A Walk Through Time
The law of Iturbide in 1823, and the national colonization law of 1824, guaranteed to foreigners settling in Texas security for their persons and property. Ten coast leagues, and twenty leagues bordering on the United States were reserved from location. The law of Coahuila and Texas of 1825, reaffirmed the general provisions of the national law, which required colonists to be members of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church. In the distribution of lands, preference was to be given to (first) military officers having claims, (second) Mexican citizens, (third) foreigners in the order of their application. The land must be occupied and a portion brought into cultivation within 6 years. To procure land, the applicant must present a certificate of good moral character to the commissioner, who gave an order for the survey; and when the field notes were returned to the office, a patent was issued, upon stamped paper, signed by the empresario and land commissioner.
Under Austin's first contract, by previous agreement, the colonists were to pay 12 1/2 cents an acre. This, however, was never collected. Under the general law, the stamped paper cost between $2-3, and the whole cost of a league of land amounted to about $180. In 1832, the citizens of Bexar, in their remonstrance to the general government, complained that in Texas a league of land cost from $100-300, while in other Mexican States it could be obtained for from $15-30.
In the printed forms of permits given by Austin (as civil and military commander of the colony forming on the Colorado and Brazos Rivers in the province of Texas, under the government of New Spain), in 1821, to families under the first contract, there was promised to each man 640 acres, to his wife 320, to each child 160, and to each slave 80 acres. When Austin reached the city of Mexico and applied for a section of land for each family, the Mexican officers misunderstood the term section, and supposed he meant township. They replied that that was too much for a single family, but that they were willing to give each one a league, 4,428 acres for grazing purposes, and an additional 177 acres, for cultivation. A single man obtained 1/3 of a league, which was increased to a league if he married. If a colonist erected a mill, or made other valuable improvements for the public good, he received a handsome land subsidy. Mechanics and merchants received town lots for shops and stores, and also out-lots, with grounds for gardens and for family residences. For introducing one hundred families, the empresario was entitled to five leagues and five labors of land; with this restriction, however, that one person could hold in his own right only eleven leagues. Any amount above that must be speedily disposed of, or it would revert to the government.
The land commissioner was an important officer; he superintended surveys, to see that claims did not clash, and, in conjunction with the empresario, issued land titles. He laid off all towns, and was required to see that these towns had four leagues of land; the streets to run parallel, crossing each other at right angles; having suitable squares designated for churches, school-houses and other public buildings. The commissioners appointed alcaldes, regidores, etc. (officers corresponding with those of mayor, recorder, etc.). These civil officers constituted the ayuntamiento (town council, or police court). The commissioner also established ferries, and, in conjunction with the empresario, exercised all the functions of civil government.