Friday, January 29, 2016

Second Annual Frontier Families of Texas Symposium

The Republic of Texas Museum presents Second Annual Frontier Families of Texas Symposium on February 25, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. at the Austin Club 110 E. 9th Street Austin, Texas. Buffet Luncheon is $75.00. Presenters will be Dr. Carolina Crimm speaking about “DeLeon, A Tejano Family History;”  Mary M. McAllen  speaking about  “I Would Rather Sleep in Texas - McAllen Family;” and James Haley  speaking on the “Texas Hill Country.” Reservations can be made by PayPal on or send a $75 check to: Republic of Texas Museum, 510 East Anderson Lane, Austin, Texas 78752.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Clearing on the Halves - The Discovery of a Forgotten Real Estate Practice in Austin's Colony Pertaining to Mexican Land Grants

For several years I have been researching the early history of Montgomery County, Texas. The earliest Anglo-American settlement in what is today Montgomery County, Texas was the Lake Creek Settlement. The Lake Creek Settlement was located in Austin's Second Colony. While doing my research, I discovered a long forgotten real estate practice in Austin' Colony that was quite common in colonial Texas known as "clearing on the halves" or "clearing land."

First, it is important to know that Mexican land grants were not actually free.  There were a number of costs and fees associated with "clearing land" out of Stephen F. Austin's office in the town of San Felipe de Austin. To demonstrate this, we will use Owen Shannon's League which is located today in western Montgomery County.  Using Owen Shannon's League as an example, the costs and fees of obtaining a league of land in Austin's Second Colony in 1831 have been detailed by Galen Greaser, Translator with the Spanish Collection in the Archives and Records Division of the Texas General Land Office:

"In 1829, preparatory to the arrival of Commissioner General Juan Antonio Padilla in the colony, Austin put out a "Notice" advising settlers of the process for obtaining a land grant.  The first step was to obtain a certificate of admission showing that the settler had Austin's consent to locate in the colony.  The cost of the certificate was two dollars (pesos and dollars were on par at this time). As the Empresario, Austin also collected a fee of $50.00 for his services, $10 upon receipt of the title and the balance due one year later.  The Secretary (Samuel M. Williams) was due $10.00, $5.00 on presenting the petition to the commissioner and $5.00 one year later. The title was written on stamped or revenue paper of the third stamp, for which the interested party paid two reales (two bits). Two pages were required , making the total for paper 50 cents.  These are what we might label "office fees." They totaled $62.50.

The settler also had to pay a surveyor for surveying his land. Decree No. 128 of the Congress of Coahuila y Texas, dated April 1, 1830, set the fee at $8.00 for surveying a league of land.  You can find this decree in Gammel's, The Laws of Texas, Vol. 1. Previously, on May 15, 1828, the same Congress passed a decree, No. 62, setting the commissioner's fee at $15.00 for a league of grazing land and $2.00 for each labor of temporal land.  Finally, Article 22 of the 1825 Colonization Law fixed the government dues required from each settler.  The land was classified when it was surveyed. The two main classifications were grazing or pastureland and arable or temporal land. Each league of land contains 25 labors.

As an example, in Owen Shannon's title, 20 labors were classified as grazing land and 5 labors were deemed arable.  The fee for grazing land was $1.20 per labor, making $24.00, and arable land brought $2.50 per labor, or $12.50 in this case.  The total government dues were, thus, $36.50. Settlers were given six years in which to pay the government, the first payment being due in the fourth year.  If the commissioner charged $15 and the surveyor collected $8.00, added to the $36.50, the total would be $59.50 for this part, which added to the "office fees" make a total of $122.00. There may have been a few other incidentals, such as the cost of preparing the certified copy of the title that was given to the grantee, but I would be comfortable with stating that the cost of obtaining a title for one league of land in Austin's Colony in 1831 was in the neighborhood of $125 dollars."

$125 was a lot of money in 1831. Often, early settlers did not have enough money to pay these costs and fees to clear their land out of Stephen F. Austin's office at San Felipe.

