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50-70 word summary about this article.Quieting Titles to Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in the Trans- Nueces: The Borland and Miller Commission 1850- 1852 by Galen D. Greaser
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Title to Spanish and Mexican Land
Quieting Title
Land
Grants in the Trans-Nueces:
Trans-Nueces:
Grants
The B
ourland and Mil
ler Commission,
Commission,
The
Bourland
Miller
1850-1852
GALEN
D.
GREASER AND JESUS
F.
DE LA TF,JA
*
[land] title back to the King of
I have traced the [land]
Spain, who got it by right of discovery and conSpain,
quest, and
ancl since he ruled by Divine Right,
Right, that
hat
quest,
Gocl Almighty himself, and
ancl that
takes it back to God
is as far as I can go.
-Attributed
the Rio
-Attributed to the old abstractors of
of’the
Grande Valley I
T
T
HE
IIE HISTORY OF ALL NATIONS BEG[NS
BEGINS WITH THE
T H E STORY OF HOW
MOW THE
THE
land was explored, occupied, and
ancl tamed. In the Texas case,
case, the
process lasted two hundred years, from the late seventeenth-century
exploratiolls of central and eastern Texas,
Texas, to the late nineSpanish explorations
agi-icnlture. As
teenth-century opening of the high plains to irrigated agriculture.
the most valuable and exploitable natural resource during that span,
span,
and, as with all valuable
land became integral to Texas’s development and,
cultul.al, economic,
economic, and political
natural resources, a principal object of cultural,
conten~ion.The
T h e story of these conflicts could fill volumes,
volun~es,yet much of
contention.
it remains untold.
*Galen
4:Galen D. Greaser holds
llolcls an M.A.
M.A. in Latin American
Aniericari studies
studics from the University “fTexas
ol’Tesas at
Austin. Since 1984
1984 he has been Spanish translator
11-anslator in the Archives and Records
Krcorcls Division of the
Texas
projects. he presentecl
presellled a paper titled “SurveyOflice. Among his research prc?jccts,
“Sul.vey’I’exas General Land OlTice.
Mcxican Texas” at
a t the 1990
~ y Texas
?’exas
~ o Society of Professional
Prot’essional Surveyors’ annual short
ing in Mexican
course. Currently.
Texas
Currently, he is workiug
working ou
o n a systematic
syste~nalictranslation of all Spanish-lauguage
Spanish-lang~~agc
.l’cxas land
I;lntl
Oflice.
titles in the Land OfIice.
Jeslls
F. de
cle la
In Teja
‘Teja is assistant professor of history at Sonthwest
Southwest Texas
‘1’cx;~sState University.
Cl~ivcl.sity.[u
In
Jcsi~sF.
I C J ~he
I publishecl
TIIPAlr~rloir~
nrrrl Selected
SC/PC/PI/
(.’orrespo~ld~r~w
1991
published A R~rrol~tlior~
Revulutioll Rorarir~b~rrrl:
RI’11le11lbl’l’erl: The
Aleilluirs aurl
COlTespolldl’llre
o/.JI/IIII lV.
N.
Seguin
Eighlel’ll/h-Cell/IlI)’ S’/1/
All/Ullio, inclnding
Srguin and had two essays appear in 1/jallo
7i:jnrro Origins
Origirrs ill
ilr Eiglrl~prl/Ir-Co~/llr?
Sort A~rfor~io,
incl~~dinp
oue
Hi./ariml Quart/’rly
\’orkiug
one that lirst
first appeared
apl~earetlin the Southwes/em
Sorrthurrstrr~~
I-littorirrrl
Qrrnr/f,rkin 1985′
I 9 8 5 He is currently
c ~ ~ r r e n t working
ly
on a project titled “The
Texas” with Josefina
“‘l’l~c Colouization
C;olonizatior~and Independence
Indepcnclcnce of
ot”lcxas”
Joscfina Z.
