Land measurements used in early Texas were based on the Spanish system of the period. They were keyed to two primary units of distance: a vara and a league. Conversions to the more familiar measures that we know today are shown below. The graphics depict the relations among the various units of distance and area.
Distance (Linear) Measurements
1 Vara = approximately 33-1/3 inches = 0.93 yards
1 League = 5000 varas = approximately 2.6 miles
1 Labor (pronounced lah-bor’) = 1,000,000 square varas = 177.1 acres
1 League = 1 square linear league = 25 labors = 4428 acres = 6.8 square miles
1 Square Mile = 640 acres = approximately 3.6 labors = 0.145 leagues
The sitio, another term sometimes used to describe land area in colonial Texas, was somewhat more loosely defined. Roughly translated from Spanish, the term meant space or parcel. In early Texas, the term referred to the amount of land required for ranching horses, mules and cattle. It was often used to designate the equivalent of one league of land.
Occasionally, in documents recorded later in the Republic, early Statehood, and beyond, the researcher may run across the more modern term “section” to apply to land area. A section is 15 square miles, or a little more that two leagues.