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WPA History of the Spanish Land Grants

The following is the original Introduction to the Spanish Land Grants in Florida, a five-volume transcription and abstraction of the Spanish land grants created and published in 1942 by the WPA's Florida Historical Records Survey, under supervision of the State Library Board. While historian Louise Biles Hill wrote the Introduction specifically as a guide for readers of that original publication, it is still useful as an extensive history of the creation, use and preservation of the Spanish land grants. Until the State Archives of Florida made them available online, the WPA's publication was the main source for researchers on the Spanish land grants and the Second Spanish Period Florida (1783-1821). For more recent research on these materials and the Second Spanish Period, see Published Works.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Spanish Archives
  3. British Land Grants in Florida
  4. Spain's Land Policy
  5. Board Of Commissioners--West Florida
  6. Board Of Commissioners--East Florida
  7. Final Disposition Of Land Claims
  8. Reasons For Non-Confirmation

Introduction

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The Unconfirmed Claims which form Volume 1 of Spanish Land Grants in Florida are the records of those claims which, after the cession of Florida, the United States authorities found invalid. Confirmed Claims make up the remaining volumes of the series.

The work of translation and transcription of the Spanish land grants was done under the supervision of Professor E. V. Gage, former head of the Department of Modern Languages at Florida State College for Women, who was assisted by two workers of Spanish descent.

The original documents of foolscap size comprise a linear footage of eleven feet and five inches. The work of translation and transcription required about three years. Every scrap of writing was examined and included and every name was mentioned — whether governor, grantee, attorney, witness register, notary, surveyor, or chain bearer. The spelling in the original manuscripts has been preserved. The form in which the claims appear in the present volume is that adopted by the translator and follows somewhat closely the form in which the manuscripts are now filed. Each separate document is numbered and is followed by S or E to indicate whether the language is Spanish or English. Notations of governors, registers, and notaries on margins are indicated, and the decrees of the United States Boards of Commissioners who examined and passed upon the validity of the claims are included whenever the decrees were found in the original documents. The missing decrees may be found in

p. ii

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American State Papers, Public Lands, references to which are given in this publication in all but a very few instances. (1)

While practically every claim appears in some form in American State Papers, the great majority are shown as mere abstracts in tabular form, without the supporting evidence which gives to the present volumes its interest and value. For example, James Darley (2) applies for a land grant, promising to import 50 slaves from Africa. He sends a schooner and sloop for them. The sloop is caught in a storm off the coast of Santo Domingo, the slaves revolt, murder some of the crew, and flee into the interior. Darley is under the necessity of going after them, retrieving his property, and proving it before the courts, which requires two years. Such stories appear in print for the first time in this series.

Whenever a full transcription of a claim is given in American State Papers, the translator has made that claim correspondingly brief, that there may be no undue repetition.

The value of the translation of the Spanish land grants and their supporting documents is also enhanced by the inclusion of geographical data, such as the names and location of creeks, roads, and Indian trails, as well as basic information on the size, location, and basis of each claim, all of which, it is hoped, will be found to be important social and economic data on both the English occupation of Florida (1763-83) and the Second Spanish occupation (1783-1821).

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1. Claims which do not appear in American State Papers were substantiated neither by documents nor by witnesses.

2. Infra, UNC. D 4.

p. iii

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For convenience the Gales & Seaton and the Duff Green editions of American State Papers, Public Lands, are indicated by the initials G&S and DG, respectively. A list of the governors of East and West Florida from 1763 to 1821 and the names of the surveyors and their deputies for the same period are included.