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F. G. Blau, Map of Orange County, Austin: Texas General Land Office, 1886, Map #3931, Map Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

Mapping Texas: The Gulf Coast — Orange County

With 367 miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, more than 3,300 miles of bays and estuaries, and hundreds of communities, Texas has one of the longest, most vibrant coastlines in the United States. From the earliest days of European settlement to modern navigation and oil drilling, the mapping of Texas’ coast has always been of vital importance.

To view the map 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.

Coastal Counties

The Texas Coastal Bend is the flat area of land along the Texas Gulf Coast, within which twenty-six counties are located. The coastal counties have a long history of settlement, from Native American tribes to the arrival of the European explorers. The counties of the coast provided a place for trade, immigration, and commerce to flourish in Texas.

This growth of trade in Texas’ coastal counties is ever-present in this 1886 cadastral (landowner) map of Orange County by GLO draftsman F. G. Blau. Orange County’s placement between the Neches and Sabine Rivers, plus its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, made it an important place for rail and maritime commerce in the 1800s.

This map shows the original land grants for the county, with the oldest surveys, granted by Mexico, outlined in green. Many of these titles were issued in the summer and early fall of 1835, making them among the last issued by the Mexican government prior to the closing of the local land offices in Texas in November of 1835.

Detail showing the lands granted to the Texas & New Orleans Rail Road Company (outlined in yellow) and the lands of the I. & G. N. R. R. (outlined in red).

Land held by the Texas & New Orleans and the International-Great Northern Rail Road Companies (I.&G.N.) is outlined in yellow and red, respectively. Texas granted land to railroad companies as compensation for laying track, and to defray the cost of surveying the public domain of Texas. As a condition of the grant, railroad companies surveyed one square mile of land for themselves, which they had to sell within 16 years, and they surveyed an additional square mile for the state.[1]

Detail showing the railroad running across Orange County from Beaumont to Orange.
[left] Detail showing Cow Bayou and Adams Bayou, with red ink annotations for sketch files. [right] Detail of Sabine Bay and the map’s compass rose.

With its ornate title piece and beautifully rendered compass rose seen at the bottom right, this map is a quintessential manuscript of the Texas General Land Office in the 19th century. Hand-drawn, it remained a legal document, annotated over the years in red ink to indicate the survey sketches made of the county since the map’s original production, until it was superseded by a revised map of Orange County in 1895 and marked with large Xs across the top of the map.

This map was part of the exhibit Mapping Texas: The Gulf Coast, which ran at the Bullock Texas State History Museum from June 2016 through March 2017. For more information about GLO exhibits at the Bullock Museum, please visit http://www.thestoryoftexas.com/visit/exhibits/mapping-texas.

To learn more about the Texas Coast today, please visit txcoasts.com

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[1] For more on the land granting process in Texas see Thomas Lloyd Miller, The Public Lands of Texas, 1519–1970, (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972).

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