A Guide to the Land Grants, 1769-1918
Following the Spanish crown’s first land grant in Texas in 1716, large tracts of property were bequeathed along the San Antonio River valley by the 1750s. During the mid-18th century, private land was documented, surveyed, and divided into porciones, or long thin strips of land, by a Spanish royal commission in southern Texas, while tracts of land in North Texas were informally granted to settlers. After the Spanish crown opened Texas to foreigners in 1820, Stephen F. Austin signed a contract under President Agustín de Iturbide’s colonization law in order to draw settlers from Louisiana. Despite Iturbide’s fall from power in 1823, Austin managed to secure his agreement under the new Mexican government. Other colonists, or empresarios, also negotiated contracts in an effort to draw more families to the region in exchange for enforcing Mexican law in their settlements. Women were also granted land under certain circumstances, such as the wealthy and widowed.
After the Texas Revolution, Spanish and Mexican land grants were honored while the new government issued headright grants - conditional grants with explicit requirements. In 1845, the Pre-emption Act passed, giving current settlers the advantage of purchasing up to 320 acres of land, though this was overruled by the Homestead Act of 1854 which restricted the amount of land to 160 acres. During the Reconstruction era, veterans of the revolution and the disabled Confederate soldiers were granted large tracts of land. In addition to colonists, land was bequeathed to companies and other entities for the construction of public works and infrastructure.
Lang, Aldon S. and Christopher Long. "Land Grants."Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed July 1, 2011. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mpl01.
Composed of legal papers, the Land Grants, 1769-1918, document the settlement of Texas during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, especially during the Republic. Papers consist of deeds, wills, and agreements concerning land grants, as well as headright grants, and property in various parts of Texas and Mexico, such as Houston, Jefferson, McLennan, and Milam counties. Additionally, the documents involve veterans of the Mexican War, as well as both men and women as recipients and grantors of property.
This collection is open for research use.
Land Grants, 1769-1918, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s "History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light" project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers