Wednesday, December 21, 2016

John P. Coles' Description of the Boundary of Early Washington County in the Republic of Texas Including the Lake Creek Settlement

On one or two of my web sites about my research into the history of the Lake Creek Settlement I have included a transcription of Washington County Chief Justice John P. Coles' boundary description of Washington County, Texas from early 1837. I located my transcription in Annotated Civil Statutes of the State of Texas by John Sayles, 1894, Abilene, Texas, St. Louis Missouri, The Gilbert Book Company, Pp. 930-931. I had always wondered if I would see an actual primary source for Coles' description dating from the period. And now I have.

Jim Tiller, Ph.D., Professor of Geography, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas did me a huge favor by sending me a copy of the document which he had located while conducting research for his forthcoming book. Dr. Tiller advises the citation is: Texas. Department of State. Executive Record Books. Letters Received, November 26, 1836-March 24, 1841, Pp. 27-28. The document is also an important primary source regarding the attempt to create a new county from the territory of Washington County. Washington County Chief Justice Coles is letting the Congress of the Republic of Texas know that he is opposed to the creation of a new county on the grounds that there is not enough population to justify it.

In a Joint Resolution passed by the Congress of the Republic of Texas and signed into law by President Sam Houston on December 17, 1836, the Chief Justice of each county in the Republic of Texas was required to provide a description of his county's boundaries to the Secretary of State by the first day of May 1837.

The description provided by Chief Justice Cole reads as follows:

"Jno. P. Coles
relative to
the boundar
ies of
Washington County

To the Hon. J. P. Henderson Secy of State


In compliance with a resolution of the Congress passed at their late session I have the honor to report to you such information as is in my possession respecting the boundary lines of the County of Washington. I know not whether the act of the Legislature of Coahuila & Texas organizing this County was ever published, but this Court has exercised undisputed jurisdiction over the territory included with the following boundaries. viz.

Beginning at the mouth of Caney Creek on the west bank of the Brazos River thence following said Creek to its source, thence west on the dividing ridge between the waters of New Years Creek & the principal or western fork of Mill Creek until it strikes the eastern line of the County of Mina and thence north on said eastern line of the County of Mina to the San Antonio Road, from thence following said road eastward crossing the Brazos River to the west bank of  Trinity River, from thence following down said west bank to the County of Liberty (which is undefined) from thence  following said northern line of Liberty to the north east corner of the County of Harrisburg, from thence following the north line of the County of Harrisburg to the north east corner of the the County of Austin, so as to include Lake Creek Settlement, from said north east corner of the County of Austin following the north line of Austin to the mouth of Ponn Creek on the east bank of the Brazos River, & thence up said east bank to a point opposite the mouth of Caney Creek & thence across the Brazos River to the place of beginning.

A Petition was before the last session of Congress & will be probably renewed at the next for a division of this County, from an examination of the foregoing limits upon the Map it will be seen to include a large Territory, but our population is small and ill able at present to bear the Taxes necessary for the erection of proper public buildings & the payment of other County expenses, under these circumstances it would I think be bad policy to divide the County until our population becomes more dense.  I would therefore recommend the passage of an Act of Congress defining the boundaries of the County as set forth above or with such alteration as may be thought necessary.

I have the honor to be
very Respectfully
Your obt. Servt.
Jno. P. Coles
Chief Justice"