HISTORY OF LANDLOCKED LAND IN WEST TEXAS
Between 1870 and about 1910, the railroads were then what the "dotcom" companies are today. At that time railroads were thought to be the key to enhancing development and stimulating economic growth in the undeveloped areas of the West.
Railroads were not interested in building rail into areas where there were no people. They wanted to be paid to build new speculative rail lines. The State of Texas had little money but it had lots of land. So the State of Texas paid the railroads with land to build new track with the hope that development and growth would follow the rails.
The State of Texas divided up its land into sections (640 acres each) and paid the railroads every other section for rail line construction. Think of a checkerboard, black and red squares. Texas paid with the black squares and kept the red squares. The railroads immediately sold the black squares for cash to brokers, ranchers, and farmers. Then, the farmers and ranchers had every other section of land (the black squares) and the State of Texas still owned the red squares.
In the early part of the 1900's the State of Texas began to sell the remaining sections of land (the red squares). Mostly these were sold to the ranchers and farmers who had purchased the railroad sections, creating the opportunity for large ranches without the checker- board problem.
But odd sections here and there were sold to promoters who then divided these sections into quarters (160 acres each) and even smaller tracts for re-sale. Some of these smaller trats were sold as "investments" to buyers in cities around the country. The result was that here and there, sections or parts of sections, were legally sold, but the buyers did not have legal ground access unless such a tract happened to front a public road.
For some reason the State of Texas made no provision for access to these isolated sections of land. Unless a piece of one of these divided up sections had direct frontage on a public road, the only access was via permission of an adjoining rancher who did have legal public road access, or, later, via helicopter. In most cases, permission for access by the rancher owning the surrounding land, was not forthcoming. Even if "permission" is granted, it does not constitute a right of access. Permission can be withdrawn.
Over the years, many owners of ranches surrounding landlocked land have legally denied permission for access and have ranched, hunted and otherwise used the landlocked land owned by others as if it were their own. As landlocked owners, or their heirs, discovered the problem, many quit paying taxes and ranchers (or others) were able to purchase landlocked land at prices far below market. However, many such tracts still exist ranging from a few acres to over 1000 acres.