2. V,z’luez
V57q~le~
and on revising his dissertation,
clissrl-tation, “Land
“L;mtl and Society in 18th-Century
18th-(:cntury San
Sari Antonio de
clc Bexar:
BCxal-: A
Community
Comn~unityon New Spain’s Northern Frontier,”
Frontier.” for publication.
I Max Dreyer, “San Juan de
Las
clc Carricitos
Clarricitos Land Grant
G w n t as Given to Jose Narciso Cavosos,”
C:a~~osos,”1.m
Pot.rionps
Grrieril~~icnl
Sori~l?Jotlrncil, II
11 (Spring,
(Spring, 1()87).
I 987). 74·
71.
PorrianP.l Genealogical
Surielv.Journal,
rt,/r~rrrr
446
SoutllZol’slem
Sozltl~z~rr:rfnnHistorical
Historical Quarter(v
Qua r t ~ r l y
Part of
of’ that story is.
is, the process by which the trans-Nueces
tl-ans-Nueces and far
West Texas lands
lands were legally
legally incorporated into the state following the
Mexican War.
of nlany
many
War. Voluminous
Voluminous litigation,
litigation, the genealogical interests of
Rio
Grande
Valley
Hispanic
families,
and
the
lore
of
big-time
South
Rio
families,
Texas
of land history
o ~ uknowledge
of
Texas ranching have all contributed to our
mad
in
his area,
area, but none in a systematic
systematic or scholarly way. Far from a marl
in this
free-far-all
conspiracy, the assimilation of
of’ the transtrnnsfree-for-all or aa well-planned conspiracy,
Nueces into
into the
the state’s
state’s lanel
lar~clsystem
system was accomplished by political and
institutional
institutional processes
processes that merit study
stucly and understanding.~
unclerstanding.’ In
I n peculiarly
happenecl to the transtl-a~isliarly Texan
Texan fashion,
fashion, the question of what happened
Nueces Spanish
Spanish and
and Mexican
Mexican land grants
grants must,
must, for the most
rnost part, be
studied
corltext of Texas
Texas government actions
nctiorls rather
ratllrr than
studied within the
the context
those
of
the
federal
government.
While
the
Treaty
of
Guadalupe
Hithose
the federal governnlent. While
Guad;tlupe Widalgo
dalgo established United
Uilitecl States
States sovereignty throughout
th~v)ughoutthe Southwest
and
;uld
and generally protected property rights acquired under Spain and
Mexico,
land
Mexico, the
the agreement
agreement did not establish a procedure for
f i ~ settling
set~lirlg
r
claims
annexaclaims within the
the ceded telTitories.
territories. Under the terms of Texas’s annexation to
to the
the United States,
States, however,
however, the fonner
former retained
rctained control of its
public
public lands
lands while
while the
the latter recognized
I-ecognizecl the Rio Grande as the new
Texas, a~judicating
adjudicating land
state’s southwestern
southwestern boundary.”
boundary.’ Thus,
Thus, in Texas,
state’s
claims
becarne aa matter fl.)!’
for state lawmakers.
lawinakers.
claims became
How
How the
the claims
claims were
were to be handled was a thorny question
q ~ r e s ~ i ofull
n of
and political
political conundrums.
conundr-urns. Part
l’art of the
he diHiculty
difficulty derived
derivecl from
practical and
fiom that area of
the incompleteness
incompleteness or unavailability of
of’ the records ii’om
the
Texas. Loss
Loss or
or theft of private documents
clocuments and
a11d the inability to locate
Texas.
in Mexican
Mexican archives
archives complicated
colllplicated the paper trail.
