Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Have to Admit I'm Confused

In the previous post I discussed how my ggg-grandfather, William E. Probert, was awarded 640 acres of land in exchange for his six months of service in the Texas War of Independence from Mexico.  What I don't understand is why he received an additional 640 acres from the State of Texas.  According to the certificate, it also was in exchange for his service.

Update: If you ever have the opportunity to talk with someone from the Texas General Land Office, I hope you are as fortunate as I am.  Today, "John" explained to me that William E. had actually signed on for another six months. He was, therefore, entitled to two land grants of 640 acres each. Apparently he sold the first one but kept the second one, reflected below.  However, he didn't have it for long.  This certificate was approved on May 13, 1853 and we know he was dead by February 8, 1854 (per the first-class headright that will be discussed in the next post).

Texas Land Grant
Approved May 13, 1853

A search of the newspapers of the time provides at least one clue. In the Texas State Gazette, (Austin, Texas), Vol. 4, No. 23, Ed. 1, Saturday, January 22, 1853, the original certificate was lost.  A representative of the Land Office explained to me that the procedure in this case was for an attorney to post this in the newspaper and then apply for a duplicate certificate if there was no response to the ad in the time period specified in the law. 

From December 4, 1852 until May 13, 1853, the process really moved quickly. The survey that was included in the documents stated: 
The State of Texas Milan Land District Survey No. 6 for Wm. E. Probert of 640 acres in Bell County on Cowhouse Creek about 32 miles above fort Gates being the quantity of land to which he is entitled by virtue of Bounty Certificate No. 1266.
The survey was verified as "correct" on April 28, 1853 and was patented by May 13, 1853.  There is no evidence, however, that Wm. E. Probert ever did anything with the land.  In fact, the patent was delivered to N.C. Raymond, probably an attorney representing Wm. E. Probert. 

The land issues were clearly not over as you will see in the next post.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Texas Land Records - An Education

I was SO excited when I received copies of land records in the name of William E. Probert from the Texas Land Office.  Understanding them was a whole different matter.

If you can believe it, anyone who served in the War for Texas Independence from Mexico was given 320 acres for every three months of service.  My ggg-grandfather was given 640 acres for his six-month participation as a "fife major."  If you look carefully at this certificate, William E. Probert was given 640 acres for his service by the REPUBLIC OF TEXAS (remember, Texas was its own country).  What's interesting about this certificate is that it was immediately "assigned" to Henry Kesler. In speaking to the fine people in the Texas General Land Office, I found out that the assignee was either someone William immediately sold the Bounty Grant to or an attorney representing his interests. He did not hire a survey or identify land he wanted. He did not keep the property.

So here is the procedure:

  1. Get a "certificate" issued by the government of the Republic or State of Texas. The certificate entitles the grantee to a certain number of acres of land in the unallocated public domain. These certificates could be sold or transferred.
  2. The second step was to hire a surveyor to identify the land that the certificate holder wanted to claim. After they survey was completed, the results of the survey would be submitted to the local land office to assure that there were no other claims on the land.  If not, on to Step 3.
  3. Pay a fee to get the land patented.  At this point the land is transferred from the government to the private sector. The whole process can take several years.
A representative of the Texas General Land Office told me that many grantees immediately turned around and sold the certificate.  At the time, land meant nothing.  One hundred dollars meant a lot.  Our William immediately "assigned" this certificate to Henry Kesler. Henry either purchased the certificate outright or was an attorney representing W. E.'s interests.

This certificate was issued in February of 1838 in Houston.  The land was granted for Trinity County and was finally patented January 21, 1842 -- a period of four years. No land for the Proberts.  But wait -- there's more . . .

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why Would He Do It?

I've had a great time over the past couple of weeks researching my ggg-grandfather, William E. Probert.  The best information I have so far, is that he immigrated from Wales.  There is a debate as to whether or not he has "Irish" roots. In the process, I found out that the name "Probert" in the Welsh tradition frequently means "son of Robert."  Reminds me of my Jones maiden name, which often meant "son of John."