"Clearing on the halves" or "clearing land" had nothing whatsoever to do with clearing trees or brush from land, as the name would initially suggest.  Many settlers that came to Texas had waited for years to get their land grants in Austin's Colony.  By the time the Empresario (Austin) had the deed papers ready, the settlers were often out of cash money when it came time to pay the costs and fees described above. Enterprising businessmen with ready cash would offer to pay these closing costs on behalf of the settlers in return for a portion of the league of land the settler was to receive. Typically the person "clearing land on the halves" got, as the name suggests, half of the settler's league of land.

The practice was a win-win-win situation.  The Empresario and the Mexican government won because they got all their costs and fees paid.  The settler won because he received clear title to his league of land without paying any money out of his own pocket.  And the business man "clearing on the halves" immediately got half of the league of land the settler received (about 2,214 acres) for an investment of about $125.00 (or just over 5 and a half cents per acre).

For instance, in the example in the section above, Thomas Taylor paid Owen Shannon's costs and fees on his behalf.  In return for paying these expenses on behalf of Owen Shannon, Owen Shannon deeded half of his league to Thomas Taylor.  This practice was known as "clearing on the halves."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Montgomery County History Road Rally. Historic Willis and Danville, Texas, January 23, 2016

The Montgomery County Historical Commission will be holding its 3rd annual History Road Rally on Saturday, January 23, 2016.  Each year the Montgomery County Historical Commission picks a different part of historic Montgomery County, Texas to make the focus of the History Road Rally. Two years ago, the History Road Rally focused on Montgomery, Texas and the historic sites around Montgomery.  Last year, the History Road Rally focused on Conroe, Texas and the historic sites around Conroe.  This years History Road Rally will focus on historic sites in and around Willis, Texas and Danville, Texas.

There will be trophies and prizes for the winning teams.  Teams of 2-5 participants per vehicle will be given clues to historic sites such as cemeteries, historic homes and churches, 1936 Centennial markers, Texas State Historical markers, etc. Those wishing to participate in the History Road Rally will meet at the North Montgomery County Community Center located at 600 Gerald at Lincoln Ridge in Willis, Texas beginning at noon.  The Rally will be held rain or shine.  Check-in is from Noon-1:00 p.m.  Road rally will start at 1:30 p.m. Each team will follow the clues given at the beginning of the rally.  Historical sites will be located by the teams and photographs of team members will be taken in front of the historic sites, markers etc.  So be sure and bring your cell phones and make sure your batteries are charged.  Each team will have two hours to complete the History Road Rally.  There will be free meals and team recognition beginning at 4:00 p.m. including trophies and prizes.

There is a pre-registration fee of $30 per vehicle and the registration fee will be $40 on the day of the event. This event is sponsored by Gullo Ford of Conroe, Gullo Mazda of Conroe and Gullo Toyota of Conroe. For more information or to register, call 936-525-7311 or 936-537-9070.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Descendants of the Signers Sought by Genealogical Consultant, Shelby Rowan, for Texas 180th Celebration

Are you a descendant of a Signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence (one of the 59 delegates or the secretary of the Convention)? The Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico was signed beginning on March 2, 1836. The Star of the Republic Museum located at Washington on the Brazos State Park maintains a Registry of the Descendants of the Signers who have proven their descent genealogically.  Have you wanted to be a member listed on the Registry of Descendants of the Signers?  Do you need a little help with your application?  Then read on.

In 2011, the Star of the Republic Museum celebrated the 175th anniversary of the  signing of the Texas Declaration of Independence and over 1500 descendants were in attendance.  That number was largely due to the research done by many volunteer genealogists who compiled family trees of the 60 signers and located a significant number of living descendants who were subsequently invited to the 2011 celebration.  2016 will mark the 180th anniversary and there is currently an effort being made to locate the many additional living descendants.  New research has shown that there are hundreds, perhaps as many as a thousand, living descendants of the Signers still unidentified.

To learn more about the Star of the Republic Museum and the Signers Project, you can go to the Museum's website (, visit the museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park just outside Navasota, Texas, or call the Star of the Republic Museum (936-878-2461), and talk to Dr. Shawn Carlson, Curator, (ext. 214), or Dr. Houston McGaugh, Director, (ext.238). On the Star of the Republic Museum website, you will find family trees of all the signers (the 59 delegates and the secretary, Henry Kimble), and information about the project and about the Descendants Registry project.