trail.’I In addition
aclclition
originals in
originals
to lost
lost documentation,
doc~unentation,South
South Texas
‘I’exas titles
titles were clouded
clouclecl by a confusingconf~ciing
to
variety in
in existing
cxisting instruments
instruments of title,
title, the vag-ueness
vagueness of many field
variety
nates to
to grants,
grants, the
the overlapping
overlapping of
oi’surveys,
l:iilu~.cto fulfill
frllIill requirerequll.enotes
surveys, the bilure
general history
lristory of
o f Spanish
Sparlislr and
ant1 Mexkan
kIrsic;~nsettlement
s c u l r ~ ~ l cand
;111tl
n t land
I ; l r ~ t ldistribution
tlislrili~~rioll
i l l South
SOIIIIIand
;ultl
,’For
For an general
ill
U’cst Texas
Texas see:
see: Florence
Florence Johnson
Johllson Scott,
Scoll, IJisloriral
IIi.slorir(11Hl’J’itllgl’
I-I~’r,~t(rgc
(11th,’
thl, Lmo,.,.
Loirlr~rlIio
Ir
trio GI’l/IIt!”
(;rcrr~tl(,V/illn
Iitllrv …
. . . (San
(Sill)
ReCIJrd
Subjllgatioll
th/’ IAIlI’I’r
IIio
Cia.. 19:17);
19i37);Florence
F l o r e n c Johns/ln
e J o l ~ n s tScott.
Scoil.
r ~ ~ IIo,’al
Ro~olLalit!
I.orrd (;,.,/11/.1
(;rcrrrl.s Norlh
hrorllr o(lh/’
111 tlrrj Hill
Kir~Gralllh’,
(;r.c~rrrl(~,
An~onio:Naylor
Naylor Co.,
Antonio:
1777- 182I : Ear(v
Lar(y Histmy
IYi~toryo[
iq’L(ir;qv
GI.~(II/,
I~(I(/(J
?
I/ Simi”
.Y/I(I~IL 10
lo Fa/ilili,’s
F(II?/~//(,.~
111 ,]r~ri.(/ic/io~~
(I/HI’vil/wl
I ~ I ; ~ I I ,…
.J,, ~
.I
177?-1821:
Lmg/’ Granls
Mad”
b.v
ill.Jllri.,dil’lillll
o(
(KioGraude
(;r;illdr City:
City: La
La Retama
Kctaln;~Press,
l’ri.ss, 1961);
~()Cig);
:lntl,j.j. Bowden,
B o w d c ~Slll/llish
Sporrr.li
~.
c~rrdAfr~xrr.rrr~
I.crrr(L Grallts
(;,nrrl.r ill
irr
(Rio
and.J.J.
/I
lid AlI’XIIWI Lalld
tlrf Chihllahuall
~:IL~/~IL(I/LII(L~L
/irquiitio~~
(El Paso:
l’aso: Texas
I?:S;IS Weslern
1Ves1~ri1
llrcss, 1171).
197 I ) , Discussions
l ) i s c t ~ s s i ~of
of
r ~the
t~ls~ issue
ei s s ~ 01′
~
01′ eland
I;III<~ the /I(I)llisili01l (El Press, transfel.~frOlu I'r-0111Mexican klesicar~Americans A ~ l l e r i c : ~to to~.Anglo-Americans A ~ sn g l o - A n ~ c r i c mare a l e found Il)11tli1in: ill: Paul 1';111l Schuster S C ~ I L I S·Llyllll'. 'll~yl(~r.. ~ ~ * I -A,I .A 11 transfers An~c~icrnr-~~lexico~~ Frorrlirr: NIII'l'(',' NIIP~IIS (:OIII~/J T".wls ?;js(r. (Chapel ((:l~i~l)vl 1 [ill, N.C.: N.(:.:Uuiversily Lllli,c~.si~y o f Norlh N o r ~ Carolina C:;II.O~~II:~ l~ Aml'1'ica1l-Mexiwll Frolllier: ell/lIIt,' 1lill, /If I'ress, 1934): 1gg,4): David Di~vitlJlontejallo, Rlontqj;lr~o,AligllI.l Angko,IIl1d N I Ii!1'"iw/H ~ / I ~ ~ ~ill inYtill' 1111~1lnhi11g1~/'7i:r.n.i. I ~ /Y!lIhilig . ~ I I I O/7I·XO.l, /II,tJ-' I ~ ' ? ( J - 1<)86 I 1/86 (Austiu: (ALISI~II: Press, Llnivcrsity of oP?i.xas 1'1,ess.1987); 15187);and ; ~ n tLeroy I.c!rtry l 1'. Graf, Gr;I',"'fill' "'l'llcs Economic I.:c-o~~ot~~ic. 1 lislor ol'rtilt' I)I. Lower Lowel. Rio Texas Press. 