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October 26, 2007

Extensive Archive of Maps & Documents Relating to Pioneer Surveyor John James & His Family Interests

63. JAMES, John, John Herndon James, & family. Archive of approximately a thousand items: maps (printed, manuscript, and blueprint), field notes, documents, journals, business and personal correspondence, legal papers, deeds, many land grants (signed by Texas governors), photographs, books, and ephemera. Mostly Texas, ca. 1840 to early twentieth century. Subjects include Fisher & Miller German Emigration Company, John James estate & family land holdings, International-Great Northern Railroad, Grand View San Antonio addition litigation with Dignowity, etc. Included are many certified copies of Republic of Texas documents which often contain sidelights of history not found elsewhere, such as a land litigation case in which John Henry Brown gives testimony on his early relatives in Texas, or claims for property lost in border troubles and attacks by Comanche and other tribes. Also included is an anonymous unpublished manuscript journal of travel around the Horn to California and in Texas in 1850-1851. Condition varies.

            This is an excellent archive relating to pioneer surveyor John James, a native of Nova Scotia. “John James had the distinction during his life of conveying more land to settlers and different parties than any other man in Texas. Years ago it was common talk among business men in San Antonio that James knew the location of every permanent water hole in west Texas. The name of John James affixed to a deed conveying land was in itself a guarantee that the title was perfect, and to this day of all his numerous conveyances of land his reputation for honesty and correctness has never been questioned” (Vinton Lee James, Frontier and Pioneer Recollections of Early Days in San Antonio and West Texas, San Antonio, Texas, 1938, p. 23). In the early days of Texas, James often worked under difficult and dangerous circumstances. In 1839, while surveying on the Frio River, his party was attacked by Indians and five of James’s men were killed. Thereafter two or three of Jack Hays’s Rangers accompanied James’s surveys. Many of the towns and developments James surveyed are represented by maps in this collection. Frequently James accepted land, rather than money, as payment for his services. This allowed him to become an indefatigable land developer; he worked with Jacob De Cordova, Henri Castro, and others. The James family carried on and expanded these land activities, which, as documented in this archive, shed light on urban and rural development in Texas over many decades.

Background on John James from Handbook of Texas Online:

JAMES, JOHN (1819-1877). John James, pioneer surveyor and developer during the Republic of Texas and early statehood, was born on February 13, 1819, at Gorleston, Suffolk, England, while his parents, Thomas and Ann Petty (Crosskill) James, were there on a visit from their home in Nova Scotia. He had two brothers and a sister, Charlotte, who married James R. Sweet. As a young man in Nova Scotia, John James read accounts of the Texas struggle for independence from Mexico and at age seventeen set out on a long journey south to aid the Texas cause. Delayed by illness along the way, he arrived in San Antonio in 1837. In San Antonio he was first employed by Ludovic Colquhoun to look after his land business. Soon he was made assistant surveyor and then chief surveyor of Bexar County. James learned surveying by practical field experience in the vast and largely unpopulated territory north and west of San Antonio. He began to acquire land by locating, surveying, and perfecting titles to large tracts of land in unsettled areas. He was paid in land certificates, and by hard work and expert knowledge he soon accumulated a great deal of land. It was said that James platted and recorded more land than any other single surveyor in Texas and that his name affixed to a deed was the guarantee to a perfect title. His foremost achievement as a surveyor came early in his career, when he reestablished the boundaries of the original grant from the king of Spain to the city of San Antonio after Mexican general Adrián Woll’s forces captured the city in 1842.

