AUSTIN — Beginning more than 120 years ago, Willis Day Twichell surveyed tens of millions of acres of public and private lands in West Texas. He laid out more than 40 towns and provided surveying work in 165 of 254 counties in Texas. The lands he surveyed included the boundary between Texas and New Mexico, gave rise to the legendary XIT Ranch, funded the building of the State Capitol, helped build railroads and fund public education in Texas, and were integral to the exploration of oil and gas in West Texas throughout the 20th century.
The W.D. Twichell Survey Records were recently donated to the Texas General Land Office by a consortium of four oil companies operating in the Midland area: Chevron U.S.A. Inc., Atlantic Richfield Company, ConocoPhillips Company and ExxonMobil Corporation. The records consist of hundreds of field books, working sketches, 200 finished maps, field notes, and about 50,000 pages of correspondence that document surveying work performed in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico.
Land Office Archives staff members are eager to provide full public access to the collection as soon as possible. "Our goal is to have the Twichell Papers available to researchers by January 2011," said Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office.
"Our Archives staff also hopes to have all of the Twichell maps and selected documents scanned and available online by January 2012," Patterson said. "This shows the commitment of the Land Office and Save Texas History program to preserve the records that document the history of this great state and make them widely available."
Before Twichell's death in 1959, the Atlantic Refining Company, Continental Oil Company, Gulf Oil Corporation, Humble Oil & Refining Company, Mobil Oil Company and the Sinclair Oil & Gas Company, organized as the Twichell Survey Records Committee, bought the records and placed them in a private storage facility in Midland. Few people besides oil company employees have had access to the records until now.
"The Twichell records document an important part of the history of West Texas and the Panhandle," Patterson said. "We're excited about their addition to the most important collection of maps and records documenting the history of Texas land."
It will cost about $20,000 to preserve and digitally scan the Twichell records so the public can have total access to them. If you are interested in donating to the conservation of the Twichell records through the General Land Office's Save Texas History program, please call the Archives and Records Program of the Texas General Land Office at 512-463-5277 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.