First Class Land Certificate

Mexican laws championed women landowners

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by Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

Mexican property law, adopted from Spanish law after Mexico’s independence, held the notion of land ownership in high regard for men and women. For hundreds of years, Spanish jurists had viewed women as ‘necessary to the continuance and expansion of the Spanish community,’ and adopted laws to protect their property. In the frontier of Mexican Texas, women continued to enjoy the rights granted to them under Spanish law.

— Dr. José Barragán, Spanish Translator, Texas General Land Office      

After its independence from Mexico in April 1836, Texas continued this tradition, as seen in the case of Elizabeth Plunket. She and her husband immigrated to Texas in 1834, when it was still a Mexican state. Following her husband’s death, Elizabeth became the head of household and was thus entitled to receive the land that Mexico awarded all incoming immigrants under the empresario system.

Because the family had yet to receive any lands under Mexican Texas, Plunket petitioned the Matagorda Board of Land Commissioners for a land grant. On January 6, 1838, the Board awarded her this certificate that allotted her the full amount of land she deserved, some 4,605.5 acres.

Plunket selected available land west of San Antonio and had it surveyed on August 18, 1838. Less than three years later, she sold it to her brother-in-law, John Plunket, on March 13, 1841 for $4,000 ($108,108 in today’s dollars).


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First Class Land Certificate Artifact from San Antonio
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