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Bartolome Sanchez Grant

by J. J. Bowden

On July 27, 1707, Bartolome Sanchez, a sergeant in the militia, petitioned Governor Francisco Cubero y Valdes for a certain piece or parcel, of land described as being bounded:

On the north, by the ancient Pueblo of Quemada; on the east, by the Mesa de San Juan on the south, by the boundaries of Santa Clara on the other bank of the Rio Grande and on the west, by the Santa Clara Grant.

Sanchez stated that he did not own any land and the purpose for his requesting the grant was to secure sufficient land to support his family. Envisioning the benefits which Sanchez and his family could derive from the requested lands, Cubero granted his prayer and ordered the Alcalde of Santa Cruz to place him in royal possession of the premises. Alcalde Juan Roque Gutierrez, in compliance with Governor Cubero’s order, delivered royal possession of the grant to Sanchez on August 8, 1707.[1]

Under Spanish Law, it was necessary to actually settle on the premises within three months from the date of delivery of possession and, thereafter, continuously occupy it for four years. Since he had failed to comply with this provision, Sanchez petitioned Governor Joseph Chacon on November 25, 1711, stating that as a result of his duties as a soldier, he had been unable to settle upon the premises and was in danger of having his sitio denounced by a third party. Therefore, he requested the governor to reward him for his services by revalidating the concession and grant a moratorium on the requirement that he occupy the land as long as he remained in the service of the Crown. Chacon acted favorably on the request and, on November 25, 1711, ordered the Alcalde of Santa Cruz to redeliver possession of the grant to Sanchez. Alcalde Roque de la Madrid performed this ceremony on February 20, 1712.[2]

The grant was apparently still unoccupied on May 27, 1714, when Catalina Griego, widow of Diego Trujillo and her son, Antonio Trujillo, appeared before Governor Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon and produced the papers to a grant which had been made to Diego Trujillo by Governor Pedro Rodriguez Cubero in 1701, covering a tract of land “sufficient for planting four fanegas of corn.” This tract was located within the Bartolome Sanchez Grant. They advised Mogollon that possession of the grant had not been given to Trujillo because of his sudden and untimely death. Continuing, the petitioners announced that they had assigned all of their interests in the tract to their near relatives, Salvador Santistievan and Nicolas Valverde, in whose favor they requested the grant be confirmed. After examining the merits of the petition, Mogollon revalidated the concession and ordered the Alcalde of Santa Cruz to give the assignees possession of the grant. Royal possession of this Concession was delivered on August 8, 1714, by Alcalde Sebastian Martin.[3] Later during the same month, the balance of the lands covered by the Bartolome Sanchez Grant were included in three additional grants made by Mogollon. These were the Bartolome Lovato, Antonio de Salazar, end Cristóval Crispin Grants.[4] Late in the fall of 1715, Bartolome Sanchez gave Captain Joseph Trujillo permission to pasture livestock on the grant. Trujillo moved his herds to the grant and built a number of corrals. On November 25, 1715, Bartolome Lovato and Cristobal Crispin each petitioned Mogollon requesting the revalidation of their respective grants and a one year extension of time within which to settle upon such lands. Both of the petitioners sought to justify their requests by pointing out that their failure to occupy their grants hid been caused by illness. They also requested the governor to order Trujillo to “vacate the land and take down the corrals he may have built.” Both of the grants were subsequently revalidated and Trujillo ordered to tear down his corrals. However, he was not ordered to move his live­stock off the premises since they were classified as commons.[5] The restriction of his tenant’s use of the grant caused Sanchez to become appraised of the four adverse claims for the first time and he acted swiftly to protect his interests. On January 13, 1716, he appeared before Governor Felix Martinez complaining that such grants had been illegally issued. Martinez, on the same date, ordered all the interested parties to present a copy of their title papers within three days in order that he might fully investigate the circumstances and condition of each of the conflicting claims.[6] Nothing appears to have been done in the matter at that time for later in the year Bartolome Lovato complained to the Inspector General of New Mexico, Juan Páez Hurtado, that he and other grantees were being embarrassed in the settlement of their lands as a result of the order of January 13, 1716, and requested a swift decision in the matter. Hurtado, after investigating the matter, recommended[7] that the governor distribute the lands so that each of the interested parties could reap the benefits of his labor. Hurtado also made the following entry[8] at the foot of the Antonio de Salazar Grant:

Having examined all of the grants, it will be decided with justice and the considerations to which it is entitled will be given it.

This is the last piece of documentary evidence bearing upon this controversy. It is not known whether a new distribution of the land was ordered as mentioned by Hurtado, whether Sanchez’s claim to all the land was recognized, or whether all of the grants were subsequently recalled by the Spanish officials. The latter possibility appears to be the most probable when it is realized that the choicest portion of the lands in controversy was granted by Governor Juan Domingo Bustamante to Antonio Trujillo on June 8, 1724.[9]

