Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Peters Colony Survey Map of 1849

Below is the portion of the survey map used in the mosaic project. Click on the image to enlarge it. I will explain what you are looking at later in this and future posts. If history bores you, please read no further. If you are associated with this organization, hows about a job?

In 1841, the Republic of Texas contracted with an empresario group from Kentucky, The Texas Land and Emigration Company, to encourage settlement in North Central Texas. Modeled after the Spanish/Mexican colonial system, the empresario group consisted of a set of investors whose responsibility it was to have the land surveyed and to advertise for prospective land owners; in return for which, the investors were also to receive land.

William Peters led the group of twenty investors from England and the United States. The resulting map, The Peters Colony Survey Map of 1849, is the primary source for the mosaic project described in this series of posts. 

The Texas Land and Emigration Company's first contract (1841) stipulated that the investors would retain 1/2 of the lands settled on the condition that 200 families were to be settled in 3 years. Under the colonization laws of the Republic of Texas, a married man was entitled to 640 acres and single men to 320 acres* in return for which they would live on and work the land. 

(When this deadline was not met the company was granted several extensions to achieve their contractual obligations, thus keeping the survey work alive. The Peters Colony's 4th contract (1850) required attracting 250 families per year. To achieve this, the company offerred 320 acres to married men and 160 to single men, plus a "free cabin, seed, and musket balls."**)

Seen to the right is a detail from the lower
righthand portion of the above map. Do you see the gridwork throughout? Those horizontal and vertical lines are the surveyors' section lines. Each square defines 1 square mile, or 640 acres. Therefore, each of those squares represent a potential homestead or headright. Remember that fact. It will be on the test...hahahaha...

The fact that the company retained the rights to 1/2 of all populated lands led to an ongoing conflict that finally resulted in what is known as the Hedgcoxe War. Henry O. Hedgcoxe, the civil engineer in charge of surveying and principal agent of the land company, was extremely unpopular with the settlers. On July 16***, 1852, a group of 100 armed men marched from Dallas to the land office in Collin County. Without firing a shot, Hedgcoxe was chased out of the colony.

The settlers destroyed all of Hedgcoxe's field notes and even the deeds held by him of the land they occupied. Luckily the map had been lithographed in 1849 and published the following year.

While many maps had been made of portions of the area in question by both early Spanish and French explorers, as well as by contemporary 19th century American surveyers, the Peters Colony map was the first comprehensive survey taken. It encompassed approximately 10,000 square miles including all or parts of as many as 13 present-day counties.**** It showed where there was prairie and timber and even the most minor of creeks and brooks.  It showed both major and minor contemporary trails. The decade-long project was produced from survey notes and is far more accurate in detail than maps not so constructed.

This slide of the mosaic shows the same area as the detail map above. The lines delineating the prairies (brown tile) from the timbers (green tile), though often difficult to discern, are shown on the survey. As you can see, no attempt was made by the mosaicist to replicate every little creek or even every surveyed footpath. The blue trail, shown here heading west from Dallas, is not on the survey map and will be explained later.

Now, remember the grid lines? The section lines? They are accurately reproduced in the mosaic as the 8" grid of grout lines you see here. (Again, you must remember this. It will show up on future tests...)

Teaser: Engraved tiles in the legend of the mosaic map...

* "Braman's Information About Texas", 1857, by D.E.E. BramanLands: How They Are Aquired in Texas, see chapter XIII, (pps 147-157) and "Of Head-Rights - 4th Class", (see p 147).

** Seymour V. Connor, "The Peters Colony of Texas: A History and Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlers" (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1959)

*** This date is somewhat in dispute. Some sources record July 16 and others July 17, but my son's birthday is on July 16... so, i'm going with the 16th.

**** Denton, Dallas, Collin, Cooke, Grayson, Tarrant, Palo Pinto, Wise, Clay, Jack, Somervell, Stephens and Young counties.


Susan M said...

The only thing that kept me from getting my masters at UTSA was my desire to head back into the workforce and not to have to take Texas History. Perhaps if you had been teaching it?

Aw well...fascinating Rick. Do the people know what they're walking on?

cornbread hell said...

thank you.
and no. they have no idea.

i had originally proposed incorporating a teaching aid of sorts that i might try to describe later. it was nixed for what i'll call *numskull bureaucratic* reasons.

J said...

Just been catching up on your blog. Your mosiac pieces you've shown are beautiful.