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Bosque del Apache Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Antonio Sandoval, a prominent resident of Albuquerque, petitioned the Governor of New Mexico, Manuel Armijo, on November 24, 1845, asking for a grant covering a tract of unoccupied land surrounding the Bosque del Apache and having the following boundaries:

… from what is called El Rancho de las Vacas down the river on both sides, to Valverde, that is to say, following the river, and for pastures on the west and southeast, two leagues in each direction ....

He described this tract as being extremely fertile and having an abundance of water and other requisites necessary for the advancement of agriculture and ranching. In consideration of the meritorious services previously rendered by Antonio Sandoval, not only personally but also financially in the form of forced loans, Governor Armijo deemed it only proper to grant him the requested lands. Therefore, by decree dated November 28, 1845, Governor Armijo unconditionally granted the premises to Sandoval free and exempt from all taxes. He also directed the Alcalde of Socorro to place him in possession of such lands and give him an instrument evidencing such proceedings, On March 7, 1846, Vincente Pino, Alcalde of Socorro, acting in accordance with the governor’s decree, inspected the land. Finding it to he in fact vacant land, as alleged in Sandoval’s petition, he performed the formal­ities of placing Sandoval in legal possession of the lands embraced within the grant, which were as follows:

I proceeded to make known to the petitioner, in the presence of witnesses, the request be made; and in regard to the land being in a dangerous locality and on the frontier, he should provide the people he would keep there with a sufficiency of fire arms, or bows and arrows, in order to defend their person and property and also that he should comply with all the rules and regulations provided for other colonists.. Having acknowledged that he was duly informed of the above conditions, I took him by the hand and walked with him over said land. He threw stones, pulled up grass, and cried aloud with great joy, saying “Long life to the sovereign congress of the Mexico nation”, taking possession quietly and peaceably And therefore, I, the aforesaid Alcalde, stated in a clear and audible voice, that in the name of the sovereign congress of the nation, and without injury to its national reverence nor to third parties, the aforesaid grant was made to him free of everything and exempt from taxation, specifying as boundaries: On the north a monument of stone and mud, which was erected when Socorro was granted, the two possessions being adjoining, and the said monument being the dividing line; and on the south, following down the course of the river to where it is intersected by the boundaries of Valverde, being also adjoining; on the east, the two leagues mentioned in the foregoing petition; and on the west two leagues more, as therein mentioned; and therefore, in compliance with the instructions of his excellency, the Governor, and finding the land will not injure any third party; as aforementioned, I place the said Sandoval in legitimate possession, fully empowered to use it with free, unencumbered and general administration, as his legitimate property.

Sandoval continuously occupied the grant subsequent to the date on which possession was delivered to him. Antonio Sandoval petitioned the Surveyor General William Pelham on July 7, 1859, requesting the confirmation of his title to the Bosque del Apache Grant. In his report to Congress dated July 20, 1859, Pelham stated that since the grant had been made by the proper authority in consideration of services rendered and was absolute and unconditional, he recommended its approval.[1]   Based upon Pelham’s recommendation, Congress passed the Act of June 21, 1860,[2] which confirmed among other grants, claim no. 35, which was the report number of the Bosque del Apache Grant.

The grant was surveyed in 1871, by Deputy Surveyor W. W. Griffin. The survey located the eastern and western boundaries of the grant a distance of two leagues from the river. Based upon the Griffin Survey, the grant contained a total of 60,117.39 acres of land, The owners of the grant filed a protest contesting the validity of the survey. They contended that the grant embraced two classes of land—the agricultural or bottom lands lying along the margins of river and table or pasture lands located on either side of the agricultural lands. Thus, under their interpretation of the description of the grant, it should include all the irrigable lands within the river valley together with all the table lands located within a distance of two leagues of the agricultural lands. This contention was overruled and a patent was issued on March 27, 1877.[3]

In 1936 the government reacquired most of the land covered by the grant and by Executive Order dated November 28, 1939, the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was established. As a result of the development of the refuge, waterfowl have been attracted to the area in large numbers.[4]


[1] H. R. Exec, Doc, No. 14, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 231‑238 (1860)

[2] An Act to Confirm Certain Private Land Claims in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 167 12 Stat. 71 (1860).

[3] The Bosque del Apache Grant, No, 35 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[4]United States Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Refuge Leaflet No 17.