Image from Heritage Auctions.
Patrick Martin of Birmingham, Alabama, used to pull out the old family map when he was a kid because it designated ‘Indian territories,’ and he thought Indians were cool. As an adult, he still brought it out occasionally to show his family ties to Texas — which include a great-great-grandfather who fought in the Mexican-American War as a colonel in the Virginia militia and the colonel’s son, who was an attorney who helped settlers secure land grants in Texas.
But a recent appraisal told Martin that his family curiosity was actually one of only a handful of copies that still exist of the first-edition map from the state’s General Land Office in 1849 — personally autographed by an early Jewish settler named Jacob De Cordova. The map will be up for bidding at Heritage Auctions March 15.
The full release:
165-year-old map of Texas, passed down in the same family for 150 years, may bring $150,000+ at auction
The first official map of the State of Texas – in original and unrestored condition – offered March 15 in Dallas
DALLAS – It was Thanksgiving last year, soon after the holiday meal, that Patrick Martin learned one of his guests had strong family ties to Texas. Pushing the wine glasses and butter dish to one side, Martin opened a small black book and unfolded a large, hand-colored map of the Republic of Texas circa 1849, complete with the short-lived Santa Fe County.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when he took the map to an appraisal event, that he learned his family curiosity it was none other than an 1849 first edition Map of Texas, hand signed by Jewish settler Jacob De Cordova, a very rare copy – only a handful are known to exist – of the first map ever issued by the Texas General Land office. The map, which was passed down on Martin’s family, is now expected to bring as much as $150,000 in Heritage Auctions’ Texana Signature® Auction March 15 in Dallas.
“By the time it got to my hands it was sheer luck it hadn’t been damaged,” Martin said of the map’s long history in his family. “I remember looking it over when I was younger, 8, 10, 12 years old, unfolding it in my parents’ basement. The map shows Indian territories and I thought Indians were cool.”
Martin’s family traces their copy to his great-great-grandfather Nicholas Martin and his son, Hudson. Nicholas was colonel in a Virginia militia that fought in Texas during the Mexican-American War and Hudson was a Virginia attorney who helped settlers secure land grants across the Lone Star State.
“So it could have been Hudson or it could have been Nicholas, we’re not really sure,” Martin said. “We were a family of savers, we didn’t throw things out. The map spent its life in an outbuilding on the family farm that was used as a law office and when my grandfather died no one wanted it.”
When it came time for the family to clean out the homestead, Patrick’s father grabbed a box of legal documents on a whim, not knowing the book was tucked safely inside. Patrick discovered the map as a boy and it sparked his imagination and a lifelong passion for history. He spent hours examining early cities and towns, roads, rivers, Indian villages and even De Cordova’s own signature.
“My parents didn’t have any objection to me playing with it and I could have easily done some damage,” he said. “Until recently, I was still pulling it out and showing it to guests if they were history buffs. We moved the butter and the wine glasses and started taking it out. At that point it could have been a disaster.”
Now that the map is headed to auction, Martin is eager to see how the public will react to its discovery. He intends to split the proceeds with his sister.
De Cordova’s Map of Texas was first issued in 1849 and published by Texas’ General Land Office as the first official map of Texas. It measures 32″ x 35 1/4″, is hand-colored with West Texas virtually entirely absent, and only a portion of the Panhandle (noted as the Fannin Land District) shown as settled. Of the copies known to exist, at least two are held by institutions: one in Special Collections at the University of Texas at Arlington and the other at the Rosenburg Library in Galveston.
“The accuracy of this map, and its importance to understanding the development of Texas cannot be overstated,” said Joe Fay, Manager of Rare Books at Heritage Auctions. “Sam Houston himself called it ‘the most correct and authentic map of Texas ever compiled.’ The hand-colored map shows the state of Texas at a critical point, most noticeable when comparing it to subsequent revisions, reflecting big changes from the Texas of this map to the Texas of just a few years later. When I saw this walk into the appraisal event in Birmingham, and Mr. Martin and I unfolded it, I was floored. It’s one of those very few high points in Texana that few collectors or dealers ever see in the wild.”