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Welcome to Len Kubiak's Texas History Series

Texas historian Len Kubiak of Rockdale Texas.


Millions of years ago, the Texas Hill Country region was a shallow sea home to the swimming dinosaurs (the mosasorus), large gastropods, echinoids, ammonites, and a myriad of other sealife whose fossil remains can still be found in the area.

Most of the fossils found in the Texas hill country are Cretaceous fossils which means they were deposited in shallow seas somewhere between 79 million years and 144 million years ago. The name, Cretaceous, was derived from Creta, which was the Latin word for chalk. During the Cretaceous period, Noth America was essentially flat and covered with shallow seas which allowed for massive chalk deposits across the continent.

Eons later, the seas were transformed into a marshy bog that was home to the dinosaurs (dinosaur tracks are still visible in the limestone bed of nearby San Gabriel River) and such critters as the minature horse, camel, sabre tooth cat, giant bison, and other such animals.

The end of the Cretaceous period (about 79 million years ago) marked a time of mass extinction for dinosaurs, marine reptiles such as the Mosasaurs, flying reptiles such as the Pterosaurs and invertebrates such as the Ammonites.

Man Migrates to the Texas Hill Country

Over time, the fertile region, that came to be known as the Texas hill country, was inhabited by bands of roving hunters somewhere about 12,000 B.C.. Their tell-tale paleo flint artifacts (the clovis, angostura, plainview, and scottsbluff spear points) can be found throughout the Texas hill country. These early hunters identified only as the paleo people are thought to have crossed over from the frozen regions of what is now Russia over a land bridge across the shallow sea that separated the two continents. These ice age hunting bands were following the herds of wooly mammouth and bison.

Occupation Periods of Early Settlers

For the purposes of Archaeological research, the occupation periods covering man's presence are divided into the following time spans:

  • Paleo (10000 - 7500 B.C.)
  • Early Archaic (7500 - 6000 B.C.)
  • Middle Archaic (6000 - 3000 B.C.)
  • Late Archaic (3000 - 900 B.C.)
  • Woodland (900 - 200 B.C.)
  • Mississippian (A.D. 900 - 1500)
  • Historic (A.D. 1500-present)

During the paleo period period, the hunters were mainly nomadic and followed the herds of mammoths (huge elephants). By the Archaic period, marked by the extinction of the mammoth, these inhabitants transitioned to a hunting and gathering culture with less frequent changes of campsites.

By the Woodland period, the local inhabitants had developed bows and arrows and were engaging in agriculture. At this time, the area was occupied primarily by tribes of Tonkawa, Huecos (Wacos), Caddos and Apaches. During this era, herds of buffalo and elk inhabited the grassylands of the Texas hill country and life was good for the Indians.

Historic Era

Spain claimed the land that is now Texas in 1519, when the explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pi�eda sailed along the Gulf Coast to the Rio Grande. Later, other Spanish explorers came to Texas with little success of finding gold. As a result, Spain ignored Texas until 1685, when France's Ren� Robert Caviler, Sieur de la Salle, established a fort at Matagorda Bay and claimed the area for France.

To protect its claim, Spain sought to establish a Spanish population in Texas. However, their Spanish subjects in Mexico were unwilling to move to Texas, primarily because of the Indian threat.

First Spanish Landgrant in Texas (1690)

The first Spanish land grant in Texas was made in 1690 to the East Texas mission San Francisco de los Tejas. For the next 130 years Spain continued to issue land grants in Texas. The Spanish king personally owned all Spanish land, and he granted it as he saw fit for political favor, money, and sometimes as a gift.

While the Spanish Crown controlled Texas, it granted large quantities of land to a small number of individuals. Often this land was purchased at auction, usually for a nominal price. Because the Spanish recognized that ranchers needed large amounts of land for grazing purposes, a league (4,428.4 acres) or more was granted for ranching; smaller parcels close to settlements were granted for farming. According to Spanish colonization laws, wealthier subjects were entitled to purchase three or four square leagues, while poorer subjects could acquire one or two leagues. Frequently, individuals obtained additional amounts by applying for grants in the names of relatives or by marrying their children into families on adjoining ranches.

Sale of the Louisiana Territory (1803)

France's sale of the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803 meant that the U.S. now became a threat to the Spain's control of Texas. With the United States expanding their territory and moving westward, the Spanish government began to encourage private grants north of the Rio Grande. Texas was too remote for Spain to control directly, so the government made private agents responsible for finding settlers and helping them locate land.

Colonel Jos� de Escand�n was the first of the land agents in Texas. In 1748, Escand�n awarded a colonization grant to settle land from Tampico to the Nueces River. Unlike earlier Spanish colonizers, Escand�n brought no soldiers to his colony; the settlers themselves were to provide defense.

