Mexican Land Grant
This article examines the costs and fees that a settler in Austin's Colony had to pay to get title to a League
of land (4428.4 acres) in Mexican Texas in 1831. This article uses the Owen Shannon League located in Montgomery County, Texas as
the example. The information in this article was provided by Galen Greaser who works as a Translator with the Spanish Collection in
the Archives and Records Division of the Texas General Land Office.
"In 1829, preparatory to the arrival of Commissioner General Juan Antonio Padilla in the colony, Austin put out a
"Notice" advising settlers of the process for obtaining a land grant. The first step was to obtain a certificate of admission showing that
the settler had Austin's consent to locate in the colony. The cost of the certificate was two dollars (pesos and dollars were on a par at
this time). As the empresario, Austin also collected a fee of $50.00 for his services, $10 upon receipt of the title and the balance due one
year later. The secretary (Samuel M. Williams) was due $10.00, $5.00 on presenting the petition to the commissioner and $5.00 one year later.
The title was written on stamped or revenue paper of the third stamp, for which the interested party paid two reales (two bits). Two pages
were generally required, making the total for paper 50 cents. These are what we might label "office fees. They totalled $62.50.
The settler also had to pay a surveyor for surveying his land. Decree No. 128 of the Congress of Coahuila y Texas, dated April
1, 1830, set the fee at $8.00 for surveying a league of land. You can find this decree in Gammel's, The Laws of Texas, Vol. 1. Previously, on
May 15, 1828, the same Congress passed a decree, No. 62, setting the commissioner's fee at $15.00 for a league of grazing land and $2.00 for
each labor of temporal land. Finally, Article 22 of the 1825 Colonization Law fixed the government dues required from each settler. The land
was classified when it was surveyed. The two main classifications were grazing or pastureland and arable or temporal land. Each league of
land contains 25 labors. In Owen Shannon's title, 20 labors were classified at grazing land and 5 labors were deemed to be arable. The fee
for grazing land was $1.20 per labor, making $24.00, and arable land brought $2.50 per labor, or $12.50 in this case. The total government
dues were, thus, $36.50. Settlers were given six years in which to pay the government, the first payment being due in the fourth year. If the
commissioner charged $15 and the surveyor collected $8.00, added to the $36.50, the total would be $59.50 for this part, which added to the
"office fees" make a total of $122.00. There may have been a few other incidentals, such as the cost of preparing the certified copy of the
title that was given to the grantee, but I would be comfortable with stating that the cost of obtaining a title for one league of land in
Austin's Colony in 1831 was in the neighborhood of $125 dollars.
The originals of "Austin's Register of Families" are part of the Spanish Collection here in the Texas General Land
By: Galen Greaser