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Canada de los Alamos Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Bernardo de Miera y Pacheco and Pedro Padillo appeared before Governor Pedro Fermín de Mendinueta and advised him that their livestock were suffering due to their not having enough land to properly pasture them. Therefore, they requested Mendinueta to grant them a tract of vacant pasture land bounded:

On the north, by the lands of Salvador Jaramillo, Antonio Baca, and the arroyo generally known as Agua Salada; on the east, by the road leading from the Pueblo of Zia to Laguna, the same being the boundary of the settlers of the town of Nuestra Señora de la Luz, San Fernando y San Blas; on the south, by a canon where some Apaches usually live; and on the west, by the side of the main Cebolleta Mountain.

In consideration of the merit of Miera and those of his ancestors, Mendinueta granted the petitioners’ request on February 9, 1768 to the extent of “one league of five thousand Castilian varas by course, and of four leagues in circumference, making twenty thousand varas, it being understood that on the north and on the east this tract shall adjoin” the lands of Salvador Jaramillo, Antonio Baca, and the settlement of Nuestra Señora de la Luz, San Fernando y San Blas. However, the decree expressly provided that if the grant should conflict with the land which belonged to the Pueblo of Cebolleta, which had been started for the Navajo but temporarily abandoned, then the distance of the western boundary from the central point should be reduced and the distance added to one of the other courses. The decree also prohibited the grantees from mistreating the Navajos and Apaches but directed them to attempt to bring the Indians “under the influence of our Holy Faith and under the vassalage of our sovereign, by treating them with good faith and Christian charity, under the penalty of defeasance .…” Francisco Trebol Navarro, Alcalde of Albuquerque, was directed to survey the grant, and, if he encountered no legal objection thereto, was to place the grantees in royal possession of the premises. On February 26, 1768 Navarro gave public notice to all interested parties of his plans to survey and deliver possession of the grant on the second of the following month. On the appointed date all of the adjoining landowners together with the representatives of the Indians of Cebolleta and Laguna produced their grants for the alcalde to examine. After inspecting the grant papers and questioning the interested parties, he discovered that Antonio Baca was not an adjoining landowner since his lands were “far back toward the north.” Since no one protested the issuance of the grant and he concluded it would prejudice the rights of no one, Navarro proceeded to the Canada de los Alamos on the following day and reconnoitered the area. He found that owing to a high mesa on the western side and the proximity of the lands of the inhabitants of the town of Nuestra Señora de la Luz, San Fernando y San Bias on the east, it would be impossible to survey the grant in the form of a square. Therefore, the grant was surveyed s a rectangle measuring one and a half leagues from east to west and two and a half leagues from north to south and the following natural objects were designated as its boundaries:

On the north, a little valley formed by the Mesa Prieta; on the east, a smally bushy mountain where it makes a bluff facing the point of the Mesa Prieta, which is the common boundary with the settlers of the town of Nuestra Señora de la Luz, San Fernando y San Blas; on the south, a pair of small mesas and adjoining the bald one of the two; and on the west, the point of a white mesa at the base of the Cebolleta Mountain.

At the conclusion of the survey, Salvador Jaramillo donated the grantees a small tract of land which he owned lying within the grant. This tract was described as being sit­uated between the white mesa and the Arroyo del Agua of L the Canada de los Alamos. Since everyone was satisfied with the survey and he found no legal obstacle to the is­suance of the concession, Navarro delivered royal possession of such land to the two grantees. A testimonio of the proceedings was delivered to them for their protection on March 12, 1768.[1]

The heirs and legal representatives of the grantees petitioned[2] Surveyor General James K. Proudfit on November 10, 1874 seeking the confirmation of the grant. Since the expediente of the grant was contained in the archives and was “genuine beyond doubt,” Proudfit, in an opinion dated December 14, 1874 recommended the confirmation of the grant to the legal representatives of the original grantees as located, described and bounded in the Act of Possession.[3] A preliminary survey of the grant was made in April, 1879 by Deputy Surveyor Robert G. Marmon for 148,862.94 acres. Ramon A. Baca, on behalf of himself and the other owners of the Town of Cebolleta Grant, protested the survey on the ground that it conflicted with their grant. Baca almost apologetically stated that he had no desire to injure the owners of the Canada de los Alamos Grant, but they should have all of the land to which they were justly entitled but no more. He contended that the grant should cover four square leagues or 17,712 acres of land. On February 26, 1886 the Acting Commissioner of the General Land Office, Strother M. Stockslager, directed Surveyor General George W Julian to re‑examine the case and submit a report for the information of the general Land Office and Congress. In obedience to said order, Julian, in a Supplemental Opinion[4] dated March 20, 1886 stated:

I am at a loss to understand how he [Proudfit] could arrive at the conclusion that the grantees became vested with an absolute title to the land when it was not shown that they had complied with the laws and regulations. . . as to occupation and settlement of the same. It has been repeatedly held by the highest judicial tribunals of the country, both state and federal, that if anything remained to be done at the time of the acquisition of the territory from a foreign power, in order to vest a perfect title under the laws of such power, the title remained in the sovereign and passed to the United States, and it requires some act on the part of this government to invest the claimant with title.

