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Antonio de Abeytia Grant

by J. J. Bowden

On January 29, 1893, Maria E. Lucero and the other heirs and legal representatives of Antonio de Abeytia filed a petition[1] in the Court of Private Land Claims seeking the confirmation of the Antonio de Abeytia Grant. The petition asserted that the grant contained about 8,000 acres and was bounded:

On the north, by the Palos Blancos; on the east, by the foot of the Mesa Prieta; on the south, by the Canada de la Cruz; and on the west, by the Lomas.

It also alleged that a grant had been made some time before 1704 to Captain Antonio de Abeytia from whom it descended to his son, Miguel Abeytia. In about 1780 Miguel was driven off the grant by the Indians. Later Baltazar Cisneros and the other heirs and descendants of Miguel Abeytia petitioned Governor Fernando Chacon for a revalidation of the grant. On the same day Chacon referred the petition to the Alcalde of Rio Arriba, Manuel Garcia de la Mora, for an investigation into the merits of the request. Garcia further advised the governor that since the premises had never been reoccupied, the resettlement of the grant would not adversely affect the rights of any third parties, but, on the contrary, would help guard and protect the inhabitants of Ojo Caliente from the hostile Indians. After studying the alcalde’s report, Chacon issued a decree wherein he conceded the lands to the petitioners but made it clear that it was a new grant and not a revalidation of the old grant “on account of their heirship to the former owners, for they had lost their rights the very moment they abandoned it.” The grant was made by the governor upon the condition that the grantees “keep the grant for themselves, their children and heirs and in no manner whatever abandon it or transfer it to any stranger and that anyone abandoning his interest therein shall lose it altogether.” On February 28, 1809, Garcia surveyed the grant and delivered formal possession thereof to the grantees. The grantees promptly moved to the grant; however, each of them, except Baltazar Cisneros soon abandoned the project. Thereafter, up to and including the date of the filing of their suit, Baltazar Cisneros or his heirs and legal representatives had exclusive possession of the grant.

On August 28, 1894, the day the case was set for trial, the plaintiffs, with leave of court, filed an amended petition claiming the Rio Grande as the eastern boundary of the grant. Thus, the claim was extended to include an additional 12,000 acres. At the trial, the plaintiffs offered an instrument which purported to be a copy of the Revalidation Proceedings of 1809, which was supposedly filed in the Archives of the Pueblo of San Juan. The government objected to the introduction of this instrument on the grounds that it was not certified to be true and correct by the custodian of the Archives of the Pueblo of San Juan. The court sustained the objection. Next, the plaintiffs introduced a copy of the grant papers to the Black Mesa Grant for the purpose of showing that the two grants adjoined one another and that Governor Gervacio Crúzato y Gonzora had recognized the validity of the Antonio de Abeytia when he made the Black Mesa Grant. In this instrument it was stated that the Antonio de Abeytia Grant ran to the bottoms of the Rio Grande near the point of the Mesa. It was based on this reference that the plaintiffs claimed that the grant was valid and the Rio Grande was its eastern boundary. The government did not object to the introduction of this document as substantiation of the validity of the Antonio de Abeytia Grant.[2] However, the government in turn offered the Revalidation Proceedings for the purpose of showing the extent of the claim, which it contended extended only to the first row of hills on each side of the valley. They were received by the court for that limited purpose. The court handed down its opinion[3] on the case on September 28, 1894. In this opinion, the court found the grant to be good and valid and, therefore, it was confirmed to the heirs of Antonio de Abeytia, subject to the following boundaries:

On the north, the south boundary of the Ojo Caliente Grant as established in Cause No. 88; on the east, the Ojo Caliente River; on the south, the Canada de la Cruz; and on the west, by the east boundary of the Ventura Mestas lands which is the Lomas on the west of the Ojo Caliente River.

The plaintiffs contended that the western boundary of the grant, as confirmed, should have been on a common line with the eastern boundary of the Juan Jose Lovato Grant for the reference to the Ventura Mestas lands was to the lands within the Juan Jose Lovato Grant which were conveyed by Lovato to Mestas by deed dated November 3, 1747. Notwithstanding this call for adjoinder, the Surveyor General’s Office held the west line of the Antonio de Abeytia Grant to be the low foothills lying just west of the river.

The grant, was surveyed by Deputy Surveyor Sherrard Coleman during the summer of 1895. His survey showed the grant contained a total of 721.42 acres. The grant was patented on September 15, 1910.[4]

[1] Lucero v. United States, No. 68 (Mss ., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] The United States Supreme Court in Peabody v. United States, 175 U.S. 546 (1899), indicates that reference in a land grant to another grant as a boundary is inadequate as proof of the legal existence of the latter grant.

[3] 2 Journal 225‑227 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[4] The Antonio de Abeytia Grant, No. F‑223 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).