On March 3, 1893, Bartolome Sanchez, a great-grandson of the original grantee, filed suit[10] in the Court of Private Land Claims seeking the confirmation of the Bartolome Sanchez Grant. In his petition, Sanchez alleged that the grant was good and valid when the United States acquired jurisdiction over the area, the claim had never been presented to the Surveyor General for his consideration, and the grant covered approximately 10,000 acres. In response to a motion filed by the government, Sanchez filed an amended petition naming the United States and the claimants of the Juan de Ulibarri, Cristobal Crispin, the Pueblo of San Juan, the Black Mesa, and the Antonio de Salazar Grants as co‑defendants. In their answers, the defendants asserted that even if originally valid and revalidated the Bartolome Sanchez Grant had been forfeited due to the grantees’ failure to timely comply with the conditions of settlement and had been regranted to third parties. The case came up for trial on September 30, 1897. The documentary evidence introduced by the parties was quite voluminous and wholly from the archives and records of the Surveyor General’s Office. The plaintiff offered oral testimony by two witnesses tending to show that the grant had been occupied by the original grantees and his descendants continuously after 1716. In its closing argument, the government contended that the 1716 concessions by Governor Mogollon raised a powerful presumption that Sanchez had lost his right to the land and that even if Governor Mogollon had illegally deprived Sanchez of his vested right, the Court of Private Land Claims was not the forum to correct such injustice. In support of this contention, the government’s attorney cited the following language from the Supreme Court’s decision in the Cessna case:[11]

It is the duty of a nation receiving a cession of territory to respect all rights of property as those rights were recognized by the nation making the cession, but it is no part of the duty to right the wrongs which the grantor nation may have heretofore committed.

Continuing, the government’s attorney argues that the record indicated that the grant had probably been recalled by Martinez in 1716 as evidenced by the regranting of the choicest portions of the grants in 1724. He asserted that the regranting of such land shortly after its ownership had been thoroughly adjudicated was inconsistent with the contention that the grant was still valid and subsisting in 1724. He stated:

The very most that can be contended for by the claimant on the evidence is that the rights of Bartolome Sanchez were, at the date of the treaty, still sub judice.

In closing, the government’s attorney stated that he even doubted the good faith of the claimant in filing the action. He believed that the claim probably would never have been presented to the court except for the discovery of the expediente in the archives, the fortuitous coincidence of the plaintiff’s having the same name as the original grantee, and his living in the locus in quo.

In its decision[12] dated October 2, 1897, the court found that a valid grant had been made to Sanchez in 1707 and that it had been revalidated and the condition of the settlement waived by the 1711 decree as long as Sanchez was in military service. Since the plaintiff had satisfactorily established the validity of the grant, the burden was then upon the defendants to show something which would defeat the claim. The court held that the efforts by the defendants to prove that the grant had been abrogated, revoked, or set aside in either 1716 or 1724, were based merely upon presumption and supposition. Therefore, it confirmed the grant in accordance with the boundaries set out and described in the grant papers. During its January term, 1898, the court reconsidered the question of boundaries, with the result that on February 16, 1898, a decree[13] was entered which materially reduced the area confirmed. The government appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, but on March 5, 1900, the appeal was dismissed[14] on the motion of the appellant.

Deputy Surveyor William McKeon was instructed to survey the grant. His instructions directed him to commence the survey:

… at a point where a line running from east to west thrJugh the old Pueblo of Quemado intersects the west boundary line of the Pueblo of San Juan Grant; THENCE south along the west boundary line of the Pueblo of San Juan Grant to the Rio Grande; THENCE south along the Rio Grande to the north boundary line of the Santa Clara Grant; THENCE west alone the north boundary line of the Santa Clara Grant to the west boundary line of the Santa Clara Grant; THENCE north to an intersection of an east‑west line through the old Pueblo of Quemado; and THENCE east: to the point of beginning.

McKeon, in attempting to follow these instructions, found that the west boundary of the Pueblo of San Juan Grant did not intersect the Rio Grande. Therefore, he ran east along the southern boundary of the Pueblo of San Juan Grant from its southwest corner to the point where it intersected the river. The field notes were returned to the Surveyor General on December 19, 1901, and were subsequently approved by the court. A patent was issued on November 27, 1914, for the 4,469.828 acres described in the McKeon Survey.[15]

[1] Archive No. 824 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.). The call in the description for the grant to be bounded on the north by the ancient Pueblo of Quemado undoubtedly refers to the old pueblo at the foot of Black Mesa and not the Pueblo of Quemado, whose title was litigated in Pueblo of Quemado v. United States, No. 212 Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] Archive No. 827 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.). Sanchez was probably prompted to seek the revalidation of his grant as a result of the issuance of the Juan de Ulibarri Grant on February 22, 1710. The Juan de Ulibarri Grant covered approximately the same lands as the Bartolome Sanchez Grant. However, it apparently was recalled when the Bartolome Sanchez Grant was revalidated. Archive No. 1020 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[3] Archive No. 926 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.). The Diego Trujillo Grant was located in the Canada de Yunque and included the ancient Pueblo de Yunque.

[4] Archives No. 167, 433 and. 829 Records of the A.N.M.).

[5] Archives No. 167 and 436 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[6] Archive No. 834 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[7] Archive No. 437 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

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

[9] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 14, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 241‑242 (1860).

[10] Sanchez v. United States, No. 264 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[11] Cessna v. United States, 169 U.S. 165 (1898).

[12] 3 Journal 290 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[13] 3 Journal 378 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[14] United States v. Sanchez, 20 S. Ct. 1027 (1900) (mem.).

[15] The Bartolome Sanchez Grant, No. F‑247 (Ms., Records of the S.G.N.M).