The first Republic-era edition (and second overall) of this important map of Texas, published in May 1836 just weeks after it declared its independence from Mexico. The map clearly reflects current events by depicting the Republic as a distinct political entity, much shaped by the land grants to and improvements made by its American settlers.
In the early 1830s, the settlement of Texas and rising tensions between its American colonists and the Mexican government generated intense interest amongst the United States public. The publication of Stephen Austin’s groundbreaking Map of Texas (1830) was the first in a flood of important new maps and geographical information on the region. Austin’s map was soon followed by David H. Burr’s Texas (1833, with successive editions in 1834 and 1835). First published in March 1835, Young & Mitchell’s map was largely based on that of Burr, but includes some notable improvements, in particular the correct delineation of the Sabine River, which marks the border between Texas and Louisiana.
The map in focus
The map depicts Texas and part or all of several contiguous American and Mexican states, including the Indian Territory, to which the Cherokee and other native Americans of the Southeast had recently been forced to migrate. Considering the small scale of the map, it provides a great deal of geographical and topographical detail, with particular emphasis on Texas’ many river systems, which rendered so much of it fertile and attractive to settlers. Just a few major roads are shown, and the mountainous western regions are delineated with rather crude hachuring (The source for this topography is not clear, as it does not appear on Burr’s map and differs greatly from that on Austin’s.)
The most prominent feature of the map is the division of Texas into numerous brightly-colored “empresario” grants assigned by Mexico to early American colonizers. The first of these was Austin’s Colony, granted in 1821, and which grew to occupy a large area in the heart of the Texan territory. San Felipe de Austin, today’s Austin, lies at the center of the colony, on the banks of the Colorado River. Other important empresario colonies shown include De Witt’s Grant, Whelin’s Grant, Zavalla’s Grant, Burnet’s Grant, Felisola’s Grant, McMullen & McGlone’s Grant, John Cameron’s Grant, and Beale & Grant’s Grant.
Several key settlements are labeled, including San Antonio de Bexar, then the largest town in Texas, founded in 1718, and the site of the Battle of the Alamo, fought in 1836. Others include Brazoria, Harrisburg (the first provisional capital of independent Texas, near the future site of Houston) and Nacogdoches, the site of the first Spanish settlement in Texas (1716). The depiction of the northern and western frontier regions is also interesting. Though most of Texas is shown divided into the empresarios, the presence of the Comanche and other native American peoples suggests just how tenuous the settlers’ hold was in places.
The map places the southern border of Texas along the Nueces River, well to the north of the Rio Grande. This line was historically considered to be the southern frontier of Texas, but during their war for independence the Texans expanded their claims southwards to the Rio Grande. The war was concluded with the 1836 Treaty of Velasco, which recognized the strip as belonging to Texas, but the Mexican government subsequently disputed the concession. The controversy over the ownership of the Nueces Strip was used as a pretext by U.S. President James Polk to instigate the Mexican American War in 1845.
The rhetorical impact of the map is greatly enhanced by three lengthy and interesting notes on the current state of Texas, included “Remarks on Texas”, “Land Grants”, and “Rivers of Texas”. The remarks are geared towards encouraging further American settlement in the region and paint a highly favorable view, with a strong suggestion that Texas’ future lay in a close connection with the United States. For example,
“To the people of the United States, Texas is peculiarly interesting, from its immediate contiguity, and from the circumstance of Anglo Americans forming the principal portion of its rapidly increasing population. A soil of great fertility & a geographical position highly favorable to commercial intercourse with the United States, and the rest of the World, are advantages which doubtless will at no distant period, render it an opulent and powerful State.”
To sweeten the pot, the section on “Land Grants” notes that settlers could purchase nearly 50,000 acres for as little as 10 dollars, a shocking bargain at a time when Henry Tanner was advertising his large map of the United States for $9.50, framed.
Young & Mitchell’s map must be understood against the backdrop of the accelerating American settlement of Texas in the 1820s, the settler’s emerging desire for autonomy or even independence from a distant Federal government in Mexico City; and the expansionist longings of farmers and plantation owners in the American South, many of them slaveholders.
In 1821, Texas was a largely-neglected frontier province of New Spain, which itself was in the throes of the revolution which would shortly establish Mexico’s independence. The non-indigenous population of Texas numbered only 2,500 and was concentrated in a handful of missions and presidios. Development was further hindered by the predations of highly-mobile Comanche and Apache warriors.
