Texas General Land Office, Archives & Records

A Guide to the Austin's Colony Records, 1823-1841


Creator: Austin, Stephen F., (Stephen Fuller), 1793-1836
Title: Austin's Colony Records
Dates: 1823-1841
Abstract: Austin's Colony was the first and largest Anglo-American settlement in Mexican Texas and was established by Stephen F. Austin in 1821. The Records include contracts, land titles, surveyor's field notes, correspondence, registers, and plats of surveys created as a result of the process by which settlers were admitted to the colony and given title to land.
Identification: AR.87.AU
Quantity: 62.26 Linear feet, (37 document boxes, 23 bound volumes, 40 manuscript maps)
Location: File Vault, Map Vault
Language: Materials written predominantly in Spanish. Some materials written in English.
Repository: Texas General Land Office, Archives & Records

Historical Note

Austin's Colony was the first and largest Anglo-American settlement in Mexican Texas and was established by Stephen F. Austin in 1821. It was authorized by the Mexican government and allowed for the introduction of 300 families into Texas. Austin received permission to introduce an additional 1700 families into the colony between 1825 and 1831 under the terms of four colonization contracts made with the state of Coahuila and Texas under Mexican laws providing land for immigrants. By the time the colonial land offices were closed in 1835, almost 1,000 land titles had been issued in Austin's Colony.

The main area of Austin's Colony was located in southeast Texas within an area bounded by the Lavaca and San Jacinto rivers, the San Antonio Road, and the coast. A small settlement, called the "little colony," was also established along the Colorado River above the San Antonio Road, near the present-day city of Austin. The town of San Felipe, founded on the Brazos River in 1824, served as the capitol of the colony and the location of Austin's land office. Other towns founded during this period in Austin's Colony include Matagorda, Brazoria, Columbia, Independence, and Washington-on-the-Brazos.

The primary business of the colony was the introduction of new settlers and the distribution of land. As the contractor, Austin was the principal organizer and administrator of the colony. Besides Austin, several other people were involved in the colony's affairs. A land commissioner was appointed to represent the government and was responsible for administering and recording the land titles and organizing the archives of the colony. In July 1823, Governor Luciano Garcia appointed Felipe Enrique Neri, the Baron de Bastrop, as the first commissioner for Austin's Colony. Subsequent commissioners included Gaspar Flores, Miguel Arciniega, Stephen F. Austin (acting as his own commissioner), and Robert Peebles. Samuel May Williams was hired by Austin in 1823, and performed a prodigious amount of work as secretary, title clerk and agent for Austin, and ultimately was his partner in the final colony contract. By 1834, the duties of land office clerk were increasingly performed by Gail Borden, Jr. Surveyors played an important role in the title process and included Rawson Alley, Gail Borden, Jr., John P. Borden, Thomas H. Borden, Samuel P. Browne, Horatio Chriesman, John Cook, Samuel Dickson, Jesse U. Evans, Isaac Hughes, Seth Ingram, John Jiams, Francis W. Johnson, James Kerr, George W. Patrick, John Goodloe, Warron Pierson, William Selkirk, Bartlett Sims, H. Smith, and Elias R. Wightman.

For more information on Austin's first colony, see the entry for Old Three Hundred at the Handbook of Texas Online.

For more information on Stephen F. Austin, see the entry for Austin, Stephen Fuller (1793-1836) at the Handbook of Texas Online.

Scope and Contents of the Records

The Austin Colony Records consist of 62.26 linear feet of documents such as contracts, land titles, surveyor's field notes, correspondence, registers, and plats of surveys dating from 1823 to 1841 (bulk 1825-1835), created as a result of the process by which settlers were admitted and given title to the land.

The records largely reflect the land title process, which involved several formalized steps carried out in compliance with the requirements of the Mexican colonization laws. In general, the main activities documented in the records are those of admitting settlers, surveying land, and awarding titles. Some items are also present which document the authorization of Austin's various contracts and other matters of general concern to the colony.

Some items are also present which document the authorization of Austin’s various contracts and other matters of general concern to the colony. The English Field Notes are books and notebooks of surveys made by for the colony by Anglo surveyors, which were then copied and translated into Spanish and filed with the land grant files. Austin’s Register of Families, written in 1825, consists of a list of colonists, their families and any dependents or enslaved persons, and from where they emigrated. For the titles created through each empresario contract fulfilled, there are 5 volumes (1840-1841) containing English translations of the titles and one volume of transcribed English translations of field notes (undated).

Nearly half of the material, 28 linear feet, comes from the survey plats and from the Corrected Map of Austin's Colony, the latter of which measures 8 ft. x 8 ft. The maps are stored in 7 map case drawers.


Austin's Colony Records are arranged into 4 series:
1. Contract Records and correspondence, 1825-1836 includes one sub-series:
a. Correspondence relating to land distribution, 1825-1836
Because the Records are physically part of the Spanish Collection, the contract records and correspondence are mixed in with material from other collections which accounts for the addition of 7 document boxes while only adding 5 linear inches of material to the collection.
2. Titles, 1824-1835
3. Testimonios and character certificates, 1830-1835
4. Survey field notes and maps, 1824-1837; undated


Access Restrictions

Unrestricted access.

