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Felipe Pacheco Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Luis Ribera, for himself and in behalf of the other heirs and legal representatives of Felipe Pacheco, filed a petition in the Court of Private Land Claims on March 2, 1893, seeking the confirmation of the Felipe Pacheco Grant.[1]

Ribera claimed that a perfect and complete grant had been issued and royal possession of the approximately 500 acres of land covered thereby had been formally delivered to Pacheco in about the year 1742, He also alleged that while all direct evidence of the grant long since had been lost or destroyed, his predecessors had always claimed the following natural objects as its boundaries:

On the north the Camino Real; on the east, an arroyo; on the south the Camino do los Carros; and on the west, the lands of Tomas Tapia and Felipe Tafoya.

As evidence of the existence of the grant, Ribera filed a copy of the expediente of the Tomas Tapia Grant[2] which called for it to adjoin the Felipe Pacheco Grant on the west. The government filed a general answer putting the allegations contained in the plaintiffs’ petition in issue. The City of Santa Fe, who claimed title to a four square league tract of land surrounding its plaza by operation of law, joined the government as a party defendant, in the opposition of the grant.

As early as 1857, the doctrine had established the rule:

… that where there is no trace of the grant in the archives, no possession or unequivocal claim of ownership during the continuance of the former government and the grant itself is not produced, the court should demand the clearest and most indubitable proof of the genuineness of title. If such be not offered and if the testimony be conflicting and unsatisfactory, it is the duty of the court to pronounce the claim not proved.[3]

The United States Supreme Court in the Luco Case[4] affirmed this rule.

The plaintiff realized that he would not be able to present sufficient evidence to sustain the burden of proving that a complete and perfect grant had been made to Felipe Pacheco. Therefore, when the case came up for trial on February 3, 1898, he announced he would not further prosecute the claim. Whereupon, the court dismissed the action and rejected the grant.[5]


[1] Ribera v. United States, No. 192 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] Archive No. 962 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[3] United States v Polack, 27 Fed. Cas. 580 (No 16,061) (N.D. Calif, 1857).

[4] Luco v United States, 23 How, (64 U.S.) 515 (1860).

[5] 3 Journal 338 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).