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Massive Texas Land Fraud—Certificate with Miniature Map of Texas

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203.     GALVESTON BAY & TEXAS LAND COMPANY. Ornate lithograph land certificate with two cherubs reading at top right, decorative sidebar at left, untitled map at lower left of southeast Texas with Company lands indicated by shading (6.5 x 10 cm). At lower center: E.S. Mesier’s Litho. [scrubbed]; certificate completed in manuscript, lithograph text commences: Galveston Bay & Texas Land Company No. [10489] This certifies, 177-136/1000 Acres. That the Subscribers as the Trustees and Attorneys of Lorenzo de Zavala, Joseph Vehlein, and David G. Burnet, have given and do hereby give to [William G. Buckner] and h[is] legal representatives the bearer hereof, their consent to the location of, and holding in severalty, One Labor of Land within the Limits of Four Adjoining Tracts of Land in Texas…. New York, October 16, 1830. Signed in ink by Company officers Anthony Dey, W.H. Sumner, G.W. Curtis, and W.H. Willson, endorsed on verso by bondholder Wm. Buckner. Folio broadside (32 x 20.4 cm) printed on onionskin paper. Remains of old paper mount at top, creased where formerly folded, light marginal browning, overall good, in handsome old walnut frame with gilt liner.

     Streeter 1117. Streeter Sale 304. There are several versions known of this imprint and no priority has been assigned, but this is likely a late one because the stone is worn and the lithographer’s identity has been scrubbed. The existence of so many variants of this certificate would seem to indicate that the Company indiscriminately issued as many of them as it possibly could. See Streeter 1117, who documents the certificate for one labor of land (as here), whereas copies exist for one sitio of land. There are also variations in the method of printing and other details. The present certificate is lithographed rather than engraved; variances occur on the map, e.g., here the names for the Brazos and Navasota Rivers have been moved farther right; the line border on the right is not so sharp as in the engraved version; the date in the last line of the present version reads 16th. October 1830, whereas in the engraved version, the date appears as 16. October 1830; etc.

     An unusual feature of this land certificate is its attractive miniature map of southeast Texas and the Louisiana border, locating towns (San Felipe de Austin, Brazoria, Nacogdoches, etc.), Austin’s Colony, roads, rivers, Caddo Lake, Sabine Lake, Galveston Island, etc. Peters (America on Stone, p. 280) comments on the lithographers: “The Mesiers produced an enormous mass of lithographed sheet music at 28 Wall Street, but there are also other prints of interest…. They were important, early, and their work is scarce and almost always of interest.”

     One of the more interesting and controversial of the colonization companies, the Galveston Bay & Texas Land Company energetically promoted lands between the San Jacinto and Sabine Rivers. At five cents an acre, naturally sales were brisk. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the colonists, Mexico had put into effect the Law of April 6, 1830, prohibiting further Anglo colonization in Texas. When the immigrants, who were mostly Europeans, arrived in Texas, Mexican officials refused to allow them to settle. The hoodwinked colonists were permitted to build huts and plant gardens but were left on their own to try to acquire land holdings.

     This is one of the primary documents that led to considerable confusion among “purchasers” of the Company’s land. Despite the impressive look of the document and the handsome little map, the only consideration the purchaser of it received was the privilege of locating a labor of land; the land then had to be subsequently purchased in one of the grants given to Vehlein, Zavala, or Burnet. This is an early shot in a barrage of printed materials filled with accusations, recriminations, apologias, and defenses by both the Company and its critics. See: Barker, Life of Austin, p. 298; Handbook of Texas Online: Galveston Bay & Texas Land Company; and Williams, The Animating Pursuits of Speculation.


Sold. Hammer: $600.00; Price Realized: $720.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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