Use Restrictions

Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted and may be freely used in any way. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).

Index Terms

Arciniega, Miguel, Commissioner
Arizpe, José Ignacio de, Governor
Barnett, Thomas
Bastrop, Baron de, 1759-1827
Becerra, Manuel
Blanco, Víctor
Browne, Samuel P.
Buentello, Tomás
Chriesman, Horatio, 1797-1878
Cos, Martín Perfecto de, 1800-1854
Eca y Múzquiz, Rafael, Governor
Elozúa, Antonio, ca. 1783-1833
Flores de Abrego, José Gaspar María, Commissioner, 1781-1836
García, Luciano, Governor
Gonzales, Rafael, Governor
Irala, J. Mariano
Johnson, Francis White
Letona, José María de, Governor, 1799–1832
López, Gaspar Antonio
Martínez, Antonio, Governor, -1823
Mier y Terán, Manuel de, 1789-1832
Miller, James B.
Músquiz, Ramón
Navarro, Jose Antonio, 1795-1871
Navarro, Ángel, 1748-1808
Perry, James F.
Piedras, José de las, -1839
Saucedo, José Antonio
Steele, William H.
Trespalacios, José Félix, Governor, -1835
Trudeau, Félix
Ugartechea, José Domingo, -1839
Valle, Santiago del
Viesca, Agustín, Governor, 1779-1845
Viesca, José María
Ximénez, Manuel
Austin's Colony (Tex.)
Coahuila and Texas (Mexico)--History--Sources
Emigration and immigration--Texas
Land titles--Texas
Public records--Texas
Spanish Collection

Related Archival Materials note

Related archival material in the archives of the Texas General Land Office:

1. Statement made by Stephen F. Austin to the President of the Senate of Texas, December 5, 1836 (9 pages). [GSC 4.19] to Robertson’s Colony.

2. Draft of James F. Perry’s report to the Texas Congress on Austin’s Colony, nd (6 pages). [GSC 4.22]

3. S.F. Austin vs. The Republic, Decrees and Injunctions #1. Copies of documents from the District Court at Harrisburg, 1838.

4. Excerpts from the Character Certificates appear in Character Certificates in the General Land Office of Texas, edited by Gifford White, Ingmire Publications, 1985. GLO Library Collection F 385 W533 1985.

Related archival material in the archives of the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin:

Additional correspondence and documents pertaining to the government regulation of Austin's Colony appear in the Bexar Archives.

The bulk of Austin's correspondence is located in the Austin Papers at the Briscoe Center. Most of these letters have been published in the Austin Papers, edited by Eugene Barker.

Administrative Information

Custodial History note

The first Texas land commissioner, John P. Borden, obtained the Austin Colony Records in 1837 as part of his orders to acquire all records pertaining to land grants in the possession of empresarios and other authorities. The earliest known inventory of the records of Austin's Colony was prepared November 14, 1835 by Asa Mitchell, Robert Peebles, and C. C. Dyer, acting as commissioners for the Consultation when the Mexican land offices were closed. The general description in that list agrees with the present inventory of the Austin's Colony Records.

Preferred Citation

[Short title of Document], [Date: Day-Month-Year]. Box [#], Folder [#], p. [#]. Austin's Colony Records (AR.87.AU). Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin.

Digital Copies

Materials have been digitized. See the Texas General Land Office Land Grant Database and input the surname of the individual grantee.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Contract Records and correspondence, 1825-1836

Contract Records and correspondence, 1825-1836
Correspondence Relating to Land Distribution, 1825-1836
SC Aisle Letter, Jesse U. Evans to S.F. Austin, (in English), Survey field notes, Book 2, p. 10, July 18, 182[?]
Broadside: Notice to Emigrants, (in English), Austin’s register of families, Volume 2, p. 1, Nov. 20, 1829
Box Folder
SC 29 8-9 Miscellaneous documents: Includes a letter, certificate of admission, eviction order, and deed of sale from the town of Brazoria (in English), 1828-1834
7 Mexican Passports to Texas, 1831-1832

Titles, 1824-1835

SC 1-5 Titles fulfilling contract of 1823, 1824-1828
SC Aisle "Translation of the records [registro] of documents and titles in Austins first colony 1840", (Vol. 1, Vol. 2: p. 1-28) 1840
SC 6-13 Titles fulfilling contract of 1825, 1827-1832
SC Aisle "Translation of titles issued under the second contract [500 families] of Stephen F. Austin with the government of Coahuila & Texas, Austin, 1840", (3 volumes: Vol. 3, p. 1-182) 1840
SC 18 Titles fulfilling contract of 1827 "Little Colony", 1832
SC Aisle Translation of titles of Austin's "Little Colony" in "Translation of the records [registro] of documents and titles in Austin's first colony 1840", Vol. 2, p. 341-461, 1841
SC 14-17 Titles fulfilling contract of 1828 "Coast Colony", 1829-1832
SC Aisle Translation of titles of Austin's "Coast Colony" in "Translation of the records [registro] of documents and titles in Austin's first colony 1840", Vol. 2, p. 30-339, 1841
SC 19-21 Titles fulfilling contract of 1831 "Austin and Williams Contract", 1835
SC Aisle Translation of titles of Austin and Williams' Colony in "Translation of titles issued under the second contract [500 families] of Stephen F. Austin with the government of Coahuila & Texas, Austin, 1840", Vol. 3, p. 183-366, 1841
SC 22 Special Titles, 1831-1832
SC 23 Unfinished special titles, 1831-1832
Incomplete titles, 1831-1832
SC 24 Unfinished titles, 1831-1832
SC Aisle Registro (Register of titles), 1827

