Attractive Lamar County, Texas manuscript survey by a family patriarch

John [West?] Onstott [?], JNO ONSTOTT’S SURVEY. [Hunt, TX, ca. 1871-4.]
Pen and ink and watercolor wash on wove paper, 21 5/8”h x 17 3/8”w at border plus margins. Some losses at fold intersections and some minor staining, tack holes in the corners, and lined on verso.

An interesting and most decorative survey of lands in Lamar County, Texas by the hand of the patriarch of a family, in which land bequests to various family members are laid out and precisely described. 

Best as I can glean from census records, John Onstott (1802-1874) of North Carolina and Mary Polly Wood (1806-1879) of South Carolina married some time in the mid 1820s. They migrated through Tennessee and Illinois, along the way having at least four children. By 1835 or so they were in Texas, where they settled in the Lamar County town of Hunt, about 80 miles northwest of San Antonio, and had at least three more children. The census records list both John and his male children as farmers.

The survey is undated, but the lot at the southeast corner of the parcel is awarded to the heirs John and Mary’s son John, Jr., who died in 1871. The phrasing of the title—“JNO ONSTOTT’S SURVEY”—suggests that it was drawn by John himself, which would date the document to 1871-74.

Puzzles are raised by John’s probate records, dated March 1875. These indicate that Mary was to receive half of Jonathan’s property, while the rest was to be divided “into five equal parts” among three surviving children and the heirs of two deceased children. However, the survey shows Mary holding a 946 ½-acre lot, rather less than half the total parcel, while the lots assigned to the various descendants are of unequal sizes. The explanation may be that the division was according to value rather than dimensions, but this could only be verified by further research.

The work has a unique visual style with an attractive stenciled title and border, which along with the wash coloring yield a most decorative appearance. The size and style both suggest that this document was intended as a family heirloom, rather than a legal document.