1'. II iSlory of University Grande Valley, Valley, 1820-1875" ~ X n o -1875" (Ph.D. (1'1r.l). (liss., tliss.. Harvard Hnrv;u.tl University, Lll~ivcl.sity,1~l4")' IO-I"). Grande :)T.R. I<. Fehrenbach, l ~ c h r e n t ~ z ~LOlli' LIJI~(, c l ~ ,S/lIr: .Yl(~r:IIA HiSllllY lIi,slory or 111 '1j"Wls 'l;f.t(r awl/he (~lr(1//I(,'1('''"111 'I;~.Y(I~I (New (New York: York: (:ollier ( ~ I I Ilic K Books, 130olI liio Gmlld/' (;r.c~rrrl(~ 1980),265-266; M/'rwJ/'s R/,IIIt,s: 1.II'I,,-,/lill I ~ H J ) ,/i7-8.". li7-8:;. Rcgioit (Albuquerque: ( A ~ ~ L I ~ L I C University T UII~VCI.S~LY ~ I L I C : of New Nerv Mexico blesicc~Press. I'rcss. 198:~). Regiol/ lTaylor, Au A n Am/'ricall-M,'xira1l A t ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ i c ( ~ ~ tFrolllier. b'r(~r~lior, - ~ l f o x i 182-184r182c ~ t ~184.See See also ;11so MOlucjano, M C ) I I I ~ ~Allglos A~I I ~I /O( J11/1/1 (rrr(1 , i!".·il'lll/. 111(,,~i1~(11r, "Taylo', ill I/LCMahillg iMn/ii?,go[ of TfXIlS, Tex~.,.')050-53, 70-7.1. Ihe 53. 70-H. Stn7li~hand lvlexican ~/l~xicu?z La r2d Grants Grunts Spanish Land 447 ments ~nentsset down in the original grants, and the complications conlplications of colleccollecownership." tive family ownership." ant1 Mexican grants required Politically, validation of the Spanish and Politically, balancing the rights of of' old holders with the interests of new arrivals arrivals T h e state government needed to open vacant land. The seeking to locate land. susland to settlement without spooking existing landowners already susgovernlllent was motivated motivatecl by the greedy demands of of' picious that the government dileinnra that on more inore than one occasion occasio~lcame speculators. It was a dilemma speculators. close to producing a rebellion against the state. Confusion about land titles in the area between the Nueces River and 1848 and 1852. 1852. Although by the the Rio Grande was greatest between 1848 19, 1836, the new republic claimed boundBoundary Act of December 19,1836, aries extending to the Rio Grande, Grande, Texas's attempts attempls to occupy and asasunsuccessful." sert de facto facto control in the trans-Nueces were largely unsuccessful." Tarnaulipas continued to issue land titles in the The Mexican State of Tamaulipas Lransactions continued to be recorded there! there.' When area and land transactions Texas finally 011 the finally exerted its political control in the area in 1846, 1846, on heels of the American military occupation of the region, region, it encountered a baffling mass of clainis, including many new ones made by settlers settlers of' claims, s certificates.Tllese These Texas headholding Republic of Texas headright certificates. right claims were located and reported to the Texas General Land Office without much possibility of proper evaluation since that office Office had little knowledge of preexisting claims. claims. 