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Mapping Texas — 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.

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.

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.

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 1833 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.

This Austin 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.

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