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History of the Archives

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John P. Borden
In late June 1837, colonist and Texas Revolution veteran John P. Borden, received an unexpected letter informing him new Republic president Sam Houston had appointed him the first commissioner of the nation’s General Land Office.  Having neither sought the appointment, nor attended the meeting when the appointment was made, Borden relocated to the capital Houston and accepted the appointment. He immediately set about his first pressing task, collecting the scattered records of Spanish and Mexican land grants in Texas.

Yet before the records could be collected, they had to be found. The task was complicated by the fact that the land records were in the hands of diverse, sometimes recalcitrant parties (empresarios, commissioners, agents, and political authorities) and that in many cases they had been removed far from their point of origin.

The hasty collection and confused state of the archives was one of the many obstacles faced by Borden. Although slow and time-consuming, the work of arranging these records progressed to the point where, in 1838, the Land Office was able to print a list called “An Abstract of the Original Land Titles of Record in the General Land Office” that provided the name of the grantees, dates, quantities, and general location of the tracts.

The beginning of the Land Office as a functioning government agency can be traced to the acquisition of these records through the tireless efforts of Commissioner John P. Borden.