He contended that under this doctrine it devolved upon the claimants to show that the grantees had occupied the grant for a period of four years as required by law. And, since there was no evidence of such occupancy in the record, the grant should be rejected. In connection with Marmon’s survey he asserted that there could be no question that the intention of the governor was to grant but one league or a fraction over 4,428 acres. Julian stated that the governor’s language was so explicit that there could be no room for controversy. He pointed to the language in granting decree which conveyed, “one league of five thousand Castilian varas by course and of four leagues in circumference, making twenty thousand varas.” He contended that the alcalde had exceeded his jurisdiction when he put the grantees in possession of four times the quantity of land which had been granted. [5]

Since Congress took no action on the claim, the interested parties turned to the Court of Private Land Claims for relief. On October 6, 1892 Charles W. Lewis, who claimed an interest by purchase from many of the heirs and legal representatives of the original grantees, filed suit[6] against the United States in that court seeking the confirmation of the grant. A similar suit[7] was instituted on February 11, 1893 by J. Akers who claimed to be a lineal descendant of the original grantees. A third suit was filed [8]on March 2, 1893 by Mariano S. Otero, as an assignee of certain heirs of the original grantees. Upon motion of the United States, the three suits were consolidated and tried under cause number 38.[9] When the case came up for trial on August 15, 1894, the plaintiffs offered as evidence the expediente of the grant, documentary evidence connecting themselves to the original grantees and oral evidence tending to show that the original grantees and their descendants had occupied and used portions of the grant. The United States recognized the genuineness of the grant papers but argued that it covered only one square league of land or 4,340 acres. In support of its contention, it showed that the Agua Salada and Antonio Baca Grants were located entirely within the out‑boundaries of the grant and it conflicted with a portion of the Town of Cebolleta Grant which previously had been confirmed by Congress. By decision[10] dated August 18, 1894, the court confirmed the grant but limited its confirmation to a maximum of “20,000 Castilian varas in circumference, notwithstanding that there may be a greater quantity of land contained within the exterior boundaries herein fixed.” Neither side appealed this decision.

Once the decision became final, the owners of the grant requested Surveyor General to survey the premises and selected the following tract which was situated within the exterior boundaries of the grant:

Commencing at the head of an arroyo which runs north from a point about 45 chains west of the spring known as Pino Spring; thence south three miles 18.66 2/3 chains to the southwest corner; thence east two miles to the southeast corner; thence north three miles 18.66 2/3 chains to the northeast corner; and thence west two miles to the place of beginning.


The tract was surveyed by Deputy Surveyor Albert F. Easley under a contract dated November 28, 1896 for 4,106.66 acres. The grant was patented on March 6, 1911.[11]



[1] Archive No. 582 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[2] The Canada de los Alamos Grant, No. 98 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[3] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 62, 43d Cong., 2d Sess., 34 (1874).

[4] S. Exec. Doc. No. 137, 49th Cong., 1st Sess., 2‑4 (1886).

[5] In this connection it should be remembered that in most cases the grant of a “league of land” has been interpreted as a league in each direction or five square leagues. Also, grants of a “league of land” were not usually surveyed by running a line along the four out‑boundaries but a league in each direction from a central point. Thus, 20,000 varas in circumference could be interpreted as 5,000 varas in each of the four cardinal directions.

[6] Lewis v. United States, No. 38 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[7] Akers v. United States, No. 76 (Mss., Records off the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[8] Otero v. United States, No. 207 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.) . Otero’s original petition in this suit sought the confirmation of the Vertientes del Navajo Grant and also the Canada de los Alamos Grant. On June 22, 1893, the United States filed a demurrer at which it contended that there was a misjoinder of causes of action in the petition since it covered two distant grants. The demurrer was sustained by the court and the plaintiff was granted permission to file separate petitions covering the two grants. 1 Journal 152 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.). The Canada de los Alamos Grant was assignee number 207 and the Vertientes del Navajo Grant was given number 270.

[9] 2 Journal 67 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[10] 2 Journal 156 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[11] The Canada de los Alamos Grant, No. 98 (Mss.,. Records of the S.G.N.M.).