In 1844 Henri Castro established a colony of Alsatian immigrants on the Medina River, and James was appointed to survey the farmland and plat the town lots of Castroville. He also surveyed and platted D’Hanis, Quihi, Boerne, and Bandera. He formed a partnership in 1850 with his brother-in-law James Sweet and opened a general merchandise business in San Antonio under the name of James R. Sweet and Company, which flourished until 1862, when Sweet entered the Confederate Army. In 1852 James surveyed the site of Bandera. He and Charles DeMontel opened a sawmill there known as the Bandera Mills of James, Montel, and Company. The mill produced lumber from the cypress trees along the banks of the Medina River. This provided much of the lumber used in building the frontier Texas forts. James was also instrumental in the location and development of the site on Limpia Creek in the Davis Mountains where Fort Davis was later located, the area around Fort Stockton and Comanche Spring in what is now Pecos County, and Juan Cardona Lake, where salt was mined by Peter Gallagher and Company. James drove a large herd of cattle from San Antonio to California in 1854. With regard to livestock, however, he is better known for sheep ranching. In 1860 he imported 500 Merino sheep for his Bandera Ranch. Later, in partnership with Harry Shane, he moved the sheep to a ranch near Uvalde, where the business prospered.

At the time of the Civil War James opposed secession and endorsed the stand made by Governor Sam Houston against entering the war. He did serve as a member of the home guard in San Antonio, however. Many military figures were guests over the years in the James home on Commerce Street—among them Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, John Bell Hood, and William Jenkins Worth, who died there of cholera in 1849. James was a member and vestryman of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio. He was married first in 1847 to Emeline Elizabeth Polley, daughter of Texas pioneer Joseph Henry Polley. Emeline died in 1848, and James was married in 1851 to Annie Milby, daughter of William Polk Milby. They had eleven children. James died on November 26, 1877. In 1973 the city of San Antonio named a park on Rittiman Road for him.

The majority of the material relates to the family land and real estate ventures after the death of John James in 1877. These papers are from the files of John H. James (1852-1912), noted attorney and jurist. Background on John Herndon James, Handbook of Texas Online:

JAMES, JOHN HERNDON (1852-1912). John Herndon James, chief justice of the Court of Civil Appeals, was born on October 13, 1852, in San Antonio, Texas, to Annie (Milby) and John James. He and his brother, Thomas Milby James, were sent to Earlham College, a Quaker institution in Richmond, Indiana. James graduated with the Harvard law class of 1874 and responded to a written deathbed request from his father on November 2, 1877, to assume the executorship of the large James estate. His capable and conscientious management and later division of the property was agreeable to the several heirs. Upon his return from Harvard to San Antonio, James joined Isaac P. Simpson in the law firm of Simpson and James, which handled many cases involving large landholdings in South and West Texas. James practiced law until 1893, when he was named by Governor James S. Hogg to the new Fourth Court of Civil Appeals in San Antonio, a position he held until his death. As chief justice he was noted for his ability and fairness even when compelled to render decisions against personal friends. His opinions were clear and logical and based on the law as he saw it. James’s memberships included the State Bar of Texas, the Harvard Law School Association, the San Antonio Club, and the San Antonio Turnverein. He was a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio. On February 26, 1884, he married Maria Aurelia Williams. They had four children. The Jameses lived in San Antonio and maintained a summer residence at their James Park Ranch near Comfort, where James died suddenly on July 17, 1912.

Examples of material found in the archive:

JAMES FAMILY LAND HOLDINGS. Various notebooks, ledgers, and voluminous paperwork documenting the James family land holdings and ventures, including Kinney County, Uvalde County, Kendall County, Grand View Addition in San Antonio (including Dignowity litigation), Karnes City, Fort Stockton, Castroville, etc. Notebook records contain entries for each property, abstract number, survey number, original grantee, number of acres, value and remarks, etc. It seems likely that portions of the writing are those of John James, and some of the notes that appear to be his relate to lists having been sent to Charles de Montel pre-November 1877.This group includes many land grants signed by nineteenth-century governors of Texas, including Anson Jones, Sul Ross, Richard Coke, James Pinckney Henderson, et al.