1848 assured Texas's sovereignty Resolution of the Mexican War in 1848 over the area. The T h e Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo validated Texas's claim, Urli~edStates, States, to the area north and east of claim, now taken up by the United the Rio h o Grande. Consistent with established principles of international law, of' Mexicans law, the treaty respected and protected the property rights of provisions left in the ceded area. lef'~the United States Statcs and Texas ?'exas area.'9 These provisiorls with the problem of adjudicating the validity of land claims ciairns located in Lhe areas obtained from Mexico. Mexico. the c,'Evan Evan Anders, Bms R~rlr. Rule in Em (Austin: Texas Press, hnders, Boss ill South Texa,l: Texas: The Tlrr Prugre,I,ive P~cgrcati~le El-rr (Ausri~l:University Utliversity of oSTexas I'ress, Ig82). ig82), x, X, 3, hH. Laws of Texas. I822-I8c)7 . , .. (to "H. P. ll. N. l;ammel Gammel (comp.). (co~np.),The Tlrc Lnua Tewt.~,1822-1897 (10 voIs,; YOIS.;Austin: Ai~stin:Gammel Gain~nel Book Co.. 18g8).1, 1898), I, IIlg:~-1 193- 1 194. 19'4. tvc*il~ytitles ti~lcswere welt. issued ishuetl arter after March hl;rrch ~. 2. 18~16, 18:3tj, including irrclutling five tlve or so in ill 18.18. 18-IS. 77Xpproxi~n;~tc!ly Approximately twenty The 'I'he last tiLIe t i ~ l cissned issuc!ci hy Tamaulipas 'lh~naulipaswent we111lO ro Leonardo Le1)il;it tlo Longuria Lo11jiul.ia de tlr Ia 1;i l;arza Garza on or1 April ipril II, 1 I . 18.18, IX.#S. more Hidalgo! chc Treaty 'l'rea~yof of (;uadalupe (;~~;~dalupc: I-Iitl;~lgo!COUllt (:ou111 made ~rriltlc nlorr Lhan chail two t ~ ~months no o n t l ~aher a sf ~ e rthe ~11esigning signil~gof the from: Meximl/ Lorrfl L"/ld Gmuls frt~rn:Texas -rcxas General (;cller.al Land Lulltl Office, Otficc, Guide (;uii/r To SImI/ish S'P(llrir/r al/d afrddlrxirnfl (;r.crl~l. iu ill South Sorrlh '!i'XiLI licvclr (AlIs(,~rlstill: 'l"exas 'li*xas General (;eut!riil Land Lallcl OUice. Otiice. 19H8), I $38). Lin: 'The between independence H T h rheadright tle;idright system. system, which wllich operated operalecl becweei~ i ~ ~ c l c p u ~ ~ c lancl anti e n c cthe [llc end ctlrl 011 t r l I H.II. 8.i I . allowed allo\.ccl heads si~lglrmales nlalcs establishing cstablishillg themselves themselres in i l l the republic ~.cpublicto obtain obt;~iirlanel lii~rdcenilicrrlifihc;lcls of crf families L~nliliesand single cates boards' of catcs from f r o ~ ncounty C O L I I I ~ Yfx)al.rIs o l llanel a l ~ c commissioners, cl o m ~ ~ ~ i s s i o r ~These c r a . certificates certilicates could cc)ultl be located loc;ilccl anv\'hl're iil~vvhcrc TCX;IS. in Texas. "Hunter lind Arts Stales A lIIt'rira (Ii vols,; !'Hullter Miller (ed,). (ed.). Trl'//Iil's T~.c.cr/ic. (1110Other llllenwlio1lid l ~ r / ~ v ~ ~ r ~Art& t r oorthe o/'/lri>
~ r ~ rUnited
C’~rrlr,cl
l
Stn[es 01
( J / A~?rr’~rrn
((i
vols.;
Washington, D,C,:
Printing
I).(:.: U,S,
1J.S. GovennllelH
C;ovel.nnlc~111
1’1.illti11gOlliee,
(.)ifice, 1937),
1 ~ ~ 3V,7 ~07-~:lli,
ar~.j.-a:
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