Unsung Hero: The Texas-New Mexico Border - The American Surveyor (2023)

Joseph D. Fenicle, PS02.10.2019

Unsung Hero: The Texas-New Mexico Border - The American Surveyor (1)

New Mexico/Texas Boundary Monument No. 56

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The Rio Bravo del Norte, or the Rio Grande, meanders its way from Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. The Great River of the North historically would flow uninterrupted to the Gulf of Mexico, but now the water from Colorado is lucky to make it there. The Big River, as it is also known, is the border between multiple Mexican States and even our International Border between Texas and Mexico. For a mere 25 miles though The Rio Grande is so much more. It is the border between Texas and New Mexico by El Paso. Laying between the International Boundary, being 31 degrees and 47 minutes North Latitude, and the North line of Texas, being 32 degrees North Latitude, this short snaking section of the Rio Grande lead to so much contention that it landed in the Supreme Court. Once again, Samuel Stinson Gannett was called upon to not only resolve its location, but to resolve its location as it existed on September 9th, 1850.

Unsung Hero: The Texas-New Mexico Border - The American Surveyor (2)

New Mexico/Texas Gannett Monument No. 1

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The history of this short segment of the Rio Grande is vast dating back to 1595 with the colonization of New Mexico by Don Juan de Onate. Technically though, our history starts when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2nd, 1848, putting an end to the Mexican-American War. The treaty defined the international boundary, 25 miles of it being the disputed section eventually becoming the dividing line between Texas and New Mexico. Once the treaty was signed a commission was assigned by both Countries to survey the common line. As always, the map used for the treaty was in error and the international border geographically fell about 32 miles North of where depicted on the map. The map used in the treaty was drawn by John Disturnell and later partially copied by General Land Office principal draftsman Ephraim Gilman in 1848. Both maps had distortions in West Texas along the Rio Grande eventually leading to more arguments and the eventual disbanding of the commission all together in 1852. The Gadsden Treaty of 1853 solved this problem and made room for the proposed Southern route of the Transcontinental Railroad. This fixed the international border at this section at 31 degrees and 47 minutes North Latitude. Prior to that though two main surveys were made on opposite sides of the Rio Grande. On the East side a survey was made by Charles Radziminski. Radziminski has a very colorful history as he came to American in 1834 as a Polish Revolutionary exile. He climbed the ranks of the United States Topographical Engineers eventually landing the role as the Secretary of the United States Boundary Commission. His name is amongst significant others on a piece of paper stuffed in a glass bottle buried five feet below the monument marking the initial point of the joint survey between the United States and Mexico. The other survey, on the West side, was made by Jose Salazar y Larregui and Agustin y Luis Diaz—titled the Salazar—Diaz Survey of 1852. This was a highly accurate and detailed survey for its day. Salazar was extremely talented and held the titles of astronomer, mineralogist and geographer. Diaz, on the other hand, climbed the ranks of the Mexican Corps of Engineers eventually taking charge of Mexico’s Geographic Exploration Commission.

Unsung Hero: The Texas-New Mexico Border - The American Surveyor (3)

“Map of the Santa Teresa Grant” by Wendell V. Hall, DS. Courtesy of General Land Office Records

Texas became the 28th State on December 29, 1845. A dispute arose between Texas and the United States and the area trying to become the New Mexico Territory. It wasn’t until President Millard Fillmore stepped in and convinced Congress to pass the Texas Boundary Act as approved by the President on September 9th, 1850. The Act defined the boundaries of Texas as “…thence on the said parallel of thirty two degrees of North Latitude to the Rio Bravo del Norte, and thence with the channel of said river to the Gulf of Mexico”. This Act, and description, created the Territory of New Mexico which eventually became the 47th State on January 6th, 1912. The State Constitution stated “…thence along the 32nd parallel to the Rio Grande, also known as the Rio Bravo del Norte, as it existed on the 9th day of September, 1850; thence following the main channel of said river, as it existed on the 9th day of September, 1850, to the parallel of 31 degree 47 minutes North Latitude”. Prior to becoming a State though, New Mexico had to agree to a joint resolution recognizing the survey done by John H. Clark of the 32nd parallel of Latitude.

