Fannin County Museum of History


One Main Street, Bonham, Texas

Four Classes of Land Grants or "Headright" Certificates

Bonham Daily Favorite, June 28, 1992

Four classes of land grants or "headright" certificates were issued by the Republic of Texas through the administration of the Fannin County Board of Land Commissioners. Every person except Africans or Indians were authorized to apply for these grants after meeting certain requirements. The claims could be jaken up in any area of the Republic in the open domain. Location of the land and surveying were the responsibility of the claimant. These headrights and other bounties eventually totaled 36,876,492 acres during the nearly six years of the program.

The disposition of these lands awarded by the grants are of record in the county archives as a part of the proceedings of the land board as it sat in session from February 1, 1838 until the latter part of 1842. Some records appear to be missing. However, copies of the proceedings as well as the certificates issued are on file at the General Land Office in Austin.

Most of the grants approved locally were taken up in the area now encompassed by present day Fannin County with additional surveys located in Grayson, Collin, Cooke, Hunt, and Lamar Counties. Many certificates issued by the Red River Board were also taken up in this same area. Not every recipient actually claimed land. Many young, single men sold their certificates and the land was claimed by other parties. Whether by accident or design, most of these certificates were sold for what amounted to just $1.00 for each acre awarded in the claim.

The names of these original grant recipients are still used today to identify land in Fannin County even to the town lots in the various municipalities. For example, most of the lots east of Center Street in Bonham are identified as the Bailey Inglish survey while those to the west are of the John P. Simpson survey. When Bonham was named the county seat, these two men donated portions of their surveys to the county government to be sold as a means of funding county operations.

The Texas Constitution of 1836 provided for the amount of land to be awarded in the initial grants. When additional grants were made later, the laws were amended to reflect this.

The original grants were called First Class headrights and given to those persons who could proved residency in Texas before the Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. Heads of households received certificates for 1 league (4428.4 acres) and 1 labor (177.1 acres). Both measurements are from the old Spanish grants. Single men age 17 years or older received 1/3 league (1476.1 acres). Three women qualified as heads of household, all listed as widows: Sarah Cross, Sophia Smith, and Margret Jones.

Fourteen of the 94 first class certificates issued in Fannin County were nullified by the traveling board of commissioners, but the reasons were not recorded in the records. It appears that in most cases the claimants could not present creditable witnesses to prove that they were in residence by the March 1836 date. In the case of Holland Coffee and his partners they simply were not resident within the confines of the republic. In a few cases claims were presented in the names of deceased persons who could not be proven qualified.

The rejected claim of widow Margaret Jones is an interesting look at the attitudes of some of the earliest settlers. In her application to the board on August 3, 1838, the depositions of her two witnesses, Jabez Fitzgerald and Mark R. Roberts are recorded in the proceedings. They swore that "she had no final abode at the declaration of independence, being on the road to this Republic and in the Choctaw Nation and that she had previous that time expressed her intentions to make Texas her future abode and she emigrated to this Republic the head of a family.” At the session, Bailey Inglish and SamueI McFarland voted in favor of awarding the certificate and Joseph Murphey voted against.

Records of old Miller County, Arkansas show probate proceedings for Stephen Jones, "late of Hot Springs County." Administrator for the estate was Margaret R. Jones with bondsmen Jabez Fitzgerald and Ebenezer Frazier. Fitzgerald was appointed guardian of the minor heirs of Jones, Joseph and Stephen Jones under age 14. Dr. Rex Strickland in his "History of Fannin County," indicated that Margaret Jones left Texas after the rejection of her claim. She is listed on the tax roles of Fannin County for 1838 but not after that.