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Guadalupe Miranda Grant

by J. J. Bowden

A deep sense of patriotism prompted Guadalupe Miranda who, in 1846, was Governor Manuel Armijo’s private secretary and also Secretary of the Department of New Mexico, to move from Santa Fe to El Paso del Norte following General Stephen W. Kearny’s conquest of New Mexico. This action was taken notwithstanding Miranda’s vast landholdings in northern New Mexico.

After the close of the Mexican War, Miranda invested heavily in the Santa Fe and San Antonio overland trade. In order to obtain an adequate pasturage for his teams, he petitioned the Governor of the State of Chihuahua on February 19, 1851, for a grant of one sitio and three caballerias of grazing land in accordance with the Act of October 22, 1833.[1] The lands requested were located on the west side of the river just north of the suburbs of the town of El Pasodel Norte. The lands embraced the hills and river bends called Mulleros, upon which Miranda’s ranch was located. After due procedure before the Governor and the Director of the Geographical Corps, the Governor of the State of Chihuahua granted the requested lands to Miranda by a decree dated July 13, 1851. On November 20, 1851, Guadalupe Miranda asked Jose Marie Maese, Second Judge of the First Instance of District of Bravo, to survey the grant and place him in lawful possession of the grant. Judge Maese issued public notice on November 21, 1851, that he intended to comply with Miranda’s request on December 3, 1851. On the prescribed date, Judge Maese officially surveyed the grant and gave Guadalupe Miranda legal possession of the following described lands:

Beginning at the mouth of an arroyo called Penasquito, where it connects with the Rio Grande River, said arroyo having its source in the hills called Mulleros; thence up the west bank of said river 5,000 varas to a Tornillo; thence west 5,000 varas, crossing the main road to Mesilla, to a small sand hill; thence south 5,000 varas terminating in the hills on one side of Poleo Hill; thence east 5,000 varas, crossing a part of the Poleo Hill, to the place of beginning; thence south 3,312 varas along the west bank of the Rio Grande River to a place where the hills connect with said river; thence west 552 varas to the hills; thence north 3,312 varas; and thence east 552 varas to said point of beginning.

A copy of each of the instruments pertaining, to the grant was given to Guadalupe Miranda and the original copy of the proceedings was allegedly filed in Judge Maese’s office.[2] Miranda lost the portion of the testimonio which contained his petition to the governor dated February 19, 1851, and the governor’s decree of July 13, 1851. He attempted to secure a certified copy of these two instruments from the custodian of the Property Registry of the District of Bravos, but was advised that the books containing land protocols for the years 1848 through 1855 had been lost or destroyed. Miranda apparently did not believe that he could secure the recognition of the grant without these documents, and, therefore, he did not present his claim to the Surveyor General for confirmation.

After the Southern Pacific Railway Company had completed its main line across the grant, Josiah F. Crosby recognized the speculative value of the claim, and purchased it from Guadalupe Miranda on January 18, 1888, for five dollars.[3] Miranda gave Crosby the balance of his testimonio and armed with this meager evidence, Crosby filed suit against the United States in the Court of Private Land Claims on February 28, 1893, seeking the confirmation of the approximately 2,442 acres of land covered by the Guadalupe Miranda Grant which were located north of the International Boundary Line.[4]

In his petition, Crosby alleged that the Governor of the State of Chihuahua had issued the grant to Miranda on July 13, 1851, that the grant had been duly made in accordance with the provisions of the Act of October 22,1833,[5] that the grant had been surveyed and Miranda placed in possession thereof by Jose Marie Maese, the Second Judge of the First Instance of the District of Bravo on December 3, 1851, and that all the papers, documents and decrees relating to the grant had been filed in the Archives of Mexico. The government filed an answer in the case on December 29, 1896, putting into issue all of the allegations contained in Crosby’s petition. The case was set for trial on July 5, 1898.

In the meantime, Crosby realized that there was a material defect in his title. The Act of October 22, 1833, under which the grant was allegedly made, provided that an individual could petition the Director of the Geographical and Topographical Corps of the State of Chihuahua for a grant covering a specifically described tract of vacant public domain. If the Director found that the tract covered vacant public lands, he would approve the request and order the Jefe Politico of the District in which the land 'was located to give public notice of the application for two consecutive weeks. If no one objected to the application, the Director would then survey the land and give public notice of the result of his survey for a period of nine days.

If no one protested, the Director would forward the proceedings to the Assessor General of the State so an appraisal of the lands could be made and the cost incurred in connection with the proceedings could be determined. The Assessor General would then transmit the file to the Governor for his approval. If the proceedings were approved by the Governor and all assessed costs were paid by the petitioner, the Governor together with the Director and Secretary of the Geographical and Topographical Corps would execute a final report, which together with the other papers pertaining to the grant would constitute a protocol. It was clearly evident that his documents did not constitute a complete protocol. He also realized that the issuance of a final report by the Governor and the Director and Secretary of the Geographical and Topographical Corps was an essential element in the issuance of a valid and complete grant under the Act of October 22, 1833.[6]

When the case came up for trial on July 5, 1898, Crosby advised the Court that he did not wish to further prosecute the case. Based on this announcement, the Court held that Crosby had not satisfactorily proven that a valid grant of land had been issued to Guadalupe Miranda as alleged in his petition. The Court, therefore, dismissed the petition and rejected the claim.[7]

[1] An Act establishing the Geographical and Topographical Corps of the State of Chihuahua (Mss., Records of the Officina de Correspondencia y Archivo, Gohierno del Estado de Chihuahua)

[2] Crosby v. United States, No. 139 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[3] 17 Deed Records 300 (Mss., Records of the CountyClerk’s Office,‑Las Cruces, New Mexico).

[4] Crosby v. United States, No. 139 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[5] An Act establishing the Geographical. and Topographical Coprs of the State of Chihuahua (Mss., Records of the officina de Correspondencia y Archivo, Gobierno del Estado de Chihuahua.)

[6] Ibid.

[7] Crosby v. United States, No. 139, Ct. Pvt. L. Cl. (1898).