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Catarina Maese Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Vincente Velarde, for himself and the other legal representatives of Catarina Maese, filed suit against the United States in the Court of Private Land Claims[1] on February 24, 1893, for the confirmation of the Catarina Maese Grant, which covered about 300 acres. The claim was based on a tripartite expediente which the plaintiff’s attorney had fortuitously found among the archives of New Mexico.[2] The first instrument shows that Catarina Maese, a resident of Santa Fe, appeared before Governor Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza, advised him that she was raising her orphaned grandson, and while she had a house which she had purchased, she was destitute and had no land to maintain herself and the boy. Therefore, she asked him for a grant covering a tract of vacant agricultural land lying southwest of the city which she described as being bounded:

On the north, by the Acequia Madre; on the east, by the lands of Domingo Valdez; on the south, by a wooded arroyo; and on the west, by the lands of Captain Miguel de Coca.

She reminded the governor that her father came to New Mexico as one of its conquerors and reconquerors and died in the service of the King without having received any land as a reward for his long and faithful military service. The second document was a decree dated July 22, 1742, by Mendoza evidencing the issuance of a grant covering the requested tract in favor of Maese. It also ordered the Alcalde of Santa Fe, Antonio Ulibarri to “proceed with all necessary steps and form” to give her possession of the grant. The last of the three was the Act of Possession showing that Ulibarri, on August 3; 1742, had performed his duties as directed.

The United States filed a general answer putting the allegations contained in the plaintiff’s petition into issue. Since the grant was located within the boundaries of the “Santa Fe League,” the City of Santa Fe entered an appearance and joined the United States in its opposition of the claim.

Since the Court of Private Land Claims consistently had refused to recognize the validity of any private land claim located within the Santa Fe League, even after the Supreme Court had reversed its decision recognizing the city’s claim to a four square league tract by operation of law.[3] Velarde, when the case came up for a hearing on its merits, announced that he no longer wished to prosecute the suit. Therefore, the court entered a decision rejecting the claim and dismissing his petition on February 3, 1898.[4]                                         

[1] Velarde v. United States,  No 119 (Mss, Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] Archive No 527 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

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

[4] 3 Journal 346 (Mss., Records of the Ct Pvt. L Cl.).