Rare 1848 Texas map donated to state by Seabrook couple

Houston is seen in this image taken of an 1848 map made by Stephen F. Austin.
Houston is seen in this image taken of an 1848 map made by Stephen F. Austin. (Texas GLO)

SEABROOK, Texas – A local couple has donated a rare piece of Texas history to the state. The family had an exceptionally rare Stephen F. Austin map of Texas in its possession. Now, it belongs to the Texas General Land Office.

The donation was made by Thomas B. and Marsha Brown Taylor, of Seabrook. They made the donation in memory of Marsha Taylor's parents, Harrison K. and Margaret C. Brown.

According to Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, no other copy of the map is known to exist. Bush said the discovery of the map changes what we know about the cartography of Stephen F. Austin.

History buffs and scholars are in awe of the rare map.

"The 1848 print is late in the evolution of the map, but it is quite rare in commerce and institutional holdings," said Dorothy Sloan, a rare books appraiser and owner of Dorothy Sloan Rare Books.

Marsha Taylor said she grew up with the map in her home.

"I remember seeing the map for the first time when I was about 8 years old," she said. "My father took it out of a small metal lock box he kept in the top of his closet. The pastel colors were bright and I was fascinated with the age of the document and the notations about wild horses, herds of buffalo and Indian camps. My dad told me about the Native American burial grounds and the remains of an old fort just outside our little town, and my imagination ran wild as I thought about our little piece of land in 1848. My father explained that our land was part of a large grant from the Mexican government, long before Texas was a state. That day, Daddy gave me my first lesson in Texas history."

When she was older, she asked her father about the map's future. "One day, I asked my father what he planned to do with the map, and he replied that someday he hoped to find a museum in Texas that would want to have it and would keep it safe," she said.

Taylor had the map framed in her home for 26 years, but she recently decided to donate it the Texas General Land Office. "The only honest way to answer that question was to try to explain that I simply felt like it was the right thing to do," Taylor said. "My dad had always wanted the map to go somewhere that it would be taken care of properly, appreciated and available for the people of Texas who were interested in the information it held. If I sold the map to a private collector or institution, it might not be available to others and I couldn't be certain how it would be stored, viewed, preserved (or not), or handled. At the General Land Office, the map was certain to be well cared for and very likely to be seen and studied again in the future."

The map will be held under archival conditions and conserved for future generations. The public will be granted access to see it.

To see a digital copy of the map, click or tap here.