Notaries in the Republic of Texas, 1836-1846
Four days later, the thirteen-day siege of the Alamo ended as Mexican forces under General Santa Anna defeated the 183 Texians defending the small mission at the Alamo (in present-day San Antonio). Remember the Alamo! became the battle cry of the Texas Revolution.
An army of 800 Texians, led by General Sam Houston, defeated General Santa Anna’s force of 1600 men, at San Jacinto (near present-day Houston) on April 22, 1836, and the war with Mexico was over.
The Republic of Texas was located between the United States and Mexico, and included all of present-day Texas, and parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. Several sites served as the capital: Velasco (now Freeport), Washington-on-the-Brazos, Harrisburg, Galveston, Columbia, Houston and Austin.
The Republic had a navy and established foreign diplomatic relations with the United States, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Republic of Yucatan.
Presidents of Texas
An interim President, David G. Burnet, served from March 16, 1836 until October 22. Following September elections, the constitution was ratified, and Sam Houston became the first elected President, from October 22, 1836 to December 10, 1838, with Vice-President Mirabeau B. Lamar.
The second President was Mirabeau B. Lamar, from December 10, 1838 to December 13, 1841, with Vice President David G. Burnet.
Sam Houston also served as the third President, from December 13, 1841 to December 9, 1844. The fourth President was Anson Jones, from December 9, 1844 to February 19, 1846, when the State of Texas entered the Union.
On December 29, 1845, the United States Congress voted to admit the State of Texas to the Union, ending the Republic of Texas. In 1852, in exchange for the assumption of its huge debts, Texas ceded its territory in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Wyoming to the United States.
Republic of Texas Constitution
The Republic of Texas Constitution borrowed language from the U.S. Constitution, and several southern states, and formed a unitary republic (single state), rather than a federal republic (federation of states).
Presidential terms were set to three years, modeled after the Mexican Constitution. Important provisions adapted from Spanish-Mexican law were community property, homestead exemptions and protections, and debtor relief. The predominantly Anglo-American settlers called for the common law of England as early as practicable and it was used in deciding all criminal cases.
The great seal of the Republic of Texas, adopted December 10, 1836, and modified on January 25, 1839, was kept by the President, and used by him officially on all grants and commissions.
The president used his private seal, until the great seal of the republic was provided. The current seal of the State of Texas, was based on the seal of the Republic of Texas.
Republic of Texas Notary Laws
Appointment of Notaries Public, November 16, 1837.
There shall be a Notary Public for each of the ports of entry of this Republic, to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, who shall hold his office for two years, unless sooner removed by the President, and shall receive the same fees as are now allowed by law to the several Chief Justices for the performance of notarial acts.
The several Notaries Public shall have a seal of office, and all certificates or other acts by them performed, shall be signed by the said Notaries, and the seal of the office thereunto affixed.
President Authorized to Appoint Notaries Public, May 15, 1838.
There shall be appointed for the county where the Seat of Government is or shall be located, two Notaries Public in addition to the Chief Justice of said county; and also one additional Notary in each county of the Republic; which appointments shall be made by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
[Note: The Texas Congress formed 23 counties, whose boundaries generally coincided with the existing municipalities. The original counties, all in east Texas, were Austin, Bastrop, Bexar, Brazoria, Colorado, Goliad, Gonzales, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Matagorda, Milam, Nacogdoches, Red River, Refugio, Sabine, San Augustine, San Patricio, Shelby, Victoria, Washington. West Texas was occupied by Apache, Comanche and Kiowa Indian tribes.]
Notary Seal Design, January 10, 1845.
It shall be the duty of Notaries Public, to have a seal of office, with the words Notary Public and the name of the County around the margin, with a star with five ponts in the centre.
Notary Seal Required
No notarial act shall be valid, unless the seal of office of such Notary be appended.
Appointing a Notary Successor
When the office of Notary Public shall become vacant, from death, resignation, or otherwise, the President shall specify in the nomination and commission, the name of the person whose vacancy is to be filled by such appointment; and the successor shall be entitled to all the records, books, papers and seal of his predecessor; but he shall be required, to pay to the person authorized to receive the same, the reasonable value of such notarial seal.
State of Texas Notary Laws
Once Texas became a state, notaries were appointed to four-year terms by the Governor, with up to six notaries per county. Each notary took an oath of office, endorsed on a $2,000 bond, filed with the County Court.
Vacating notaries deposited their records and seals with the County Court clerk, who delivered them to the notary’s successor. The notary seal was engraved in the center with a star of five points, and the words Notary Public, County of ____ , Texas, around the margin.
Notaries had authority to take an acknowledgment or proof, to administer an oath, to make a declaration or protest, and to take a deposition.
Some Republic of Texas Notaries
Some of the Republic of Texas Notaries, found in historic records include:
1838 John Sharp, Port of Velasco, United States consular agent at Velasco, first lieutenant in First Regiment, Texas Volunteers
1838 R. D. Johnson, Port of Galveston
1838 Thomas Harvey, Matagorda
1838 John Alex Newlands, Houston
1838 W. Fairfax Gray, Houston
1839 Samuel Alexander Roberts, Harrisburg County, attorney, secretary of the Texas legation to the United States, Secretary of State
1839 Daniel J. Toler, Washington County, Chief Justice of Washington County, Postmaster General 1844
1839 William Henry Daingerfield, Bexar, attorney, second mayor of San Antonio, Secretary of the Treasury, chargé d’affaires to the Netherlands
1840 Henry Millard, Jefferson County
1841 Charles Bellinger Stewart, (see photo) Montgomery, first signer of Texas Declaration of Independence, first Texas Secretary of State, designed the Lone Star flag, elected representative, practiced medicine, spoke fluent Spanish, was a translator between General Sam Houston and General Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto.
1841 George Lane, Panola County, District Attorney San Augustine
1842 Noah Turner Byars, Washington-on-the-Brazos, appointed by Sam Houston in 1836 as armorer and blacksmith of the Texas army, Texas Senate sergeant-at-arms 1837-1841, associate judge in Travis County 1839-1841, ordained Baptist minister, founded more than 60 churches in Texas
1842 Francis M. Weatherhead, Jr, Sabine County
1842 Alexander E. McClure, Burnet County
1842 Thompson H. McMahan, Fort Bend County
1842 George W. Scott, Shelby County
In 1882, in Langtry, southwest Texas, Justice of the Peace and Notary Public, Judge Roy Bean (1825-1903), was notorious for holding court in the Jersey Lilly, a saloon he owned.
A sign advertised him as the “Law West of the Pecos.” He offered notary services along with ice-cold beer. By the 1890s, reports of Bean’s curmudgeonly rulings had made him nationally famous. Tourists traveling by railroad stopped to visit.
1. The Alamo, by Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
2. Map, Republic of Texas, historic
3. Seal, Republic of Texas, historic, by Svgalbertian (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
4. C B Stewart bust, Conroe, TX park
5. C B Stewart signature, historic
6. Judge Roy Bean saloon, Langtry, TX, historic, by photographer not named [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons