) copies of documents associated with the creation and distribution of German emigrant land contracts from Henry Fisher and Burchard Miller to the Adelsverein, aka the Society to Protect German Immigrants in Texas (Later incorporated as the German Emigration and Railroad Company).
The first set of documents includes original copies of the following:
- the first two colonization contracts, dated 1842 and 1843,
- court documents from a suit against the German Emigration Company by its creditors, which included Fisher and Miller,
- copies of the injunction against the GLO to prevent the issuance of certificates to colonists brought by the German Emigration Company's creditors.,
- reports listing land certificates issued to colonists.
The oversized set of documents contains lists of certificates given to colonists, a surname index of certificates given, a surname index of certificates given to heirs of deceased colonists, a register of surveys made in the colony districts, and a register of Certificates indexed by certificate number.
The bulk of the records are the Fisher-Miller Transfer Agreements. From approximately 1846-1850, the colonists were required to sign contracts transferring half of the acreage they were entitled to over to the German Emigration Company to pay for roads, plows, livestock, etc. They are indexed by surname of transferee. These contracts were deposited with the GLO but never honored or enforced by the Commissioner.
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[Short title of Document], [Date: Day-Month-Year]. Box [#], Folder [#], p. [#]. Fisher-Miller Colony Records (AR.47). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.
The Transfer Contracts have been digitized. Texas General Land Office Land Grant Database Input: Class: Fisher.
The colonization contracts, court records and certificate reports have been microfilmed. Original reels are stored at TSLAC records center, and duplicate reels are available at TGLO.
Detailed Description of the Collection