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Domingo Valdez Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Domingo Valdez, a resident of Santa Fe, appeared before Governor Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza complaining that the executor of his second wife’s mother’s estate had partitioned the lands within the estate amongst her devisees and orally assigned his wife a tract of land lying southwest of Santa Fe as her share of the estate He and his wife had claimed and enjoyed the tract as its legitimate owners for about eleven years when he discovered that the tract had not been owned by his mother‑in‑law, but was actually a part of the public domain. Therefore, to perfect his claim he asked Mendozato give him grant covering same land which he described as:

 . . . extending from my house to an arroyo which goes down to the house of Captain Miguel de Coca from east to west what I cultivate without going higher or lower.

On June 3, 1742, Mendoza issued a decree which provided:

The Chief Alcalde Antonio de Ulibarri will report to me if what the petitioner prays for is proper and if proper it shall be done as he prays.

Two days later Ulibarri went to the tract and proceeded to survey the premises. His field notes described the boundaries of the tract as being located:

On the north, his own lands which he had inherited; on the east, a Holy cross; on the south, an arroyo which lies on the Camino de los Carros where there is another large Holy cross; and on the west, a heap of stones with another Holy cross.[1]

Marcos Valdez, for himself and the other heirs, petitioned Surveyor General George W. Julian on June 11, 1885, requesting the confirmation of the grant which he alleged contained about 500 acres, In connection with his petition, Valdez filed the testimonio of the grant. In his report to Congress pertaining to the claim dated November 11, 1885, Julian recommended the disapproval of the grant on the ground that a valid claim could not be established by papers coming from a private source unless there was evidence thereof in archives. Continuing, he stated that even if it were conceded that the testimonio was genuine and a testimonio could be received as evidence of the existence of a valid grant, he still could not recommend the confirmation of this claim since the testimonio did not show that a grant had ever been made. He pointed out that the governor’s decree ordered Ulibarri to make a report to him on the property of complying with the petitioner’s prayer. And, instead of reporting as directed Ulibarri proceeded to place Valdez in possession of the land “to which no grant had been made,” He further contended that there was not sufficient evidence of occupation and use to establish a presumed grant. He also pointed out that the description in the testimonio was so vague and indefinite that the east and west boundaries of the grant could not be located on the grounds. In closing, he held that at best Valdez had an equitable claim, over which his office had no jurisdiction.[2]

Since Congress had not acted upon the claim prior to the establishment of the Court of Private Land Claims, Valdez filed suit in that tribunal seeking the confirmation of the grant on November 26, 1892.[3] In his petition Valdez tried to satisfy all the objections raised in Julian’s adverse report. He called the courts attention to the fact that the expediente of the grant was contained in the Archives of New Mexico as Archive No. 1043, contended that Mendoza’s decree could be interpreted as a grant subject to a determination by Ulibarri that the grant was proper, and filed the copies of other documents from the archives and Surveyor General’s office for the purpose of fixing the boundaries of the grant and showing that the Spanish and Mexican officials had recognized the grant. The first of these documents was the expediente for the Catarina Maise Grant[4] which showed that its east boundary was common with the west boundary of the Domingo Valdez Grant, The second was a copy of the grant papers in the Alfonso Rael de Aguilar Grant[5] which was located east of the Domingo Valdez Grant.

The case came up for trial on March 13, 1893, at which time the plaintiff introduced his documentary evidence together with a limited amount of oral testimony tending to prove that the grant had been occupied and used continuously by the plaintiff between 1845 and 1888. It was brought out that “the premises had been taken away from the plaintiff by court action in about 1888. The history of the occupation of the grant prior to 1845 was very vague; however, it appears that at one time one of the plaintiff’s predecessors had cultivated about an almud or one-twelfth of a fanega of land within the boundaries of the grant.

The Court rejected the grant on August 22, 1893, on the ground that the expediente did not show that a perfect and complete grant had been made to Domingo Valdez.[6] The plaintiff filed a motion for rehearing based on the ground that he had additional newly discovered evidence.

 However, before the court acted on the motion, it confirmed the claim of the City of Santa Fe to the “Santa Fe League” Therefore, when the motion came up for hearing on February 16, 1898, it was overruled.[7] The plaintiff did not appeal the decision.


 [1] Archive No. 1043 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[2] The Domingo Valdez Grant, No 141 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[3] Valdez v. United States, No 49 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L Cl.).

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

[5] The Alfonso Rael de Aguilar Grant No. 104 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[6] 1 Journal 206 (Mss., Records of the CL., Pvt.  Cl.)

[7] 3 Journal 374 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).