The entrance to the Mapping Texas: From Frontier to Lone Star State at The Witte Museum in San Antonio. Photo credit: Mylynka Kilgore Cardona, Texas General Land Office

Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State — The Maps of Stephen F. Austin

In the nearly three hundred years that it took for Texas to take its current shape, the space changed from an extensive, unexplored and sparsely settled frontier under the Spanish Crown to its iconic and easily recognizable outline. Mapping Texas: From Frontier to the Lone Star State traces the cartographic history of Texas from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, from contested imperial claims that spanned the continent to individual rights of ownership all with the understanding that in order for a place to be claimed, it needed to be mapped.

Stephen F. Austin: Cartographer of Texas

Often called the “Father of Modern Texas” for his contributions to the establishment of the empresario system and the Anglo colonization of Texas, Stephen F. Austin also deserves credit as one of the first Texas mapmakers.[1] Keeping close to his surveying roots, Austin first charted the rivers and bays of Texas in order to locate the land best suited for his colony. Once he had accomplished that, Austin set out to produce maps of Texas that became the primary cartographic references for the territory for decades, promoting further immigration to and the colonization of Texas. For the first time ever, in the Mapping Texas exhibit, three of Austin’s most important maps are featured together.

To view any of the maps below in greater detail, click on the image to access the map’s database entry, then click on the magnifying glass icon to enter “Zoomify” mode.

Simon A.G. Bourne, Mapa topográfico de la provincia de Texas, by Estavan Austin, ca 1825, Witte Museum Collection, San Antonio, Texas.
Stephen F. Austin and James Franklin Perry, Connected Map of Austin’s Colony, 1837, Map #1943, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX

In 1822 Stephen F. Austin drew a map to accompany his petition for the confirmation of his empresario contract with the Mexican authorities. The original is now housed at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Bourne updated and improved Austin’s map. His map shows the major rivers in Texas, as well as the towns and roads that crossed the state between the Rio Grande and the Sabine.

In 1833 Stephen F. Austin tasked Gail Borden, Jr., to create a map of the lands granted through Austin’s empresario contract.[2] The enormous undertaking included all land grants between the San Jacinto and Lavaca Rivers, an area covering nineteen present-day counties in Texas. Borden, with the help of his brothers John P. and Thomas H., completed the Connected Map of Austin’s Colony in 1837.

Stephen F. Austin, Genl Austins Map of Texas with parts of the adjoining States, Philadelphia: H.S. Tanner, 1840, Map #93860, Holcomb Digital Map Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

Stephen F. Austin’s map, first published in Philadelphia by H.S. Tanner in 1830, served as the primary reference point for maps of Texas for nearly a decade. The first edition referenced the location of the Austin and DeWitt colonies in Texas. Tanner reissued the map five times, each edition adding information on the new colonies established. The 1840 edition seen here overlays the new counties over the old empresario colonies.

Can’t make it to San Antonio? You can view the majority of the maps in this exhibit in high definition on the GLO’s website where you can also purchase reproductions of the maps and support the Save Texas History program.

As part of the 7th Annual Save Texas History Symposium, you will have the opportunity to see this exhibit by registering for the evening reception, which will be held in the Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center at the Witte Museum. Support the Save Texas History program, visit with other Texas history enthusiasts, and check out this acclaimed exhibit before it closes in late September. Shuttles will be provided between the Menger Hotel and Witte Museum. Registration for this reception is $50.