Testimonios and character certificates, 1830-1835

SC 24 Testimonios, 1831-1832
SC 25-28 Character Certificates, 1830-1835
Scope and Contents of the Records
These materials include applications for admission to the colony, letters of recommendation, and certificates of admission. The applications are formal requests for admission to the colony and generally contain information as required by Article 3 of the 1825 state Colonization Law, which includes name and age of applicant, marital status, name and age of wife, number of family members, occupation, and date of immigration. The place of origin is often also included. Letters of recommendation were written on behalf of the applicants attesting to their good character. Materials are written mostly in English, though some are in Spanish.
SC Aisle "Austin's Register of Families", Vol. 1, 1825-1831
"Austin's Register of Families", Vol. 2, 1834-1835
Scope and Contents of the Records
Bound registers recording applicants for admission to Austin’s Colony. Information entered includes name of applicant, where from, date of arrival, date of application, civil status, name and age of spouse, number of children and dependents, occupation, and remarks. An index to applicant names is included.

Survey field notes and maps, 1824-1837; undated

SC Aisle Survey field notes, (12 bound volumes), 1824-1835
General note
These are the field notes in English sent to Austin’s land office by the colony’s surveyors to describe the land grant boundaries.. Perry’s report to the Texas Senate in 1837 indicates that they were loose; a note at the beginning of book 1 of the field notes 1 indicates that they were kept in bundles and suggests that field notes were roughly organized according to water course or area. These bundles were bound at some time after their acquisition by the Texas General Land Office and most of the original order was retained. Some include detailed plats of individual or connected surveys. Most entries are signed by the original surveyor. Surveys within a group generally appear in the order in which they were made by a particular surveyor, though there are exceptions with random documents appearing. In addition, a few letters and other items are bound into the books. Book C of the field notes contains journal entries of a surveying trip headed by Francis W. Johnson interspersed with the field notes.
The format of the field notes follows a standard formula with little variation. Most of the field notes indicate the amount of land and who it was surveyed for--although in many cases the name was filled in later. Surveys after about 1828 were generally numbered with corresponding numbers shown on the plat maps. Many of the field notes are dated and signed by the surveyor and may include sketches, some of which show features of historical value, such as roads.
Box Folder
GSC 9 1-4 Surveyor’s notebooks, (16 small books), 1831-1834
General note
These notebooks contain the working field notes of one or more surveyors. One book has John P. Borden’s name on it; none of the others indicate who they might have belonged to. The handwriting and the areas surveyed suggests that the others were used by John P. Borden and his brother Thomas Borden. Additional surveyor’s notebooks from Austin’s Colony are located in the Austin Papers at the Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
SC Aisle "Record of field notes", 485 pp., July 1837
General note
Field note book containing the field notes of all the surveys of land granted in the first contract of colonization by the empresario Stephen F. Austin together with the field notes of the intermediate and adjoining surveys on the principal rivers and water courses granted in said first contract and likewise the field notes of many recent surveys of lands granted in the contract of Austin and Williams, many of which were taken [from] the original titles.
Presumably, this book, which is in the handwritting of John Borden, was prepared about the same time that a connected map of Austin’s Colony was made to establish the correct location of all the Austin Colony surveys. Comments in J.F. Perry’s report to Congress in 1837 probably refer to this book.
James F. Perry to Senate of the Republic of Texas, Nov 13, 1837, Texas State Library and Archives Commission:
The laborious task of copying all the loose field plots, in a book, to preserve them for future reference, was commenced, and a large portion of the work was performed at great expense, but the requisition of the law for the delivery of the papers to the Commissioner General of the Land Office did not allow time sufficient for its completion...
"Index to field notes in Austin’s Colonies", undated
SC Aisle "Trascript [sic] of field notes, Austin Colonies", p. 1-310. undated
24, 32 Survey plats (40 manuscript maps), 1824-1836
Scope and Contents of the Records
Plats of surveys prepared by surveyors to show land grant boundaries. Most of the maps are undated and unsigned. Notations on the plats include names of grantees, references to field notes, descriptive notes (e.g., “prairie”), and indications regarding whether titled or not. Numerous cross-outs of names on some of the plats suggest that these may have been working maps used in Austin’s land office.
1 "Connected Map of Austin’s Colony." Commenced by S.F. Austin, 1833. Completed by J.F. Perry, 1837. Projected by John P., Thomas H., and Gail Borden, 1833-1837