Although the Spanish king owned the land, Escand�n empowered local officials to issue grants. This meant that the governor of the province of Texas could make Texas land grants. Anyone seeking a land grant in the mid 1700's would send a petition to the governor. If the governor approved the petition, he sent a local officer to visit the tract, accompanied by the petitioner, witnesses, owners of adjacent property and a notary, if one was available.

The land was measured in varas, a Spanish unit of measurement later standardized at 33.3 inches and adopted by the state of Texas as its official land measure. The officer next noted the property lines of the tract by using natural land features or by creating markers (piles of rocks, carving in a tree trunk).

After a survey was made and the neighboring landowners agreed that it didn't intrude on their land, ceremonial acts of possession were performed by the new owner, such as firing a gun, pulling grass and throwing rocks across the land. The land title was a record of all of these proceedings written on paper bearing the official government stamp.

Until 1819, land grants were awarded predominantly to Spanish subjects.


In 1820, Spain formally opened Texas up to foreign settlement. Moses Austin was the first American to take advantage of this opportunity.

In January 1821, Moses Austin proposed to bring 300 Anglo American families to Texas. The notion of a colonizer or empresario had existed in Spanish settlement laws dating from 1573. A colonizer was empowered to settle a region in return for governing powers over the colony. It also gave the colonizer four square leagues of land for every 30 families he settled.

Towns were to be set out in a grid pattern. Each family who settled in the colony would receive a town lot for a house, farmland, pasture land and certain tax exemptions. Colonists were required to settle on the land and use it before being allowed to sell it. Under the terms of Moses Austin's proposal, colonists were to become loyal subjects of the Spanish king and promised to obey Spanish laws and adhere to the Roman Catholic faith. Many Americans were eager to settle in Texas under these conditions. In turn, Spain hoped that Americans "of good character" who received generous portions of land would be loyal and prevent a takeover of Texas by their countrymen.

Spain had claimed Texas since 1519 and had controlled it since permanent occupation in 1716. But the king had never made its extensive settlement a primary concern. Instead, Spain concentrated on maintaining hold over the area. Preventing foreign encroachment upon Texas by France and the United States was important because Texas served as a protective borderland of New Spain (Mexico). Partly for this reason and partly because of the destruction caused by the Mexican War of Independence, there were only three Spanish settlements in Texas at Mexican independence in 1821. These settlements were located at La Bah�a (Goliad), San Antonio and Nacogdoches. Only 5,000 Spanish subjects lived in Texas; of these, 1,000 were soldiers.

Arrival of Europeans in Texas has Devastating Effect on Indian Population

The arrival of Europeans to the central Texas area in the 1500's had a devastating effect on the Native Americans living in the region.

Small Pox, measles and influenza killed over 80% of the population estimated to be around 25 million in the 1500's. This eliminated the power of the native dwellers to protect themselves against the onslaught of the Europeans who came in ever increasing numbers.

By the late 1700's, the Comanches (Southern Shashonies)began moving into Texas from the northwest region of Wyoming known as the Wind river Range. The Comanches (which translates to "dreaded enemy") became the dominant force in the Texas hill country until their defeat at the battle of Palo Dura Canyon near present day Amarillo in the 1870's. The Comanches were superb horsemen and could shoot arrows from underneath their steeds while riding at full speed.

In the early 1800's, Spain ruled a territory that included all of present-day Mexico northward to Colorado and westward to present-day California. To increase its hold on the land, Spain was eager to attract settlers to the area.


In 1822, Texas was opened to Anglo-American colonization when the government of Spain granted Moses Austin permission to bring in three hundred families from the United States. He died while planning his enterprise, and his son, Stephen F. Austin, replaced him as contractor or empresario.
Then Mexico gained her independence from Spain, and her newly elected emperor, Iturbide, confirmed Austin's contract. General Santa Anna overthrew Iturbide, and a federal republic was established with Coahuila and Texas joined together as a state.
Their legislature in 1825 passed a general colonization law under which Austin and several other empresarios were given contracts to settle additional families from the United States in designated territorial grants.

This led to widespread immigration from the U.S. into the lands that had been inhabited by native Indian tribes for thousands of years. However, the government of Mexico continued an oppressive form of government that led to a cry for Independence from these hardy Texans. See History of the Texas Revolution

Also see our history links near the bottom of this webpage. I spend a great deal of time researching Texas history and adding topics of interest to our website for our internet viewers.

The site is constantly growing. Bookmark us and come back often (and tell your friends about us).

Len Kubiak

For questions or comments, send me an Email at


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