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Antonio Martinez Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Antonio Martinez appeared before Governor Felix Martinez and advised him that he wished to emigrate from Sonora with his family and property and, having no place to settle, wished to register the tract of vacant land located in the Taos Valley which had formerly belonged to Sergeant Major Diego Lucero de Godoi.[1] Pursuant to the King’s policy to encourage the settlement of the frontier areas, Governor Martinez granted him the tract on December 26, 1716 according to the boundaries originally held by Godoi. Since the Alcalde of Taos, Cristobal Tafayo, was out on a campaign against the Indians, the governor directed his Secretary of War and Government, Miguel Terrorio de Alba, to determine if the Pueblo Indians of Taos had any objections to the issuance of the concession and if they didn't, then he was to place Martinez in possession of the premises. Due to the great distance and hardship Antonio Martinez would encounter in moving to New Mexico, he was given “all the year 1717 to settle upon the grant”. Three days later, Terrorio assembled the Cacique and other representatives of the pueblo at the Royal House at Taos and informed them of the terms of the grant. The Indians advised Terrorio that they had no complaints and, while they had planted a number of fields in a valley located within the boundaries of the grant, they would be content with any lands which Martinez would let them use. However, they made it clear that they expected to be compensated for their damages. Thereupon, Terrorio delivered royal possession of the lands within the following boundaries:

On the north, the mountains which are the source of the Lucero River; on the east, an arroyo, being the nearest one to the Pueblo; on the south, the junction of the Rio Grande and Taos Rivers; and on the west, the Rio Grande; save and except th portion thereof located south of the Lucero River.[2]

The heirs of Antonio Martinez petitioned[3] Surveyor General James K, Proudfit on January 17, 1876 asking that the grant be confirmed. Proudfit docketed the claim as the Lucero de Godoi Grant but took no action on it. His succes­sor, Henry M. Atkinson, investigated the grant and, after finding the expediente to be genuine and that the claimants and their predecessors had possession of the land for many years, recommended[4] on October 4, 1878 that the grant be confirmed in accordance with the boundaries set forth in the Act of Possession. He pointed out that, while it had not been proven that the original grantee had settled upon the grant in 1717 as required by the expediente the timely fulfillment of the condition could be presumed from the long and peaceful occupancy of the tract by its claimants. A preliminary survey of the grant was made by Deputy Surveyor Robert G. Marmon in September, 1879. This survey showed the grant as containing 67,480.20 acres of land.[5]

The claim came before Surveyor General George W. Julian for re‑examination pursuant to special instructions from the General Land Office. In a Supplemental Report[6] dated February 10, 1888, Julian recommended the rejection of the claim because the claimants had failed to sustain their burden of proving that the claim was one which the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo obligated the United States to recognize. He contended that since there were several hundred persons residing within the boundaries of the grant claiming adverse interests, the petitioners’ occupation of the grant was not exclusive. Therefore, there could be no presumption that the conditions set forth in the granting decree had been fulfilled. Continuing, he asserted that the law actually raised a presumption in favor of the government that the conditions had not been fulfilled and the claimants had the burden of overcoming this presumption. And this they had completely failed to do, for they had not offered any evidence concerning its occupation between 1717 and 1721.

The conflicting recommendations out of the Surveyor General’s Office caused Congress to pigeonhole the claim. Thereafter, it lay dormant until revived by the claimants’ filing suit[7] against the United States in the Court of Private Land Claims on March 5, 1892. After a careful examination of the claim, the government was unable to assert any special defense against the confirmation of the grant. Therefore, when the case came up for trial on March 13, 1892, it appeared that the plaintiffs would encounter little opposition. However, during the trial of the case, it discovered that a major portion of the grant conflicted with the Antoine Leroux Grant. The case was continued in order to permit the plaintiffs to join the owners of that grant as parties defendant. The case was reset for trial on December 3, 1892, at which time it was tried. The Court, in an opinion[8] dated February 9, 1893 held, notwithstanding the fact that the expediente obviously was genuine and long peaceful possession had been established, it did not have authority to adjudicate the merits of the conflicting land claims. Therefore, it confirmed the entire grant and, thus, left the settlement of the question of the ownership of the lands in dispute to the local courts. Neither party appealed the decision and, once it became final, a contract for the surveying of the grant was awarded to John H. Walker. He was instructed to survey the grant in strict accordance with the boundaries set forth in the Act of Possession without regard to the conflict with the Antonio Leroux Grant, which was the junior grant. However, he was ordered to exclude the small portion of the grant which was also located within the boundaries of the Pueblo of Taos Grant, which was the senior thereto in all respects. Walker’s Survey was completed in March, 1894 and reflected that the grant covered 61,605.46 acres. The survey subsequently was approved by the Court and a patent based thereon was issued on May 8, 1896.[9]

[1]Sergeant Major Diego Lucero Godoi had apparently been granted a tract of land north and west of the Pueblo of Taos. He was in El Paso del Norte on escort duty when the Pueblo Revolt commenced, thus, he escaped the massacre which took the lives of the thirty-two members of his household. In 1689 he received permission to move from El Paso del Norte south to New Spain. Therefore the grant was not reoccupied after the Reconquest of New Mexico in 1693. Chavez, Origins of New Mexico Families 60 (1945). The expediente of the Godoi Grant is not available since all of the archives of New Mexico were destroyed during the insurrection of 1680. Upon their return following the Reconquest, Governor Diego de Vargas required the New Mexicans to reoccupy the lands which they had abandoned in 1680 and obtain from the government: a recognition of the renewal of their title before possession could be given. 1 Twitchell, Spanish Archives of New Mexico, 142 (1914). Since the land had not been occupied for a year period prior to 1716, it could be denounced and regranted to Antonio Martinez.

[2]Archive No. 503 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[3] The Lucero de Godoi Grant, No, 116 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Martinez v. United States, No. 9 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[8] 1 Journal 92‑98 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[9] The Antonio Martinez Grant, No. 116 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).