William and his wife Mary had five children.  The first, Thomas, was born in 1824 and the last, William, was born in 1835.  Three girls, Nancy, Mary Ann, and Sarah Elizabeth, were born in the middle, with Sarah only living for 18 months.

Picture of a Civil War Fife Major
Photo Credit:
My 2012 sensibilities do not allow me to comprehend why William E. Probert, the head of the family, would leave his family in the spring of 1836, to be a "Fife Major" in the War for Texas Independence. His wife, Mary, would somehow have to manage with a newborn and three other children on her own. So here are some facts:

  • At the time of William's departure from Lexington, he was 46 years old.
  • He was working as a tailor. 
  • I don't know how dangerous it was to be a "fife major".
  • I can only speculate about his motives, but maybe he wanted adventure and the hope for land should they succeed.

Thankfully, the State of Texas appears to have wonderful archives.  I was able to go to their site and search items saved from the "Republic of Texas."  Imagine my excitement when a search on "Probert" turned up several documents that discussed William's service in the War for Texas Independence.

For William, just getting to Texas proved to be a challenge. According to this document:
Said Probert came with us to New Orleans and was left there in consequence of sickness. Came on to the Army in Captain Sovereign's company and then joined our company which was his (original?).
He made a commitment for six months of service and received an Honorable Discharge. What was most interesting to me was that the record included a personal description of W. E. Probert.

Transcription: To all whom it may concern, know ye that W.E. Probert, Fife Major of Captain Love's Company of Volunteers 1st Regiment 1st Brigade was enrolled on the 4th day of June one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six to serve six months and is hereby discharged from the Army of Texas. Said Probert is five foot six and a half inches high, forty-six years of age, complexion fair, gray eyes, occupation when enrolled Jailor. Given this day of December 1836.

So now I know he only committed to six months of service. I guess his wife, Mary, could survive that commitment if the rewards for service were enticing enough.  That is, if he returned home.  But the evidence doesn't suggest that . . .

Thursday, June 14, 2012

War of Texas Independence

Recently I revisited a family line that I'd left dormant for a while. I offered to try to help my cousin, Barbara Pharo, document members of her family that would qualify for the Hamilton County Century Families lineage recognition.  Thomas H. Probert is our common gg-grandfather.

Gathering the required documents led me to try to "prove" that William E. Probert is his father.  We have substantial evidence, but nothing that would yet qualify as "proof."

What an adventure! I searched for the Probert surname on the kentuckiana digital library site. This site has many digitized Kentucky newspapers.  One of the results puzzled me.

Kentucky Gazette, Lexington, Kentucky, July 25, 1836

The first shock was seeing W.E. Probert, my ggg-grandfather, on a list dating back to 1836. The second surprise was reading that the list was for Texas Emigrants:  "The following are the names of those Texas emigrants, under the command of Col. Wilson, who left New Orleans for Texas." What?

I "remember the Alamo", but I was at a loss as to why 100+ Lexingtonians would volunteer for service in the War for Texas Independence.  And so a new area of research opened up. For those of you who, like me, are not entirely up on your Texas history, here is a brief timeline:

  • 1821 - Mexico gains independence from Mexico.
  • 1821-34 There is increasing tension between the citizens of Mexico and the ever-increasing anglo population.
  • 1834 - General Santa Anna, dictator of Mexico, changes laws to the detriment of immigrants.
  • 1835-36 Texans declare independence from Mexico.
  • 1836 - Texans sign a peace treaty with Mexico and establish the "Republic of Texas." Sam Houston becomes the first president of the Republic.
  • 1845 - United States President Polk signs papers allowing the Republic of Texas to be annexed to the United States.
  • 1861 - Texas joins the Confederate States of America.
  • 1866 - Texas rejoins the United States following the end of the Civil War.

I had questions.  The answers surprised me.  

Next post: What I learned about W.E. Probert's service in the War of Texas Independence.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Cousin, Steve Hansen

I am the oldest of 25 grandchildren on my maternal side of the family.  On June 10th, we lost the first cousin of this generation.  Steve bravely fought a very-rare form of thyroid cancer. He lived a little over a year after a heroic effort.  I can't say it any better than his family did.