Manuscript journal from 1850-1851 with the account of an Army officer’s trip around the Horn to around the Horn to California, service in California, and postings in El Paso and Eagle Pass, Texas. 70 pp. Folio, contemporary black calf over marbled boards. The first entry is June 28, 1850, in which the author states he left New York City to sail to San Francisco; the last entry is at Fort Duncan, Texas, September 29, 1851. Following the main journal of 70 pp. is a 3 pp. list of Spanish words in ink followed by another 14 pp. in pencil, mostly in Spanish, signed in several places on endpapers in ink and pencil by Fannie Williams--one dated San Antonio 1870.

[MAP]. DE CORDOVA, J[acob Raphael] & Robert Creuzbaur. J. De Cordova’s Map of the State of Texas Compiled from the Records of the General Land Office of the State, by Robert Creuzbaur, Houston, 1854. Without my signature all copies of this map have been fraudulently obtained [facsimile signature of De Cordova] [inset text at upper left] Reference to Land Districts.... [below neat line] Entered according to Act of Congress on the 28th. day of July 1848 by J. De Cordova, in the Clerk’s office of the United States District Court for the District of Texas. [lower left, official certification with facsimile signatures of De Cordova, Sam Houston, and others, plus seals of the General Land Office and the State of Texas, commencing] Washington City August 12th. 1848.... [lower right inset: Untitled oval map of the Transmississippi West]. Lithograph map in original full color. 58 x 54 cm. Browned and with some light to moderate stains, a few minor losses filled where formerly folded (old folds now relaxed), professionally restored and stabilized. Contemporary pencil notes and outlining (probably by John James, indicating areas where he conducted surveys). Verso with old pencil note: “For Mr. Gibson from John James.”

            This 1854 edition of De Cordova’s important and valuable Texas map was the last version published before he sold the rights to J. H. Colton of New York, and the last to bear a Texas imprint. The present map is smaller in format than other editions, which first appeared in 1849 (see De Cordova under MAPS herein for more background on this map). The other earlier large-format editions of De Cordova’s Texas map measure approximately 88.2 x 84 cm. Numerous changes and additions were made to this 1854 edition, and the oval map of the Transmississippi West now reflects the Compromise of 1850 and other geo-political developments.

[MAP]. COLTON, G[eorge] W[oolworth] & C[harles] B. & CO. Richardson’s New Map of the State of Texas Corrected for the Texas Almanac [lower right below insets] Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1866 by G. W. & C. B. Colton & Co. in the Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.[inset at upper left] Plan of the Northern Part or Panhandle of Texas [inset at lower right] Plan of the Great West [three insets below] Plan of Galveston Bay from the U.S. Coast Survey; Plan of Sabine Lake; Plan of Matagorda Bay. [New York, 1866]. Lithographed map on bank note paper, original color, ornate border. Border to border: 42 x 61.5 cm. Several small holes at old folds (very minor losses), heavily browned and a few light spots, some wear and splits at folds, old ink notes on verso, including John H. James’ signature and date of January 1, 1869. Professionally restored.

            Another of Colton’s fine productions, this one was prepared to accompany the 1867 Texas almanac published by Richardson. These maps were published separately as an option for buyers of the almanac to purchase; they are seldom found with the almanacs. For more on the Almanac maps, see Richardson in the MAPS section herein.

[MAP]. ROESSLER, A[nton] R. Map of Llano County Showing Geology, Mineral Localities, Topography, etc. (Surveys Taken from the Original Map of the General L.O.) by A. R. Roessler Drawn by M. V. Mittendorfer Publication Office: 83 Nassau St. N.Y. 1875 [upper right: untitled vignette of miners] [lower right: key, with emphasis on mineral wealth]. Lithograph map with one small section outlined and notes in red ink. Border to border: 38.5 x 50.1 cm. Expertly restored, fine.

