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Antonio Dominguez Grant

By J. J. Bowden

 Antonio Domínguez, a landless resident of Santa Fe, registered a tract of unoccupied wooded public land south of the Santa Fe River for the support of his family. His petition to the governor described the requested tract as being bounded:.

On the north by the lands of Luis de Armente; on the east, by the road to Ojito; on the south, by the arroyo de los Pinos; and on the west, by the road to Pecos.

Governor Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza, after carefully considering the petition, granted the land to Domínguez on August 14, 1742, and ordered the Alcalde of Santa Fe, Captain Antonio de Ulibarri, to place him in possession of the premises. In obedience to the governor’s decree, Ulibarri, on the same day, went to the grant and placed him in royal possession of the lands which were described in his petition.[1]

On April 20, 1750, Domínguez sold the grant to Philipe Garduno for 360 pesos, which Domínguez “acknowledged to have received to his full satisfaction, and that he remains content and paid; and if the lands are or may be of more value, then he gave and donated them to Philipe Garduno, free, full and irrevocable, what the law calls intervivos...”[2]

Since the grant was located wholly within the Juan Cayetano Lovato Grant, which had been issued on August 22, 1742, and possession delivered four days later, a dispute arose between the heirs of Juan Cayetano Lovato and Philipe Garduno over the ownership of the property. In order to settle the controversy, Garduno sold his interest to Lovato’s heirs for fifty pesos “ordinary money of the land”[3] which Garduno:

 … confessed to have in hand received from said heirs to his satisfaction, with which he remains contented, satisfied and paid; that said land is not worth more, or if it be worth more, he makes gift and donation of the same, perfect and irrevocable what the law calls intervivos, and he renounced to said parties all the right in and to said land that he had …[4]

On February 17, 1893, Albino Domínguez, for himself and the other heirs and legal representatives of Antonio Domínguez, filed suit in the Court of Private Land Claims, seeking the confirmation of the grant.[5] In his petition, Domínguez alleged that he had acquired an interest in the grant, which covered about 800 acres, by inheritance and filed a copy of Archive No. 239 in support of his claim. Since the county records did not show the plaintiff as having an interest in the lands, he joined the heirs of Juan Cayetano Lovato as parties’ plaintiff. The plaintiffs filed an amended petition wherein they alleged that they were the owners of the grant.

The case came up for trial on April 24, 1894, which time the plaintiffs introduced their muniments of title and oral testimony tending to prove that a valid grant had been made to Domínguez and that the premises had been occupied by the plaintiffs or their predecessors since 1742. The government offered no special defenses but merely pointed out that the claim was located within the boundaries of the Santa Fe League. Four days later the court announced its decision rejecting the claim, on the ground that it was located within the Santa Fe League, which, on that very day, had been confirmed. However, by oversight, a written decree was not entered. 

After the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Private Land Claims’ decision in the Santa Fe Case,[6] the government filed a motion seeking the issuance of a nunc pro tunc decree formally rejecting the claim. The plaintiffs protested the motion, stating that:

The only color or pretense for the said motion of the government is that the Antonio Domínguez Grant which is the subject of this suit affects certain [lands] within the area once known as the “Santa Fe Grant”, and this court in confirming the so‑called Santa Fe Grant held that all other grants within the said area were void because of the assumed existence and priority of the said Santa Fe Grant; whereas, in truth there was no Santa Fe Grant, and the decree of this court confirming said alleged title was lately reversed by the United States Supreme Court, and such reversal by the Supreme Court restored the Antonio Domínguez Grant and all other grants in like category, to their original status on the docket of this court and authorized all the claimants thereof to have their respective claims tried on the merits without prejudice because of the said erroneous decree of this court in the said Santa Fe case.

Notwithstanding the logic of this argument, the court on February 16, 1898 entered a nunc pro tunc decree rejecting the claim and dismissing the plaintiffs’ petition.[7]

[1] Archive No. 239 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.)

[2] Archive No. 345 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.). 

[3] The peso had four values in New Mexico: The peso de plata was worth eight reales; the peso de projecto was worth six reales; the peso de antiguo was worth four reales; the peso de la tierra or “land dollar” was worth two reales or twenty‑five centavos. Parkhill, The Blazed Trail of Antoine Leroux 77‑78 (1965). 

[4] Archive No. 445 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.). It is interesting to note the particular attention which was given to consideration in connection with conveyances under Spanish law. 

[5] Domínguez v. United States, No. 105, (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.). 

[6] United States v. Santa Fe, 165 U.S. 675 (1897). 

[7]  3 Journal 365 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).