To boost the population, the regime in Mexico granted concessions to foreigners, called “empresarios” (Spanish for “entrepreneurs”), to settle certain frontier regions. In 1821, Moses Austin became the first of the many American empresarios, having agreed to settle 300 Catholic families along the Brazos River. Moses died shortly thereafter, and his title passed to his son, Stephen Austin (1793-1836), who was later widely regarded as the leading founder of Texas.
The new Mexican Constitution of 1824 devolved powers to the individual states, although it also ordained that Texas was to be merged with a more populous state to the southwest, becoming part of the State of Coahuila y Tejas. This meant that the new regional base of power would be in faraway Saltillo or Monclova. Fortunately, the authorities in Coahuila generally showed themselves to be tolerant, if not supportive, of American settlers, as they hoped such developments would secure their northern frontier and raise tax revenues.
Stephen Austin energetically set about attracting enterprising settlers to his colony, with the first wave of families, “the Old Three Hundred”, arrived late in 1825. Over the rest of the decade, the territory of Austin’s grant was progressively expanded, as he managed to attract a further 900 migrants. During the same period, other American empresarios founded colonies, as depicted on the Young & Mitchell map. While conditions were challenging, most of these colonies succeeded in establishing permanent settlements. While all new immigrants were in theory obligated to swear allegiance to Mexico as citizens, be Roman Catholic, learn Spanish, and observe a prohibition on slavery, in practice these stipulations were rarely enforced. Gradually, a new society American society developed, demographically and culturally distinct from the rest of Mexico.
By 1830, the American population of Texas reached 30,000, outnumbering the Mexican-born citizens by a factor of four to one. The Mexican government, perhaps rightly, feared that this demographic shift was a threat to its national security. President Anastasio Bustamante enacted the new laws of April 6, 1830, which effectively banned all foreign immigration to Texas. While Americans continued to arrive illegally, the Texan colonists and the Mexican government were now on a collision course.
It was during this period that David H. Burr, the Geographer to the United States House of Representatives, updated Austin’s work with a new map, Texas (New York, 1833), showing seventeen land grants. Burr’s map was the first large-scale map of Texas to show all of the region extending to include the Arkansas River and the Texas Panhandle. Young used it as the basis for the present map, although the latter included notable improvements.
In 1835, the conservative regime of President Antonio López de Santa Ana, announced plans to dissolve the elected state governments and impose direct federal rule over all of Mexico. As was the case in several other Mexican states, the Texans found these developments to be absolutely intolerable and commenced an armed rebellion, now known as the War of Texan Independence. After an epic series of military campaigns, the Texan forces decisively defeated and captured Santa Ana at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. The Republic of Texas was born, with Santa Ana (who was then in Texan custody, having been captured at San Jacinto) recognizing Texan independence upon signing the Treaty of Velasco on May 14, 1836.
James Hamilton Young (1793?-1874) and Samuel Augustus Mitchell (1792-1868)
Mitchell was unquestionably the leading American cartographic publisher of the middle years of the 19th century. Born at Bristol, Connecticut, little is known of his early years, but it sufficed to qualify him to work as a teacher for some years. Becoming dissatisfied with the state of geography textbooks, he set about producing his own materials, moving for that purpose to Philadelphia, then the country’s leading publishing center.
Mitchell’s first publication was A New American Atlas (1831), which was in fact hardly new, being an update of Anthony Finley’s 1826 atlas of the same title. The Atlas was produced in partnership with James Hamilton Young, a highly-talented Scottish engraver and mapmaker, with whom Mitchell worked closely for many years. The same year, Mitchell published a remarkable wall map of the United States, drawn and engraved by Young. In their many projects, the two men had a division of labor, with Young the compiler, draftsman and engraver, while Mitchell acted as editor and business manager.
Over the next three decades the firm of Mitchell published innumerable sheet maps, wall maps, pocket maps, atlases and travel guides. According to Ristow, at its height it had more than 250 employees and sold more than 400,000 publications a year. Its longevity and success were abetted by Mitchell and Young’s readiness to shift from copper-plate engraving to the newer and more cost-effective technologies of steel engraving and then lithography, and by the country’s ravenous appetite for maps during a period of staggering demographic, geographic and commercial expansion.
Mitchell retired in or around 1863, passing the business on to Samuel Augustus Mitchell, Jr., while his widow, Rhoda Ann Fuller, also worked as a publisher in the early 1870s, as “Mrs. Mitchell”. The son’s major publication was Mitchell’s New General Atlas, which replaced his father’s New Universal Atlas and which he continued to publish until 1879.
Day, Maps of Texas, p. 21. Phillips, Maps of America, p. 844 1843 ed.) Rumsey #5140 (this ed.) Streeter, Bibliography of Texas, part III, vol.1, #1178A (this ed.)