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We lead the family worldwide to information vital to our heritage.
Fact finding is our mission and
Unity is our bond.”

May 17 , 2009

To the Heirs of Ballí Spanish & Mexican Land Grants
The Steamship "Anson Jones"
Research and Recovery Efforts

BFO is lunching a research effort to find out about the sinking of the Steamship Anson Jones. It sank in 1851 and is considered one of the most historic due to the land grants on board. The Miller and Bourland Commission used it to collect land grants along the Rio Grande to be legitimized in Austin. Miller decided to send the land grants from Port Isabel to Galveston on the steamer Anson and than go overland to Austin. Two days out, the Anson sank fifteen miles from Matagorda. Miller lost the trunk, containing the original land grant titles, and about $800 in fees from claimants. There are conflicting stories about this wreck and our research will help clarify some of the discrepancies about the Anson’s demise.

Fred B. Ballí

Below you will find a letter of concern from Butch Wenneker and a reply to his letter.


Seldom, if ever, have I heard a more preposterous idea. Attempting to locate and salvage the wreck of the Steamship "Anson Jones". To what end? For what purpose? Is the BFO so flush with money that they, or anyone, actually afford to initiate such a foolish venture? Now I wonder, very seriously, if the money I promised to send the BFO might not be better spent by donation to another charity with truly charitable or philanthropic objectives. What on God's Green Earth would be found onboard the wreckage of the long lost "Anson Jones"...lost at sea 158 years ago?

If it is the original title documents, of what purpose would they serve now. The Bourland Commission reconvened and both re-collected and reconstructed those documents in the year afterwards. Let me refer you to one of the most comprehensive collections of that effort.

It is titled "GUIDE TO SPANISH AND MEXICAN LAND GRANTS IN SOUTH TEXAS", published by the Texas General Land Office, Archives and Records Division, 2003, approx. 200 pages, and it list's 364 Spanish and Mexican land grants of South Texas, including the grants of 7 Ballí families and my own ancestor Jose Salvador De La Garza for his 284,000 acres "Espiritu Santo" Colonial Spanish Land Grant of 1781, also known as "Rancho Viejo".

Mel Fisher, while looking for (and finding) the fabled "Nuestra Senora De Atocha" in the 1970's, in the Florida Keyes, spent $105,000 per day. The search for "The Titanic" in the 1990's cost $650,000 per day. The hunt for the most famous gold ship of all, the Steamer "Central America" in about 2001/2002 cost $800,000 per day and they did find 7 billion in gold. From my readings, the "Anson Jones" sank in the deeper water's beyond the shallower Continental Shelf. And the weather was so bad that the ship's crew were unable to take their position by bearings of the stars. Further, by my readings, there was a search for the remains of the "Anson Jones" and all to no avail. There was even no evidence of wreckage upon the closest beaches.

No. Simply "NO"...this is a preposterous proposition. Don't you all think that in all these intervening 158 years that some or any evidence would have risen to the surface. Think of all the sea exploration by the ocean mapping activities of the U.S. Government and too by the off shore oil and gas exploration efforts. No one has reported even a single sonar "ping" in that locale. You would be looking for a single black grain of sand on an otherwise pure white, and very long, beach.

If I were to recommend anyone who MIGHT be able to lead you to clues and/or published materials it would have to be Mr. Galen Greaser, Archivist and genealogy researcher, at the Texas General Land Office. Also, I would look in the Yellow Pages for Matagorda Island, Galveston and Houston for ideas, histories and estimates.

But, again, I beg the question of "why"? And why now. And what is the objective. Even secure safe's, under high water pressure, leak and therefore destroy the documents enclosed.

I am not at all being pessimistic. On the contrary...I am being practical. I am very interested in ships lost at sea. I have in my very massive personal library about 70 books on ships lost at sea. Always and always...the task is too much. Most frequently the cause of ending these many searches is that money and financing run's out. The second most cited reason is the technical limitations involved with any recovery.

No, in short, I am dead set against any attempt in these regards. Why not search instead for one of the three Spanish gold galleons lost off Padre Island. Now and then a gold doubloon washes up upon the shore of South Padre Island. My ex-wife, has one of them, dated 1581, from a site off Tampico.

But, do tell me, is the BFO, actually in such a financial position to launch such a grandiose venture. I find that difficult to belief. And what, pray tell, is aboard the "Anson Jones" that could lead one into such an enormously expensive under taking.

Pass on to whoever will listen that any and all documents that might ever be found upon the wreckage of the "Anson Jones" was replicated in their entirety by the commission that was the successor to the original Bourland Commission. Every last bit of it plus some more who were not included in the original Bourland Commission.

YOU MUST tell them of the comprehensive land grant manual. That land grant publication is 200 pages long, details 364 different South Texas Spanish and Mexican land grants...and cost's ONLY $5.00.