Unsung Hero: The Texas-New Mexico Border - The American Surveyor (4)

Sample page selections from the rare 1930 Supreme Court Document highlighting the survey report by Gannett. Courtesy of Dartmouth College & Texas General Land Office

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Unsung Hero: The Texas-New Mexico Border - The American Surveyor (5)It wasn’t until United States Deputy Surveyor Wendell Hall surveyed the Santa Teresa Grant that it was realized that no one really knew where the Rio Grande existed on September 9, 1850. The survey by Hall placed approximately 2,700 acres in what was thought to be Texas. New Mexico filed suit with the United States Supreme Court on January 31, 1913 asking for a determination where the Rio Grande was on September 9th, 1850. Well known Boston Attorney and author Charles Warren was assigned the position of Special Master. After hearing testimony for a matter of years and after researching and reviewing all pertinent maps the Special Master made his report. In Volume V (1) of his report Special Master Charles Warren states that the Rio Grande as it existed on September 9th, 1850 shall be determined by retracing the John H. Clark Survey and the Salazar – Diaz Survey of 1852. The Special Master could not find copies of the Radziminski Survey so it was dismissed as evidence. Furthermore, against the suggestion by Special Master, the Supreme Court rejected any claim of the position of the Rio Grande by accretion or avulsion. The location of the Rio Grande had to be laid on the ground as it existing on September 9th, 1850 and it was then called upon to have Samuel Stinson Gannett do the job.

Unsung Hero: The Texas-New Mexico Border - The American Surveyor (6)Gannett studied the triangulation notes from both the Clark Survey and the Salazar – Diaz Survey. He started his field work in August of 1929 and it lasted until February of 1930. Gannett and crew first laid out a traverse through the entire valley of the disputed territory. They then tied in the “control monuments” as used in the Salazar – Diaz Survey of 1852. These “control monuments” from 1852 were simply natural objects like high bluffs or “… a well known mountain with a definite sharp summit…” With this they were able to reproduce the triangulation network and prove other known geographic location as used by Salazar and Diaz. The could then calculate where the West bank of the Rio Grande was and then offset it by 150 feet to the East for the centerline. Locations were then chosen for permanent monuments at each angle point, now lying on dry land. In the end 105 concrete monuments were set along 25.17 miles. There were also 45 reference monuments set and 6 permanent triangulation stations established. In the final report to the Supreme Court, Gannett wrote “…may therefore be considered as located within a few feet of the original Salazar-Diaz stations and serve as a check…” Obviously his triangulation work was much tighter as angles were measured four times at each monument along the line. Polaris was also observed every three miles. The distances were measured with a 300 foot steel tape and checked to a 300 foot invar tape every other day. Similar to the monuments set a few years earlier, on the other side of the State, marking the 100th Meridian they were in the shape of a conical frustum 36” long, 8” at the top and 14” at the base. Once again the concrete was molded in galvanized metal and placed on a concrete foundation. A bronze inscribed tablet was then placed on top of the concrete monument. Also similar to the 100th Meridian between Texas and Oklahoma a majority of the field work was completed by Samuel’s close friend Eugene L. McNair. McNair had a most impressive career with the United States Geological Survey and was called upon to assist Gannett in multiple high order surveys for the Supreme Court. In September of 1934 while assisting Gannett on the New Hampshire – Vermont state line for the Supreme Court, McNair suddenly passed away at the age of 71.