            This map precedes the first official Llano County map put out by the General Land Office in 1879. Exceedingly rare, early, important map of Llano County by two important cartographers. Hungarian Anton R. Roessler (1826-1893) was a notable cartographer, topographer, draftsman, geologist, real estate promoter, self promoter, and “the most thorough and ideal crank of any age” (p. 156, Vassar Collection Newsletter). His training, said to have been in Vienna, must have been rock solid, because Roessler became one of the best cartographers in Texas when he emigrated to Austin in 1860. In 1860-1861 Roessler served as a draftsman, cartographer, and geologist for the Shumard Survey, the first in-depth geological and agricultural survey of Texas. Regrettably, the Shumard Survey was derailed due to the exigencies of politics and the Civil War. Unlike some other members of the survey team, Roessler remained in Texas and served as chief draftsman of the Austin arsenal during the Texas Confederacy. Though later accused of plagiarism (and worse), which Roessler hotly contested, there is no doubt that he was responsible for preserving documentation on the 1858 Shumard Survey, which otherwise would have been lost or destroyed when the geological survey rooms were converted to a percussion-cap factory for the Confederacy. Roessler was accused of stealing the Shumard survey data for private use in his mining and real estate ventures (the Texas Land and Copper Association and the Texas Land and Immigration Company of New York). In the late 1860s, Roessler worked as a geologist for the United States Land Office in Washington, D.C. In the 1870s he created sixteen county maps and at least three maps of Texas that bear his name. See Handbook of Texas Online: Anton R. Roessler; also, Keith Young, “The Roessler Maps,” Texas Journal of Science 17 (March 1965). Roessler’s incorporation of detailed documentation from the Shumard Survey into his maps make them the most reliable nineteenth-century record of the agricultural and mineral wealth of the state.

[MAP]. MORRISON & FOURMY (publisher). Morrison & Fourmy’s Revised Map of City of San Antonio Texas 1883. St. Louis: Gast, 1883. Large folding colored map in original pocket folder. Inset views of courthouse, Crockett block, and jail. Some splits at folds, one panel browned due to contact with pocket folder, otherwise very good, excellent color retention. Morrison & Fourmy are well known for their publication of Texas directories in the latter quarter of the nineteenth century. Gast is best known for the great output of General Land Office of Texas county maps, and other Texas-related maps in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.

[MAP]. CASTRO, Lorenzo. “Map of Kinney Co....Genl. Land Office October 21/73.” Manuscript map in sepia, black, and red ink, on cartographical cotton. Neat line to neat line: 49.5 x 68.5 cm. Folds a bit rough with a few losses at center fold (affecting only blank sections of the map), moderate to heavy staining. This manuscript precedes the official printed map of Kinney County printed by the General Land Office in 1879. Cartographer Lorenzo Castro was the son of French empresario Henri Castro, consul general for the Republic of Texas at Paris and colonizer and founder of Castroville, Quihi, Vandenburg, and D’Hanis. After the death of Henri, Lorenzo carried on his father’s colonization project in Texas, and wrote another work, Immigration from Alsace and Lorraine. A Brief Sketch of the History of Castro’s Colony in Western Texas (New York: George. W. Wheat & Co., Printers, 1871).

[MAP]. LOTSHIUSKY, F. K. “Original map of Surveys made on Hondo, Rio Verde and Quihi out of one league and one half by F. K. Lotshiusky A. D. 1852.” With an 1862 manuscript note that this copy was made from the 1852 original. Manuscript map in red and black ink on paper backed with cartographical cloth, ms. notes. Sheet size: 60 x 48.5 cm. Some splits with a few minor losses. Moderately stained, heavier at top and bottom.

[MAP]. TIVY, Joseph A., Charles De Montel, Joseph Jones, & A. F. Dignowity. “Map of the San Felipe A. M. & I Company Compiled and drawn from the Field Notes of Joseph A. Tivy, Charles De Montel, Joseph Jones, and A. F. Dignowity...Prepared by Alex. L. Lucas, San Antonio, Tex., Dec. 29th 1887....” Manuscript map on cartographical cloth, in red, blue, green, sepia, black, and orange ink and shading. Neat line to neat line: 53.5 x 72.5 cm. One minor hole at lower left margin (affecting only a small segment of neat line), light marginal chipping not affecting text. Moderately stained. Well executed and handsome.