So, instead of spending at least several hundred thousand dollars...put out $5.00 instead.


GOOD GOD ALL MIGHTY...YOU HAVE TO PUT THIS PREPOSTEROUS IDEA TO REST. The mere idea causes me to be truly angry. There is a very great difference between tenacity versus practical and enlightened. This book I refer to will enlighten them.

For me, the book lead to my genealogy back to the 1500's up to and including that our claim for old Fort Brown went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1891, 1877 and 1866. I now have the documents that were necessary but missing in those three cases.

Further, with the help of Mr. Galen Greaser I was lead to two sources for the actual copies of the LAST WILL of Maria Gertrudis De La Garza-Falcon, my GGGG-grandmother whose grand-daughter, Maria Gertrudis De La Garza-Falcon married my GGG-grandfather, Jose Miguel Salinas in 1808 in Matamoros and had 15 children.

All they have to do is research for documents and their alternative sites. For instance, this reference book has nine (9) Ballí families listed, including your Ballí branch. I checked it closely. It is a TREASURE TROVE of information. Any questions remaining should and must correspond with the fabulous brain and memory of Mr. Greaser. I looked at Maritime charts for the depth of the water's off Matagorda Island and that sea floor lies 280 to 360 feet deep. God, can you imagine the expense of diving that far. It cannot be done by anything other than deep-sea rovers. Hell, that's a minimum of $12,000 per day plus the surface logistical support, the barge, marine specialists and on and on.... all this for a piece of waterlogged and muddled piece of blotch unreadable paper.

Butch Wenneker


Reply to Butch Wenneker’s letter of concern:

Dear Mr. Wenneker,

Let me start with introducing myself. I am Danny Ballí, Fred Ballí’s son. I have been in the commercial dive industry for 14 years. I am a saturation diver with dives up to 500ft and am currently on a project in the Gulf of Mexico salvaging platforms knocked down in the hurricanes. I will admit that I do not have a back ground in treasure hunting, but I do have plenty of experience in marine construction, and the expenses of dive operations. Before I get on with answering your questions I would like to say I appreciate your concern on how we at BFO are appropriating our time and funds. No operation, especially one such as this, should move forward without being able to justify its purpose.

This project is currently in the research process which is at no cost to the BFO. If I do incur any cost in this part it will be out of my own pocket. We are limited on what we can do, but according to the charts I have seen most of the area around Matagorda is well within our diving capabilities. I have access to a dive charter vessel that could be used for sonar work and the initial diving if we get any anomalies on our sonar readings. If we go into salvage mode we will obviously need a bigger vessel but even then the cost would be nowhere near $100,000 a day. Even then we would try and get grants and once again do this with as little cost to the organization as possible. We will not move to this phase unless we have concrete evidence that this vessel can be located.

The safes holding the land grants are my initial concern and let me say I, much like yourself, am fairly pessimistic on the integrity of the safes over the years. I do feel that the reward for this venture will be in the research. The land grants and titles would help legitimize my family’s claim to being the sole title holders to tracts of land. We are trying to widen our paper trail and this was one way that has been brought to light. This wreck is considered one of the most historic due to the land grants on board. I am aware that these titles were redone by the Bourland and Miller commissions, but we feel the historical values would be priceless. Also, it would be interesting to know exactly why the steamer sank. The separatist movement (fueled by the Kings and Kenedys) strongly opposed the commission and we are curious to see if this may have been done to change the outcome of the conclusion. Once again, much of the reward will be in the research.

As far as the mapping and sonar work done by the U.S. government and oil and gas companies, I assure you it is not that invasive. The area off Matagorda does not have much in the way of platforms or pipelines. I have done plenty of bottom surveys for the right of way for future pipelines and they consist of a diver doing a quick circle sweep on bottom. They rarely turn up anything due to the haste in which they are performed. Current surveys after Ike (which are some of the most invasive ever done in this area) turned up plenty of anomalies which could be possible wreck sites.

You ask why we endeavor to locate a vessel with such little monetary value? Our organization is not about money. It is about setting the history record straight. If this is where the path leads us, our family has the ability to combine our strengths and get around whatever obstacle is put in front of us. Where you see a preposterous proposition, I see a chance to further unify our family and learn more about the injustices done in the past. You speak of Spanish galleons and gold doubloons. If you want to do some of the footwork we would be more than happy to donate our time and resources if it is for a worthy cause. Donations to our organization, let me assure you, will not be appropriated for this project without being carefully reviewed by our board members and made public. My father and I are personally funding this research because we believe there is more to this story and it will benefit our organization. I am a firm believer in strength through knowledge and this endeavor will only add to that.

Your input is much appreciated and in hopes that this helped put you at ease and know that we are not initiating a foolish adventure.

Danny Ballí