mother of invention
by Delbert Trew
writing a recent column on salt, I
found an amazing story of a natural salt-producing lake near El
This historic old salt lake named Sal del Rey, has been providing
99 2/5 percent pure salt since before America was discovered. It covers
about 640 acres, is perfectly level, oval in shape and lies only inches
above sea level.
Water bearing salt brine rises a few inches deep in the lake bottom
each day. The prevailing winds from the southwest push the water northeast
during the daytime. At night, when the winds die down, the water reverses
its path back southwest by nature of gravity leaving behind a layer
of pure salt to be harvested. This process, developed by nature, is
perfect and has been repeated daily as long as anyone can remember.
In 1928, after the discovery of oil on the North Fork of the Red River
the Texas attorney general made an attempt to seize seven privately
owned producing oil wells for the state's benefit. His reasoning was,
Texas law says the State owns the land under any navigable river.
He claimed the Lefors property, along with the producing wells were
located on an island in the navigable North Fork river.
The scheme failed in court when it was proved although Lefors was
built on river silt, it is not an island and the river could only
be navigable during flood stage.
the new state of Texas opened up the Bexar Public Domain for settlement
in 1846, it created counties, townships and sections drawn on a map.
But, since the new state had no money to hire surveyors, the homesteaders
and land purchasers were expected to locate and survey their own land
and submit the surveys to the state for title.
At that time, there were few professional surveyors anywhere nor any
surveying equipment available for use. Almost anyone who could do
arithmetic and write was hired to run the surveys. Methods used were
limited only by the imagination of the surveyor.
Some tied rags on their wagon wheel, measured the circumference of
the wheel and counted the revolutions turned then multiplied to find
the distance traveled. A few measured the distance their horse stepped,
counted the steps and multiplied.
If that was not confusing enough, all started their surveys at the
100th meridian, which changed many times before being set by the courts
in 1929. These changes and odd measuring techniques resulted in many
survey corrections later when property lines were resurveyed by professionals.
One exception is noted. In the 1850s, a surveyor named James E. Patton
was hired to measure Ellis
County land around Waxahachie.
Having no proper surveying equipment he made a leather hobble to slip
over his ankles limiting the length of his step which was measured.
Using a compass, he patiently laid out the metes and bounds of the
lands, staking the corners and recording his numbers. In later years,
when his original stakes were checked by professional surveyors, they
were so close to accurate they were left intact and made legal.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
September 18, 2007 Column
Texas | TE
Online Magazine | Features
| Columns | "It's
All Trew" |