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Chamisos Arroyo Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Bartolome Marques and Francisco Padilla, residents of the Villa of Santa Fe, petitioned Governor Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza for a grant covering some “small spots” of uncleared land in order to plant a “small quantity of corn” for the support of their families. The requested tract was located south of the Santa Fe River and bounded:

On the north, by the lands of Captain Antonio Montoya; on the east, by the lands of Manuel Trujillo; on the south, the Chamisos Arroyo; and on the west, the lands of Squadron‑Corporal Cayetano Lovato.

Mendoza granted the tract to the two petitioners on August 24, 1742, and ordered Alcalde Antonio de Ulibarri to place them in possession of the premises. Six days later a party consisting of the Alcalde, his two attending witnesses, and the grantees proceed to the grant, where Ulibarri pointed out the following natural objects which he designated as the boundaries of the grant:

On the north, the high hills which formed the southern boundary of the lands owned by Captain Antonio Montoya, deceased, Gregorio Garduno, and Domingo Brito; on the east, the Arroyo de Tierra Blanco; on the south, the Chamisos Arroyo; and on the west, a highway leading to Pecos and the lands of Squadron Corporal Cayetano Lovato.[1]

The claim was presented for investigation to Surveyor General T. Rush Spencer on February 19, 1872, by Alvino Bustamonte and Juan Jose Martin, who alleged that they were the owners of the grant. The petitioners also filed the testimonio of the grant, together with a sketch map which depicted the grant as containing about 1,300 acres of land. They further represented that the premises had been in the possession and use of the grantees or their legal successors at all times subsequent to August 30, 1742. Spencer’s successor Surveyor General James K. Proudfit, examined the claim and without taking any testimony, he recommended the confirmation of the grant. In his opinion dated February 19, 1873, Proudfit found the grant papers to be “genuine beyond doubt” and that the granting decree was “unquestionably in the handwriting of Governor Mendoza.”[2] A preliminary survey of the grant was made in September, 1879 by Deputy Surveyor Robert Marmon for 637.23 acres.[3]

Since Congress had not passed upon the validity of the claim, Rosaria Conkins, a granddaughter of Bartolome Marquez, filed suit against the United States in the Court of Private Land Claims on February 7, 1893, seeking the confirmation of the grant.[4] The City of Santa Fe entered an appearance in the case, in which it joined with the United States in opposition of the claim. When the claim came up for hearing, the plaintiff contended that the grant papers and the long continuous possession of the property evidenced a valid grant. The government, on the other hand, argued that the claim should be rejected because there was no evidence of the grant in the archives. The City of Santa Fe, in turn asserted that the claim was not a bona fide grant but merely an allotment under the Santa Fe Grant. On April 24, 1894, the Court of Private Land Claims, in another suit, approved the claim of the City of Santa Fe to a four square league tract of land measured from the center of the plaza.[5] Since the Chamisos Arroyo Grant was located entirely within the boundaries of the previously confirmed Santa Fe Grant, the court, under the Act of March 3, 1891,[6] had exhausted its jurisdiction over the premises. Therefore, on April 28, 1894, the court announced its decision rejecting the claim and dismissing the plaintiff’s petition.[7]

It was too late for the other owners of interests in the grant to file a new suit for its confirmation after the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Private Land Claims decision in the Santa Fe case[8] since it was obvious that the grant was not “complete and perfect.” Between 1898 and 1951 there has been a great deal of confusion concerning the status of the grant. This led the Santa Fe Bar to adopt Title Standard No. 21, which provides that muniments or records relative to all unconfirmed grants within the Santa Fe League “may be disregarded and not considered as affecting the title of lands within” its boundaries.[9]

[1] S. Exec, Doc. No. 3, 43d Cong., 1st Sess., 3‑4 (1873).


[2] The Chamisos Arroyo Grant No. 74 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).


[3] Ibid.


[4] Marquez v. United States,  No. 72 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).


[5] City of Santa Fe v. United States, No. 80, Ct Pvt. L. Cl. (1894).


[6] Court of Private Land Claims Act, Chap. 539, Secs. 8 and 13 (4), 26 Stat. 854 (1891).


[7] 2 Journal 138 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).


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


[9] Title Standards of the Santa Fe Bar No. 21 (1945).