For help with your application for the Descendants Registry, Shelby Rowan, Genealogical Consultant for the Museum, can also help.  It is her objective to review all current family trees and then see where descendants of the signers, dead or living are missing.  If you are a descendant of one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, and you have not previously been identified, Shelby Rowan is looking for you. There is still a lot of work to do. Although most of the family trees of each of the signers have most of their children in the second generation identified and listed, Shelby Rowan has discovered several instances where any number of grandchildren or great-grandchildren are missing and thus long lines of living descendants are yet to be located.  You are encouraged to contact Shelby Rowan and forward this to your cousins because Miss Rowan needs your help in finding those missing living descendants.  You need to know that NO INFORMATION ABOUT LIVING PEOPLE is put on the website and the Museum does not share any of the information about living people with anyone!! Occasionally people will contact Miss Rowan  looking for cousins and she will only share contact information if she is given permission. The best plan is be at the 180th celebration  in 2016 and meet those cousins who descend from your signer ancestor personally!

March 5th and 6th have been selected as the dates for the 2016 Texas Independence celebration at Washington-on-the-Brazos as well as the Descendants of the Signers activities.  Information will be online and sent to the Descendants of the Signers beginning sometime in the fall of 2015. There will be a variety of activities on both Saturday and Sunday followed by a roll call of all the families on Sunday, the 6th.  Feel free to contact Shelby Rowan by phone, email or snail mail with any questions OR with additional names for her to add to her files. Remember, if the Star of the Republic Museum does not have your information (correct address and correct email) you will not receive formal invitations to the activities.  Whether they have your contact information or not, be sure and come up to Washington-on-the-Brazos March 5-6, 2016 for all the fun and to celebrate what your ancestor did "Where Texas Became Texas."


Shelby Rowan, Genealogical Consultant for the Star of the Republic Museum
2300 Avon Street, Bryan, Texas 77802

 For more information about the Descendants of the Signers activities for the 180th celebration, visit: or call 936-878-2214.

Photograph of Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick speaking at 2015 Texas Independence Day celebrations at Washington-on-the-Brazos with the Descendants of the Signers flag in the background is courtesy of Jennifer Searle.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Fifth Annual Houston History Conference - “On the Cusp of War: Houston in the 1860s”

The Houston History Alliance is hosting its fifth annual Houston History Conference on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at the M.D. Anderson Library at the University of Houston, from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Titled “On the Cusp of War: Houston in the 1860s,” the conference will address not only the social, institutional and economic changes in the Houston area as a result of the Civil War, but also address historical movements since the 1860 through presentations and discussions with Houston leadership, scholars, academics and the public. The format includes keynote speakers, breakout sessions with the choice of two or more panel presentations per session, and exhibits/interactive displays from local history and neighborhood organizations.

At the conference, former Mayor Bill White will present two special awards to living history legends J.P. Bryan (Houston History Hero Award) and John Britt (Betty Trapp Chapman Houston History Award), in appreciation of their tireless work in the field of history.
Presentations scheduled for the program include:

