Fannin County Museum of History


One Main Street, Bonham, Texas

Emigration Not Only Way for Settlers To Receive Texas Land

Bonham Daily Favorite, July 12, 1992

Emigration to the Republic of Texas was not the only way for settlers to receive land. Military service offered rich rewards to those individuals who assisted Texas in its Revolution with Mexico. Two types of grants were awarded, the Bounty grant and the Donation grant. The provisions of these grants underwent several legislative changes during the formative years of the Republic. However, each change seemed to create more confusion.

On December 4, 1837 Congress enacted a law which changed all previous laws. Under this law all men who served for three months were to receive 360 acres, those who served six months received 640 acres, for nine months service 960 acres, and 1280 acres for a year's service.

These Bounty grants originally had been promised in advance of actual military service and were used to aid in the recruitment of volunteers. The records of the Fannin County Board of Land Commissioners show fifteen claims for land based on military service. However, this was not a true picture. The majority of the 47 men who served in Captain John Hart's Company claimed their land throughout the north Texas area. The survey maps of Fannin County show 25 Bounty claims for land in the county. Of these 5 are former members of Hart's Company. Other claims will be found in the surveys of Hunt, Grayson, Collin, and Cooke Counties.

The Donation grants were awarded to those individuals who had participated in the Battle at San Jacinto, to those who were wounded in skirmishes the day before, and to those who were detailed to guard the baggage (equipment, etc.) at Harrisburg. The same act creating these donations also awarded land to the survivors of heirs of those who participated in the Bexar, Goliad, or Alamo campaigns. Only one donation grant is recorded for Fannin County. In the southern part of the county is a 640 acre survey patented in the name of Aaron Burleson. Records show that Burleson participated in the battle at San Jacinto. However, it seems that he only patented the land here but was never an actual resident. Fannin County's most famous participant at San Jacinto, Colonel James Tarleton chose to take his donation grant elsewhere in the Republic.

One of the last acts passed by the Congress of Texas was the Pre-Emption (Homestead) Act. Designed as a further inducement to settlers, the act gave to persons who had previously settled on and improved and who might settle upon vacant public lands the preference to purchase 320 acres. They were required to acquire valid certificates within three years . The homestead acts were rewritten and changed over the next several years, each time reducing the number of acres to be awarded. By the time the program ended in the 1880's 4,847, 136 acres of land had been disposed of under the pre-emption and homestead acts.

Although not technically a grant, settlers in the Republic were able to acquire land certificates very cheaply. The Texas coffers were very short of ready cash. Congress decided to convert as much public domain as possible into cash. An act passed on December 10, 1836 authorized the issuance of land script for sale in the United States a£ not less than fifty cents an acre. The script is often called Toby Scrip for the chief agent of the land scrip, Thomas Toby of New Orleans. An example of the Toby Scrip purchased by Dr. Daniel Rowlett is filed in the archival records of Fannin County. One additional type of land grant was used by both the Congress of the Republic of Texas and the State Legislature. A grant was awarded to individuals or most often a group of individuals who could provide certain internal improvements including railways, steamboats, roads, river improvement and canals, irrigation, artesian wells, manufacturing, and for the construction of the state capitol. A total of about 39,269, 518 acres was granted for internal improvements. By a wide margin most of the improvement land grants were made to railroads. The acreage of these railroad grants totaled 32,153,878. Six railroads received land in Fannin County including the Texas and Pacific Railway, the first line to be completed in the county.