General Land Office Supplemental Act of 1837

Establishing a frontier and an agency

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On December 22, 1836, the first Congress of the Republic of Texas passed an act to officially establish a General Land Office to oversee the distribution and management of Texas’s vast public lands.

One of the office’s first duties was to recognize all valid Spanish and Mexican land grants and to translate them into English. Today, the General Land Office (GLO) houses approximately 4,200 land files issued by Spain and Mexico from 1720 to 1836 covering 26 million acres.  

A supplemental act was eventually passed on June 12, 1837 which established land districts, set the opening date of the first General Land Office for October 1, 1837 in Houston, detailed surveyors’s salaries ($3.00 for every mile surveyed), and defined in greater detail the duties of the office.  The act also established acreage amounts for land grants. Single men who arrived in Texas between March 2, 1836 and October 1, 1837 were eligible to receive 640 acres of land. Families who arrived between those dates could receive 4,605 acres of land.

In 1845, the Texas Congress passed the Pre-emption Act. This act allowed people who had already settled on public land the right to purchase (pre-empt) up to 320 acres of that land if they had improved it or were intending to improve it. This legislation became known as the Homestead Act in 1854.

The General Land Office, the oldest government agency in Texas, is located in Austin. In addition to land and coastal management, the agency's areas of responsibilities now also include energy, oil and gas, veteran's affairs, education, and the management of the Alamo in San Antonio.

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General Land Office Supplemental Act of 1837 Artifact from Austin, Texas
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