Unsung Hero: The Texas-New Mexico Border - The American Surveyor (7)

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El Paso Evening Post – August 27, 1929

Unsung Hero: The Texas-New Mexico Border - The American Surveyor (8)

Albuquerque Journal – August 25, 1929

Once complete, Samuel Stinson Gannet presented his report to the United Stated Supreme Court. This well put together report details the history of the dispute and the instructions by which he did his survey. In detail, Gannett describes his work and the instruments used. He lists each monument, and references, with true bearing and distances to others for future retracement. He also created a highly detailed map of the entire line with contours. This report by Gannett was given to the United States Supreme Court on July 17, 1930 and was quickly approved settling yet another highly disputed line between two adjoining States. And although it may not make sense today, the Rio Grande has been permanently monumented as it was on September 9th, 1850.

Note: Special thanks to Kery Greiner, Steve Cobb & Dr. Kurt Wurm and all those who volunteered on the 2005-2006 retracement by the Southern Rio Grande Chapter of the New Mexico Professional Surveyors and the Paso Del Norte Chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors.

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What resolved the border dispute between Texas and New Mexico? ›

Texas HistoryToday in Texas History: Compromise of 1850 Sets Boundary Between Texas and New Mexico. The compromise set Texas' modern-day border and ceded its western and northernmost territory to the U.S. in exchange for $10 million.

What did Mexico think the border of Texas was? ›

In 1845 the United States annexed Texas and subsequently engaged in a dispute with Mexico over the southern Texas-Mexico border. Texas claimed that its southwest boundary extended to the Rio Grande. Mexico claimed that the boundary was the Nueces River, which is 100 miles (160 kilometers) eastward.

Where did Mexico think the Texas border was? ›

Mexico said the Nueces River, to the north, should be the border. The dispute simmered until Dec. 29, 1845, when the U.S. annexed the Lone Star State, and sent troops to the Rio Grande a month later.

Why did Texas give up New Mexico? ›

Under the compromise, Texas surrendered its claims to present-day New Mexico and other states in return for federal assumption of Texas's public debt. California was admitted as a free state, while the remaining portions of the Mexican Cession were organized into New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory.

What was the main conflict between new settlers of Texas and Mexico Why? ›

The annexation of Texas contributed to the coming of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). The conflict started, in part, over a disagreement about which river was Mexico's true northern border: the Nueces or the Rio Grande.

Why did Mexico not want Texas to join the United States? ›

Mexico also feared a domino effect—that giving up Texas would lead to the loss of their other northern territories. Many Mexicans also distrusted the other powers involved in the Texas dispute.

Can you walk across the border from Texas to Mexico? ›

Texas and Mexico share 1,254 miles of common border and are joined by 28 international bridges and border crossings. This number includes two dams, one hand-drawn ferry, and 25 other crossings that allow commercial, vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

How did Mexico lose Texas? ›

In 1845 the U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas, which had won de facto independence from Mexico in the Texas Revolution (1835–36). When U.S. diplomatic efforts to establish agreement on the Texas-Mexico border and to purchase Mexico's California and New Mexico territories failed, expansionist U.S. Pres. James K.

Who sold Mexico to the US? ›

Santa Anna refused to sell a large portion of Mexico, but he needed money to fund an army to put down ongoing rebellions, so on December 30, 1853 he and Gadsden signed a treaty stipulating that the United States would pay $15 million for 45,000 square miles south of the New Mexico territory and assume private American ...

What were the 3 reasons that the Texans wanted independence from Mexico? ›

  • Why Texas Wanted Independence. from Mexico.
  • The settlers were culturally American, not Mexican.
  • The slavery issue.
  • The abolishment of the 1824 Constitution.
  • Chaos in Mexico City.
  • Economic ties with the United States.
  • Texas was part of the state of Coahuila y Texas.
  • The Americans outnumbered the Tejanos.
10 Nov 2017

What are 3 reasons Texas declared independence from Mexico? ›

Texas formally declared independence in March of 1836; there were many reasons why they did so.
  • The Settlers Were Culturally American, Not Mexican.
  • The Issue of Enslaved Workers.
  • The Abolishment of the 1824 Constitution.
  • Chaos in Mexico City.
  • Economic Ties With the US.
  • Texas Was Part of the State of Coahuila y Texas.
8 Apr 2020

Why does New Mexico owe Texas Water? ›

Parties in the lawsuit

The federal government's argument is that New Mexico's “actions or inactions on groundwater” jeopardize the river, and the federal agencies' duty to provide water for irrigators in the U.S. and give Mexico its portion of water under the 1906 treaty.

