Fannin County Museum of History


‚ÄčOne Main Street, Bonham, Texas

Texas Land Grant Program Geared to Dates of Immigration To Area

Bonham Daily Favorite, July 5, 1992

Texas was generous in awarded land to the stalwart pioneers who settled many years before independence. Although the Mexican government had offered land as an inducement to potential immigrants many of the settlement programs failed to live up to their promises. As a result many of these first settlers had simply taken possession of land without any legal authority.

The Texas land grant program was geared to dates of immigration to the area. First class certificates were awarded to those who could prove residency before independence.

Second class grants were introduced as an enticement for additional settlers who could provide an infusion of capital to the new young nation. These certificates were designed by laws passed after the ratification of the constitution. Heads of families were to receive 1280 acres, and single men 640 acres. Conditional to these grants were dates of immigration after the declaration of independence and before October 1, 1837. Since many of the recipients of the first class certificates had sold their headrights and moved on, the government felt that these grants should require a period of residency in order for the claimants to hold title. The recipients were required to "remain in the Republic for three years and perform the duties of citizenship."

Beginning in August of 1838 the Fannin County Board of Land Commissioner began to issue the second class certificates.  From that time until January, 1840 198 of these certificates were issued. The traveling board of commissioner certified that all of the certificates and claimants met the requirements set forth in the laws.

The records indicate that the board met for the first time at Warren on June 6, 1839 just a few months after Warren had been designated the county seat. Whether or not the board continued to meet at Jacob Black's cabin until this date is uncertain. The records only use the term Fannin County Courthouse for the meeting place. Two men who had previously received grants as single men reappeared before the board and requested the amount of acres for their claims be added to the original grants since they had married in the interim. Both claims were accepted.

Eight widows, heads of family were awarded second class certificates, Rachel Baker, Nancy Chinoweth, Ellender Boswell, Mary Cox, Elizabeth Pettigrew, Emeline Mosely, Sarah Polly, and Mary Davis. In almost all the cases these women had emigrated with the families of their grown sons or daughters and still having minor children under their care, they qualified for the grants under the immigration laws. Two other women's grants which were taken up in Fannin County were issued by the Red River board. These were Sarah Pendergrass and Nancy Crooms who later married Bailey Inglish.

Four men presented supplemental claims to the board. In all cases they requested additional acreage from the grants they had received. In all four cases the men offered new proof as to their dates of immigration. The board rejected all the claims and each man requested and received permission to appeal the decision to the district court. No records exist of these appeals.

In the four years in which the board of commissioners dispensed the land grants, ten recipients of these grants were killed by Indians including John F. Moody who was killed shortly after he had appeared before the board requesting a supplement to his original grant. The seriousness of the Indian raids is clearly expressed in the minutes of the board for December 6, 1838. The record book contains one terse statement;

"The Board failed to meet in consequence of the members thereof being called out in defence (sic) of their country."

The land program began to wind down at the beginning of a new decade. Immigrants were still be attracted to the possibility of land ownership but the grants from the Republic were less generous. Third class certificates were given to those who settled after October 1, 1837 and before January 1, 1840. Fourth class grantees proved immigration dates after January 1, 1840 and before January 1, 1842. Both class of certificates granted 640 acres for heads of households and 320 acres for single men over the age of 17. Later these grants were filed together since the acreage was the same. The exact number of grants awarded by the Fannin County board is unknown because of the combining of records, but the total number of third and fourth class grants was between five and six hundred.

These headright certificates were not the only means of locating land available to settlers. Even after the expiration of grant program, other provisions were made by various acts of the Texas legislature. In addition, some grants for military service were awarded.