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Angostura Grant

by J. J. Bowden

The Angostura Grant is a tract of land located on the west bank of the Rio Grande lying between the Pueblo of San Felipe Grant and the Ranchito Grant. The first mention of the tract is contained in certain proceedings wherein a group of Spaniards petitioned Governor Diego de Vargas for a grant covering the premises. The Protector of the Indians of the Pueblo of San Felipe opposed the application and Vargas denied the request on February 26, 1704.[1]

Juan Jose Gallegos, a resident of the Town of Cieneguilla, appeared before Governor Joaquin Codallos y Rabal and registered the tract, which was bounded:
 

 On the north, by the lands of the Pueblo of San Felipe; on the east, by the Rio Grande; on the south, by the lands of the Indians of the Pueblo of Santa Ana; and on the west, by the Cubero Arroyo.
 

In support of his request, Gallegos called Codallos’ attention to the fact that he had a large family to support and had never received any land from the crown. He reminded the governor that the king had commanded his officials to generously give land to the poor and worthy. He also pointed out that he was a descendant of the settlers and conquerors of New Mexico on both the maternal and paternal sides of his family. After carefully reviewing Gallegos’ petition, Codallos, in consideration of the “merits of his parents in the service of the King,” granted him the requested tract on November 4, 1745, and ordered the Lieutenant Alcalde of the Queres Nation, Andres Montoya, to place him in royal possession of the premises. Pursuant to such order, Montoya went to the grant six days later and, after determining that the lands were not Indian property and the concession would in no way injure the Indians of the Pueblo of San Felipe, delivered possession of the lands to Gallegos.[2] Gallegos owned the grant until December 5, 1752, when he sold it to the inhabitants of the Pueblo of San Felipe for three hundred reales.[3] They used and occupied the grant for more than a century. However, on April 16, 1866, the governor and fiscal mayor of the pueblo conveyed a portion of the grant to Jose Leandro Perea.

 

Perea and the other assignees and legal representatives of Juan Jose Gallegos, the names of whom allegedly were too numerous to list, petitioned[4] Surveyor General James K. Proudfit on February 13, 1874, seeking the confirmation of the grant. Tomas C. de Baca and Anastacio Sandoval appeared before Proudfit in behalf of the claimants and testified that the Town of Angostura was situated on the grant, it was in existence as a own at the time of the American occupation of New Mexico in 1846 and, while it had a large population, Perea was the principal owner of the grant. Just nine days after the filing of the claim, Proudfit rendered his decision[5] in which he found the claimants muniments of title to be genuine and they were holding under the grant in good faith. Therefore, he recommended to Congress that the grant be confirmed to the Indians for native inhabitants of the Pueblo of San Felipe and their legal representatives according to the boundaries set forth in the Act of Possession. A preliminary survey of the grant was made by Deputy Surveyor Robert G. Marmon in October, 1878, for 2,319.04 acres.[6] No further action was taken on the grant until after the establishment of the Court of Private Land Claims.

On March 3, 1893, Perea, as the owner of an individual interest in the entire grant as well as a full interest in a certain portion thereof, filed suit[7] in the Court of Private Land Claims for the recognition of his claim. The government in its answer put the allegations contained in Perea’s petition in issue, pointed out that a large portion of the grant conflicted with the Pueblo of San Felipe Grant which previously had been confirmed and patented, and contended that under Section 13(4) of the Act of March 3, 1891[8] the Court had no jurisdiction to confirm the grant “except to the extent it lay without the lands thus patented.”

During the trial of the case, Perea introduced in evidence his title papers, the genuineness of which was not disputed and oral testimony tending to prove that the grant had been occupied by the plaintiff and his co‑owners and their predecessors for many years. The only question raised during the trial concerned the extent of the boundaries of the grant. On May 31, 1897, the Court announced its decision[9] confirming the grant to Gallegos and his successors in interest. Continuing, it held that the confirmation of the Pueblo of San Felipe Grant had been for four square leagues and that the subsequent patent of that grant for a greater quantity of land, even though it owned such additional lands, was void insofar as it included the excess acreage. The decision, as amended, described the boundaries of the Angostura Grant, as being bounded:
 

On the north, by the boundary of the Pueblo of San Felipe as recognized and understood by the said Indians and the people of Angostura, the same being an east and west line through the point where the Arroyo Maria Chavez empties into the Rio Grande; on the east, by the old bed of the Rio Grande as the same ran at the time of the making of the grant; on the south, by the boundary of the Pueblo of Santa Ana, the same being a line of stones continuing westward across the Rio Grande from the Loma Infernada and constituting the north boundary of the lands confirmed to said Pueblo of Santa Ana; and on the west, b the Arroyo del Cubero; the said tract containing, more or less, 2,000 acres.

The government decided not to appeal the decision. Once the decree became final the Surveyor General’s office awarded a contract to Deputy Surveyor John H. Walker for the survey of the grant. He completed his survey on November 4, 1898, and it showed that the grant contained 1,579.48 acres, of which 1,162.18 acres conflicted with the Pueblo of San Felipe Grant, as patented. A patent for the 1,579.48 acres described in Walker’s field notes was issued on May 11, 1906.[10]

The question of title to the land covered by the overlap between the Angostura and Pueblo of San Felipe Grants was presented to the Pueblo Land Board and in May, 1928, it ruled that the owners of the Angostura Grant had no better title to the area than the Indians.[11] Whereupon, the government filed suit[12] in the United States District Court of New Mexico on behalf of the Indians to extinguish the claims of the owners of the Angostura Grant. The defendants answered by asserting title to the land by adverse possession instead of under the Angostura Grant. In its decision[13] dated April 22, 1930, the Court reversed the Pueblo Land Board and awarded 878 acres of the land in question to the defendants.

 

 


[1] Archive No. 78 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.)

[2] The Town of Angostura Grant, No. 84 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[3] Ibid.
 

[4] Ibid.

[5] S. Exec. Doc. No. 38, 43d Cong., 1st Sess., 17‑18 (1874).

[6] The Town of Angostura Grant, No. 84 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[7] Perea v. United States, No. 229 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[8] Court of Private Land Claims Act, Chap. 539, Sec. 13(4), 26 Stat. 854 (1891).

[9] 3 Journal 257 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[10] The Town of Angostura Grant, No. 84 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[11] The Pueblo of San Felipe Grant (Mss., Records of the Pueblo Land Board, General Services Administration, Washington, D.C.).

[12] United States as Gdn. of the Indians of San Felipe Pueblo v. The Algodones Land Co., No. 1870 (Mss., Records of United States District Clerk’s Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico)

[13] Ibid.