Why did Mexico refuse to recognize Texas as an independent country? ›

Mexico refused to acknowledge Texas independence. The Mexicans maintained that Texas was still a state in rebellion against its rightful government. Texans wanted to resolve their relationship with Mexico to avoid conflicts like the one involving the Independence.

Who won the war between Texas and Mexico? ›

Mexican–American War
DateApril 25, 1846 – February 2, 1848 (1 year, 9 months, 1 week and 1 day)
ResultU.S. victory Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Mexican recognition of U.S. sovereignty over Texas (among other territories) End of the conflict between Mexico and Texas
Territorial changesMexican Cession
1 more row

Why were the American settlers in Texas upset with Mexico? ›

Their greatest source of discontent, though, was the Mexican government's 1829 abolition of slavery. Most American settlers were from southern states, and many had brought slaves with them. Mexico tried to accommodate them by maintaining the fiction that the slaves were indentured servants.

Did Texas want to be apart of the United States? ›

The Republic of Texas declared independence from the Republic of Mexico on March 2, 1836. It applied for annexation to the United States the same year, but was rejected by the Secretary of State. At the time, the vast majority of the Texian population favored the annexation of the Republic by the United States.

Why did Texas not immediately become part of the United States? ›

Since its independence, Texas had sought annexation by the U.S. However, the process took nearly 10 years due to political divisions over slavery. Texas entered the nation as a state that legalized slavery, and seceded from it 15 years later as part of the Confederate States of America.

Where is the safest Mexican border crossing? ›

LAREDO, Texas (Border Report) — Two South Texas cities on the Mexican border have been named among the top 20 “safest cities” in America, according to a recent survey. Laredo is listed as No. 3 in the 2022 Safest Cities in America survey out this week by WalletHub.

Can you cross the Mexican border with a birth certificate 2022? ›

Children: U.S. citizen children ages 15 and under arriving by land or sea from a contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico) may present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate (issued by the Vital Records Department in the state where he or she was born), a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization ...

Can I cross the US border without a passport? ›

In the past, American and Canadian citizens were exempt from the requirement of presenting passports to enter the United States. Effective June 1, 2009, both American and Canadian citizens are required to present a WHTI-compliant document for entry into the United States.

How much land was stolen from Mexico? ›

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

The U.S. War on Mexico secured Texas as part of the southern empire of slavery and took another 1,370,154 square kilometers (529,017 square miles) of land, nearly half of the original territory of Mexico, as spoils of war.

Did Mexico recognize Texas as a country? ›

Mexico never recognized Texas' independence. Instead the Mexican Government considered Texas a rebellious territory still belonging to The Mexican Federation.

Why did Mexico lose to USA? ›

How did once-dominant Mexico lose the Mexican-American War? Mexico was essentially broke. The country was racked by financial instability as the war began in 1846. America's blockade of Mexican ports worsened an already difficult situation, as Mexico couldn't import and export goods, or levy taxes on imports.

Who owned Mexico before US? ›

In 1521, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztecs and Mexico became a Spanish colony. For 300 years Spain ruled the land until the early 1800s.

Who was Mexico originally owned by? ›

After a war which lasted eleven years and in which many people died, Mexico finally achieved its independence from Spain in 1821.

Who owned California before Mexico? ›

Spain had maintained a number of missions and presidios in New Spain since 1519. The Crown laid claim to the north coastal provinces of California in 1542. Excluding Santa Fe in New Mexico, settlement of northern New Spain was slow for the next 155 years.

