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Antonio de Salazar Grant

 by J. J. Bowden



Antonio de Salazar, for himself arid his brothers, petitioned Governor Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon for a grant covering the tract of vacant land which their grandfather, Captain Alonzo Martin Barba, had owned prior to the Pueblo Revolt. He described the tract as being bounded:

On the north, by some rock corrals; on the east, by the Rio Grande; on the south by the lands of Jose Naranjo; and on the west by the lands of Salvador de Santisteban.

Mogollon granted the tract to the petitioners on August 25, 1714 with the understanding that the grantees would settle upon the grant within six months. He also directed the Alcalde of Santa Cruz to place them in royal possession of the land. By virtue of the governor’s order, Alcalde Sebastián Martin on August 31, 1714 delivered possession of the land to the grantees with the formalities prescribed by law and designated its boundaries as being:

 On the north, the junction of the Rio Grande and Chama Rivers; on the east, the Rio Grande; on the south, as far as the boundaries of the Pueblo of Santa Clara; and on the west, the hills.

Prior to the completion of the ceremonies, Juan de Alienza protested the issuance of the grant and contended that it conflicted with the grant which he, his father, and brothers owned. Salazar agreed that Alienza’s grant was superior and the Antonio de Salazar Grant should in no way be con­strued as prejudicing his rights.[1] Sometime during the next two years, a question arose concerning some aspects of title to the grant. The question was presented to Inspector General Juan Páez Hurtado during his judicial visit to Santa Cruz on November 14, 1716. Hurtado collected all the documents pertaining to the controversy in order that “it may be determined in justice, and to it will be given the proper place …”[2]However, there is no evidence that any further action was taken in connection with this matter. The descendants of Salazar were in possession of the land at the time New Mexico became a province of the United States, but failed to present their claim to the Surveyor General for investigation until August 25, 1882. On that date Ramon Salazar, for himself and. the other owners of the grant, filed a petition[3] seeking the confirmation of the grant under the provisions of Section 8 of the Act of July 22, 1854.[4] Under date of January 8, 1883 Surveyor General Henry M. Atkinson; in a report[5] to Congress, approved the claim and recommended its confirmation to the heirs, legal representatives, and assigns of Antonio de Salazar and his brothers, according to the boundaries set forth in the Act of Possession, reserving all minerals to the United States. A preliminary survey of the claim was made in June 1883 by Deputy Surveyor John Shaw. His survey showed the grant as covering an area of 23,351.12 acres.[6]

Since no action had been taken on this claim by Congress, George W. Julian proceeded to reexamine the case when he became Surveyor General. By Supplemental Report[7]dated September 28, 1886, Julian called Congress’ attention to the fact that although there seemed to be no controversy over the genuineness of the grant papers, he seriously doubted that Salazar had timely fulfilled the condition pertaining to the settlement of the grant. While Atkinson had taken the position that the certificate given by Hurtado was intended to be a revalidation of the grant, Julian contended that this was “merely a promise that the case would be considered.” Julian asserted that this “case” undoubtedly concerned some controversy which had arisen more than two years after the issuance of the grant and might have pertained to either the non‑compliance by the grantee of the condition of settlement or some conflict with parties whose vested rights were interfered with by the grant, or some objection to the Act of Possession which unquestionably covered different lands than those described in the governor’s granting decree.[8] In summary, Julian was of the opinion that the grant was not perfect when the Visitor General made the statement referred to, nor is there any evidence that it subsequently was perfected. Therefore, the grant at best was merely an equitable title, which Congress was not obli­gated to recognize. Passing next to the preliminary survey of the grant, Julian pointed out that three of the boundaries designated in the Act of Possession were well defined and unmistakable but the location of the west boundary was ambiguous and, therefore, should have been fixed at the foot of the hills nearest the east boundary or about 1‑1/2 miles west of the river. Acting Commissioner S. M. Stocksager in his letter transmitting the Supplemental Report to Congress estimated that the maximum quantity of land to which such an equitable claim could attach would not exceed 2,900 acres, most of which would be absorbed by the patented Pueblo of San Juan Grant.[9] In light of the perplexing questions raised by Julian’s Supplemental Report, it is not surprising to find that Congress continuously postponed taking action upon the claim.

On March 3, 1893 Bernardo de Salazar filed suit[10] in the Court of Private Land Claims seeking the confirmation of the Antonio de Salazar Grant. This petition was amended on August 26, 1897 in response to a motion by the government to make the owners of the pueblo of San Juan, Cristóval Crespín, Juan Jose Lovato, Pueblo of Santa Clara, Juan de Ulibarri, and Bartolome Sanchez Grants parties defendant. This was necessary since the grant conflicted with all or a portion of each of such grants. Since the Bartolome Sanchez Grant, which under Julian’s theory covered all of the lands embraced without boundaries of the Antonio de Salazar Grant, had been previously confirmed, the plaintiff realized that the court had no power to confirm the grant. Therefore, when the case came up for trial on June 13, 1898, 5 he announced that he did not wish to further prosecute the claim. Whereupon the court entered a decree[11] rejecting the claim and dismissing the plaintiff’s petition.


[1] Archive No. 829 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Antonio de Salazar Grant, No. 132 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[4] An Act to establish the office of Surveyor General of New Mexico, Kansas, and Nebraska, to give donations to actual settlers therein, and for other purposes, Chap. 103, 10 Stat. 308 (1854).

[5] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 15, 48th Cong., 2d Sess., 8 (1884).

[6] The Antonio de Salazar Grant, No. 132 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[7] S. Exec. Doc. No. 23, 50th Cong., 1st Sess., 2‑3 (1887).

[8] The land covered by the granting decree apparently was located north of the Juan de Ulibarri Grant while the tract described in the Act of Possession appears to embrace all of the land covered by that grant.

[9] Exec. Doc. No. 23, 50th Cong., 1st Sess., 2 (1887).

[10] Salazar v. United States, No. 235 Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[11] 3 Journal 396 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).