[MAP]. FORT STOCKTON DEVELOPMENT. “St. Gall County Seat of Pecos Co. Abt. No. 148....” N.p., n.d. [late nineteenth century]. Manuscript map in ink on cartographical linen. Sheet size: 39 x 54.5 cm. Spotted and stained. Well executed, including decorative flourishes at lower left.

[MAP]. Map of Kendall County, General Land Office, Austin, Texas... After 1870. Printed label at lower left: Photographical Department of the General Land Office, Austin, Texas. H. Lungkwitz, Photographer. Photographic map after a manuscript map, mounted on cartographic cloth. With contemporary notes and markings. Interesting method of reproduction—photographed by Lungkwitz, noted Bavarian artist who immigrated to the Hill Country of Texas in 1849 and took up photography when he found no market for his paintings. He is identified as the map’s photographer at lower left.

[MAP]. GILES, Alfred. Bandera laid out 1854...Drawn in Office of Alfred Giles Co., Architects, San Antonio, Texas, 1919. Bandera County, Texas. Blueprint map. Neat line to neat line: 85.5 x 46.2 cm. Creased where folded and a few light spots, but generally fine.

[DE CORDOVA, JACOB]. Printed deed completed in ink, with secretarial signature of E. M. Pease, Texas Governor, granting 640 acres in San Saba County to De Cordova and his assignees, The German Emigration Company. Austin, February 26, 1866. Double folio. Other than light staining, fine.

SOUTHERN DEFENSE AID SOCIETY OF BEXAR COUNTY. GROESBEECK, W. M. (Chairman) & G. W. Caldwell (Secretary). Southern Defence Aid Society, San Antonio, July 16, 1861. N.p., n.d. [1861]. 4 pp. (35.2 x 21.5 cm), printed on grey paper, text p. [1], accounting form on pp. [2-3]. Addressed in manuscript to John James. A few expert repairs to splits (minimal loss). Rare Texas Confederate imprint, issued after the March 26 secession convention adjourned and Texans chose to secede from the Union. The stage was set to fight and lose a bloody civil war, and here a system of donations for the cause is organized by Samuel A. Maverick, John James, et al.

The collection includes some books, such as:

CRANE, W. C. Life and Select Literary Remains of Sam Houston of Texas. Dallas: William G. Scarff & Co.; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Company, [1884].

DUVAL, John C. Early Times in Texas. Austin: H. P. N. Gammel & Co., 1892.

HUGHES, Thomas (editor). G. T. T. Gone to Texas: Letters from Our Boys. New York: MacMillan and Co., 1884.

HUNTER, Marvin (editor). Frontier Times.... October 1923 to September 1931. Published at Bandera Texas. 8 vols., later green cloth. Long runs of the original edition are difficult to find. The entire series was reprinted in the 1950s.

SMITHWICK, Noah. The Evolution of a State or Recollections of Old Texas Days. Austin: Gammel Book Company, [1900].

STAPP, William Preston. The Prisoners Of Perote.... Philadelphia [Printed by C. Sherman, Printer, 19 St. James Street for] G. B. Zieber And Company, 1845.

THOMPSON, Waddy. Recollections of Mexico. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1846.

TILING, Moritz. History of the German Element in Texas, 1820-1850. Houston: Privately printed, 1913.

TRUEHEART, J. L. The Perote Prisoners, Being the Diary of James L. Trueheart, Printed for the First Time, together with an Historical Introduction by Frederick C. Chabot. San Antonio: Naylor, 1934.

($50,000 100,000)

Sold. Hammer: $70,000.00; Price Realized: $82,250.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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Note: Painting by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk is not part of the archive. It is available elsewhere in the auction.

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