What battle ended the conflict between Mexico and Texas? ›

After Santa Anna defeated the Texians in the Battle of the Alamo, he was defeated by the Texian Army commanded by General Sam Houston and was captured at the Battle of San Jacinto. In exchange for his life Santa Anna signed a treaty with Texas President David Burnet ending the war and recognizing Texian independence.

What Treaty resolved the U.S. conflict with Mexico? ›

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, that brought an official end to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), was signed on February 2, 1848, at Guadalupe Hidalgo, a city north of the capital where the Mexican government had fled with the advance of U.S. forces.

What was the outcome of the Texas expedition into New Mexico? ›

Following their surrender, the Texans were taken prisoners, treated harshly, and marched some 2000 miles to a prison in Mexico City. After the considerable diplomatic controversy between Mexico and the United States, most of the prisoners were released the following April. The expedition thus ended in failure.

What ended the political crisis over the new territory won from Mexico? ›

On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed which officially ended the Mexican-American War.

Why did Mexico lose against Texas? ›

How did once-dominant Mexico lose the Mexican-American War? Mexico was essentially broke. The country was racked by financial instability as the war began in 1846. America's blockade of Mexican ports worsened an already difficult situation, as Mexico couldn't import and export goods, or levy taxes on imports.

How was Texas stolen from Mexico? ›

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

The U.S. War on Mexico secured Texas as part of the southern empire of slavery and took another 1,370,154 square kilometers (529,017 square miles) of land, nearly half of the original territory of Mexico, as spoils of war.

What happened to Texas after defeating Mexico? ›

Remembering how badly the Texans had been defeated at the Alamo, on April 21, 1836, Houston's army won a quick battle against the Mexican forces at San Jacinto and gained independence for Texas. Soon after, Houston was elected president of the Republic of Texas.

Why did the US pay Mexico $15 million dollars? ›

Mexico Surrenders

Mexico also gave up all claims to Texas and recognized the Rio Grande as America's southern boundary. In return, the United States paid Mexico $15 million and agreed to settle all claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico.

Did us pay Mexico for land? ›

The Gadsden Purchase, or Treaty, was an agreement between the United States and Mexico, finalized in 1854, in which the United States agreed to pay Mexico $10 million for a 29,670 square mile portion of Mexico that later became part of Arizona and New Mexico.

Why did the US want to fight Mexico? ›

On May 12, 1846, the United States Senate voted 40 to 2 to go to war with Mexico. President James K. Polk had accused Mexican troops of having attacked Americans on U.S. soil, north of the Rio Grande. But Mexico claimed this land as its own territory and accused the American military of having invaded.

What happened between Texas and Mexico? ›

Texas Revolution, also called War of Texas Independence, war fought from October 1835 to April 1836 between Mexico and Texas colonists that resulted in Texas's independence from Mexico and the founding of the Republic of Texas (1836–45).

What happened after Texas won its independence from Mexico? ›

On March 6, four days after Texas declared independence, Mexican troops scaled the mission's walls; 183 defenders were killed, including several Mexicans who had fought for Texas independence, and their oil-soaked bodies were set on fire outside the Alamo.

What did he propose should happen with any new territory taken from Mexico at the end of the war? ›

The Wilmot Proviso was a proposal to prohibit slavery in the territory acquired by the United States at the conclusion of the Mexican War.

What did Mexico have to give up as a result of their loss to the US? ›

By its terms, Mexico ceded 55 percent of its territory, including the present-day states California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, most of Arizona and Colorado, and parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming.

Which event on the time line contributed most directly to the outbreak of the US Mexican War? ›

It stemmed from the annexation of the Republic of Texas by the U.S. in 1845 and from a dispute over whether Texas ended at the Nueces River (the Mexican claim) or the Rio Grande (the U.S. claim).


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