·         Juneteenth – former Texas legislator Albert "Al" Edwards—author and sponsor of House bill making June 19th a paid holiday in Texas; Alvia Wardlaw, Ph.D., Texas Southern University; Merline Pitre, Ph.D., Texas Southern University; Naomi Carrier, Independent Scholar; Portia Baker Hopkins, Lee College
·         Worrying Women, Working Women: Houston Area Women during Civil War and Reconstruction - Angela Boswell, Henderson State University
·         The Slaves of Houston from Steamboat Arrival to Emancipation - Kelly M. Ray, Chicago, Museum Curator and Independent Scholar
·         Civil War on the Upper Gulf Coast - Ken Grubb, Battle of Galveston, Wharton County College; Brady Hutchinson, Sabine Pass, San Jacinto College
·         Reconstruction in Houston – Ronald Goodwin, Ph.D., Prairie View A&M University
·         Antebellum Wilderness: The Natural History of the Houston Area - Jaime Gonzalez, Independent Scholar
·         The Changing Images of Houston, 1860-1900 - Ann Becker, Harris County Historical Commission.
·         Houston Activism - Houston History magazine staff:
o       Yates High School Principal William Holland the Third Ward Community - Debbie Z. Harwell, managing editor
o       Animal Rights Activism in Houston - Lindsay Scovil, associate editor
o       Chicana Activist Maria Jimenez - Denise Gomez, oral history intern
o       Houston’s Graffiti Art: Visual Activism - Nimra Haroon, magazine intern
o       Can Catholicism Win America? Kennedy, Anti-Catholicism, and the Election of 1960 - John S. Huntington, University of Houston
o       Our Endurance is Exhausted! The Black Campus Movement in Houston, Texas, 1960-1969 - Stephanie Weiss, University of Houston
o       A Troubled Relationship: Gay Houstonians and the Police, 1975-1995 - Chris Haight, University of Houston
o       The Texas Federal Writers Project’s Houston City Guide: Travel For Change - Michael Mitchell, College Library Director, Houston Community College Southeast
o       Oveta Culp Hobby: How a Small-town Texas Girl became a National Treasure - Debra Winegarten, independent scholar and author of “Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist”
o       The War on Poverty and the Struggle for Democracy in Houston during the 1960s - Wesley G. Phelps, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History, Sam Houston State University
o       Houston in 1860 - Eddie Weller, Ph.D. San Jacinto College
o       Race and Faith in the Bayou City: African American, Latina/o, and Anglo Baptists in Houston’s Civil Rights Movements - David Cameron, Texas A&M University
o       Hidden Heritage: The History & Legacy of African American Planning in Houston-Area Freedom Colonies - Andrea Roberts, University of Texas (Paper and Workshop)
Sponsorships are welcome; all sponsors will be invited to attend a private cocktail reception and tour of the Nau Civil War Collection on Friday, September 11, 2015 Hosted by Bobbie and John Nau and Silver Eagle Distributors, the event will be held at Silver Eagle Distributors, home of the collection at 7777 Washington Ave.

Sponsors of this year’s conference include Ralph and Miki Lusk Norton, Jan and Jack Cato, Bill Barnett, Betty Trapp Chapman, The Strake Foundation, Humanities Texas, University of Houston-Center for Public History, Summerlee Foundation, Texas Historical Foundation, University of Houston Libraries, University of Houston Honors College and Texas State Historical Association.

“It has been an extremely successful year for Houston History Alliance as it becomes a model for preserving and disseminating local history for the rest of the state,” says Cecelia Ottenweller, Co-President, HHA. “Besides this incredible annual history conference which is also the launching place for articles and scholarly papers about Houston’s history, HHA is dissipating history through a monthly local history radio program, a bimonthly newsletter and—soon—its Handbook of Houston History project that will be available online. HHA also recently finalized partnerships with TSHA for the funding of an editor position to direct the Handbook project, and an affiliation with the Center for Public History at the University of Houston to provide us office space.”

The cost of the conference is $50 per person before September 11; $40 for seniors, for those presenting in the breakout sessions, and for representatives of exhibiting organizations; and $25 for teachers not covered by scholarships from their respected school systems. If space allows, on-site registration will be available for $60 per person. All tickets include lunch and admission for a full day of activities.

For more information on the conference, to register or inquire about exhibition opportunities, visit, email or call 713-828-3030. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sad Day For Texas - Editorial by Margo I. Green - Removal of Daughters of the Republic of Texas as Alamo Custodians


Friday, July 10, 2015 was a “Sad Day for Texas” with the removal of the Daughters of  the Republic of Texas” as custodians of the “Alamo”. My husband, Tom Green, member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas; Knight of San Jacinto; Texas Army; Texas Navy Admiral and past State President of the Sons of the American Revolution, and I participated in the final hour of the Daughters of the Republic (DRT) custodianship of the Alamo.

The Catholic Church sold the “Alamo” chapel (only) to the State of Texas in 1883. In 1892, a portion of the land surrounding the “Alamo” chapel was saved from becoming a hotel when DRT members Adina de Zavala and Clara Driscoll raised the money to purchase what was left of the “Alamo” battle field from Charles Hugo and Gustav Schmeltzer, merchants. In September, 1905 the State of Texas drafted a bill, sponsored by Adina De Zavala,  reimbursing Clara Driscoll for the purchase of the Alamo grounds. Ownership of the surrounding “Alamo” grounds was transferred to the state at that time.

In 1905 the state of Texas awarded The DRT with the custodianship of the  “Alamo” chapel and remaining grounds  The DRT would lovingly  hold the custodianship of the Shrine of Texas Liberty and honored their commitment  for 110 years with little or no state financial support. The DRT has supported the “Alamo” with thousands of uncompensated volunteer hours and monies earned from the gift shop and donations .

