and Charles W. Pressler
a controlled-access, climate controlled room in the General Land Office sits the
nation's largest-known map cabinet. And in a compartment labeled "Jumbo Drawer
H" is a Texas-sized Texas map. |
“The U.S. Geologic Survey has a bigger
map of Texas, but I don’t know of a larger old Texas map,” said Jean Kilpatrick,
one of GLO’s map experts.
by two Land Office draftsmen in 1879, the map is eight by eight feet square. Though
its official purpose was to record areas of public land still available, it also
shows all the existing counties (including two counties that no longer exist),
the extent of railroad trackage up to the time of the map’s preparation, and,
of particular interest, the state's network of roads.
At the time of the
map’s drawing, of course, Texas had no official highway system. That would not
come until 1917 when the legislature created the Texas Highway Department. But
the state had a series of wagon roads connecting the various towns and cities.
(Texas had many more towns than significant cities in those days.)
a wonderful map,” Kilpatrick said, pointing to the no-longer extant Greer County
north of the Red River and just east of what is now the eastern base line of the
Panhandle. Since 1896 it has been part of Oklahoma. The other ghost county is
Encinal, once located between Duval and Webb county and later absorbed by those
and other counties.
draftsman Charles W. Pressler drew the finely detailed map with assistance from
draftsman A.B. Langermann. The giant-sized original was then published in easier-to-handle
sizes by a St. Louis-based lithography company. Copies of the map hung in real
estate offices across the state for years during the last decades of the 19th
Of the men who made the map, not much is known about Langermann,
but Pressler left plainer tracks. Born in Prussia on March 26, 1823 as Karl Wilhelm
Pressler, he studied surveying and cartography in the early 1840s. Fed up with
the state of affairs in his native country, he immigrated to Texas, arriving at
on Feb. 1, 1845.
Almost immediately, Pressler began practicing his professional
skills in Texas. He worked for noted land man Jacob De Cordova in Austin
and assisted him in the preparation of his 1849 map of the state, today considered
one of the most important of the early maps of Texas.
Newly married, Pressler
went to work for the General Land Office in 1850 and spent most of the rest of
his career there. His non-GLO interims included service in the Confederate army
during the Civil War and for a time after the war as Galveston’s city engineer.
As a federal employee in 1869-70, he did the field work for a map tracing the
route from Austin to Yuma, AZ and did surveying at seven frontier forts from Jack
County to Laredo.
But Pressler soon was back on the state payroll at the GLO.
map he and Langermann produced in 1879 would have been used by William S. Porter
(later much better known as O. Henry) when he worked
as a draftsman for the Land Office in the late 1880s. Porter reported to Pressler,
and when the future short story writer later got indicted for embezzling funds
at an Austin bank, Pressler went his bond.
stayed at the GLO until 1899. His big map eventually outlived its original usefulness
and got rolled up and stored. With the passage of time and occasional un-rolling,
its condition deteriorated. The Panhandle region, for instance, pretty much fell
But in 2000, the GLO had the map restored. The Panhandle still
looks like it got hit by a giant tornado, but the map has been stabilized and
never will get in any worse shape. (Fortunately, the Panhandle survives on the
small versions of Pressler’s map.)
Because of its size, the king-sized
map has not been scanned, but Kilpatrick says that will happen sooner or later.
Until then, 4 by 4 foot versions of the map have been reprinted and are available
for purchase from GLO.
The GLO has more than 50,000 maps and documents
in its archives. To buy a reprint of selected old maps and some newly prepared
historical maps, check the agency’s Web site at www.glo.state.tx.us
June 27, 2007 column
by Mike Cox|
Texas Ranger Tales II