Two of the Earliest Examples of Private Land Sales in Austin's Colony
"[2 Private Land Sales in Austin's Colony - Each Signed by Stephen F. Austin]",
Subject: Austin's Colony
Period: 1825 (dated)
Color: Black & White
7.8 x 12.5 inches
19.8 x 31.8 cm
This lot consists of a pair of land deeds issued in Austin's Colony and each signed by Stephen F. Austin, involving two members of the "Old 300." Virtually all land transfers at this time period were issued directly from Austin to a grantee, but here we have two instances of private conveyances. The reason for their scarcity is due to the colonization law of 1825, which stipulated that an original land grant could only be sold after "completing cultivation." No other private sales from Old 300 members were found for this time period in the Texas General Land Office.
The first deed is from Thomas Barnett, an Old 300 member, to Joseph Stuart and dated May 28th, 1825. The three-page document transfers one "sitio" (approximately 4,300 acres) of land along the eastern bank of the Brazos River in present-day Fort Bend County. The land was situated to the north of a parcel owned by Joseph Baker. The deed is signed by "Estevan F. Austin" and Samuel M. Williams, Secretary of the Colony, and was witnessed by three other members of the Old 300: Samuel Kennedy, Pleasant M. Pruitt, and Noel F. Roberts. Stuart paid Barnett 55 pesos for the parcel. It is worth noting that Barnett received his land grant from Austin on July 9, 1824, so he was apparently able to cultivate his land to the satisfaction of Austin in less than a year.
The second deed, dated October 22nd, 1825, transfers all but 500 acres from Joseph Stuart to William "Cow" Cooper, also a member of Austin's Old 300. The 500-acre tract in the southeast corner of the parcel was sold a few months prior to Isaac Best on June 15, 1825. This document is also signed by "Estevan F. Austin" and witnessed by Old 300 members Santiago (James) E.B. Austin (Stephen's brother), Henry Williams, and David McCormick. The purchase price for this somewhat smaller tract of land was 200 pesos - a nearly fourfold increase in price in a matter of only five months.
Both documents, written in Spanish, follow a similar structure with the top line of each deed reading "Sello 2° 12 rrs. Habilitado pr la Nacion Mexicana pa el ano de 1825" ("Second Seal 12 reales through the Nation of Mexico in the year of our Lord 1825"), and signed a second time by "Austin." The sello segundo is the recipient's copy (Stuart and Cooper in this case), while the third seal (sello tercero) was held by the government. In the top left corner of the front page of both documents is also the signature of Laurence Richard Kenny, an administrator who worked for Austin.
Thomas Barnett moved from Livingston County, Kentucky to Texas in 1823 and received one of Austin's early grants. He was married to Nancy Spencer in 1825 and had six children. In February 1828, he was elected Comisario of Victoria and in 1829 he became Alcade. Barnett was a delegate at the Convention of 1836 and was a signor of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Little is known about the recipient of Barnett's parcel, Joseph Stuart.
William "Cow" Cooper, along with his wife Sarah (James), moved from Tennessee to Texas in 1822. He was also a member of the Old 300, having been awarded 1.5 leagues of land (6,642 acres) in Waller County and another 2 labors (354 acres) in Austin County prior to purchasing this land from Joseph Stuart in 1825. According to the 1826 census of Austin's Colony, he was a married farmer with 5 children, 2 servants and 3 slaves at the time. Cooper served in the Texas Revolution and furnished military supplies and horses for Sam Houston's army.
This prized piece of early Texas history was brought to us by a descendant of Mr. Cooper.
Our thanks and appreciation go out to the Texas General Land Office who provided invaluable assistance in researching these documents.
Pages are mostly clean and bright with remnants of cello tape along the top edge and top left edge of the first page. There are two small fold separations along the horizontal fold that are more pronounced in the second deed, measuring 2" and 3" respectively. The two deeds are folding and held together by a contemporary string binding.