Now, The Congress of the state of Texas voted to remove the DRT as custodians of the “Alamo”. The “Alamo” is now placed under authority of the Texas Land Commissioner, George P. Bush. It is indeed a “SAD DAY FOR TEXAS” when the Daughters of the Republic of Texas have been basically kicked out of the “Alamo”. Saving the “Alamo” was a masterful fete in the first place and continued care by mostly their own expense has now disrespectfully been discounted by the state.

Many reasons can be cited on both sides, (political, personal vendetta's, private business investments, and differences of opinions on how the “Alamo” should be run)  for the termination of the involvement of the DRT. However, I do believe that a compromise could have been reach between the state of Texas and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to allow the DRT to have an honorary role in daily operations of  “The Shrine of Texas Liberty” after the DRT’S  110 years of dedicated care and service.  

Tears fell, by the hundreds of DRT members and supporters present, as they watch the DRT’S flag being lowered at 5PM Friday, July, 2015 as the bagpipes played the “Yellow Rose of Texas” followed by a salute by the Texas Army to the Daughter followed by the singing of “Texas Our Texas”.  A “Sad Day for Texas”, indeed!

Editorial submitted by Margo I. Green.   Member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Pearland, Texas.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Texian Heritage Festival - Montgomery Texas - October 17, 2015

 2015 Texian Heritage Festival

Save the date this fall, October 17, 2015 for the 2015 Texian Heritage Festival in historic Montgomery, Texas from 10:00 a.m. until 5 p.m. Put on your cowboy hat and have fun capturing a glimpse of the living history of Texas and supporting several excellent charities while you do it.

There will be fun for everyone!: Pioneer Activities, Frontier Children Activities, Civil War Era Fashions, Chikawa Aztec Dancers, Gunslingers and Shoot-outs, Vendors with Texas Cultural Products, Dutch Oven Cooking, Texian Heritage Army (1835-1836) Tent Encampment, Texas Independence Battle Reenactments, Cannon Barrages, Music of the 1800's, AND a whole lot more! The Texian Heritage Festival will be held at Fernalnd Historical Park, 708 Clepper, Montgomery, Texas.  Adult Donation are $5.00. Children are Free!  Parking is Free!  For more information about the 2015 Texian Heritage Festival, go to the website at:

 2015 Texian Heritage Festival YouTube Video

The Board of Directors of this year's Texian Heritage Festival are: Margie Taylor, President; Bea Rouse, Vice President; Annmari Cooper, Billy Ray Duncan, Bella Dall Flynn, Jack Flynn, Barbara Frazier and Jeredith Jones.  If you would like to be a preferred sponsor of this great event, contact the Texian Heritage Festival Board or President Margie Taylor at 936-828-6881 or email:

The Save Texas History Symposium - November 14, 2015 - In the Shadow of the Dome: Austin by Day & by Night

On November 14, 2015, the 6th Annual Save Texas History Symposium will be held at the William B. Travis Building, 1701 N. Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  This year's speakers will include Lt. Doug Dukes (APD, Ret.), Dr. David Gracy, James L. Haley, Ali James, Jeff Kerr, Dr. Andres Tijerina, Juanita Tijerina and Richard Zelade. There will be book signings, archive tours, vendors and exhibitors. The Save Texas History Symposium is a project of the Texas General Land Office. If you have been before, you will want to go again.  If you have never been, save the date.

Returning to Austin for its sixth year, the symposium will look at the capital of Texas, Austin.  The symposium will feature eight speakers, including, James L. Haley, who will recount tales from the Texas Supreme Court; Ali James has details on the destruction and and construction of the State Capitol; Jeff Kerr will discuss the Pig War; Richard Zelade , will discuss his book, Guy Town by Gaslight; Retired Lieutenant from the Austin Police Force, Doug Dukes, brings his expertise to the story of the Servant Girl Annihilator; Dr. David Gracy will discuss cattle baron and Driskill Hotel founder George W. Littlefield; and Dr. Andres Tijerina, and his wife Juanita Tijerina, will talk about the Slave Narratives of Austin, Texas..

Space is limited. Register Today! For more information see or call 512-463-3289.