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Guadalupita Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Pedro Antonio Gallegos, Jose Maria Silva, and Miguel Silva, residents of the Pueblo of Las Trampas, petitioned the Alcalde of that pueblo, Juan Nepomoceno Trujillo, on February 20, 1837, for a grant covering a tract of unoccupied land located in the Guadalupe Valley along both banks of the Coyote River. The petitioners alleged that they needed the grant in order to support their families since there was insufficient water to irrigate their lands at Las Trampas. Trujillo, after consulting with the principal citizens of the town of Mora, who stated they had no objection to the formation of a new colony within the boundaries of the Town of Mora Grant, decided to grant the land to the petitioners on March 9, 1837. He directed the grantees to appear before him on April 7, 1837, in order that he might deliver legal possession of the grant to them as required by the colonization laws. On the appointed date, Trujillo, together with the grantees and a number of other colonists who had associated with the original grantees, proceeded to the Guadalupe Valley. Upon arriving at the grant, the colonists assisted Trujillo in the surveying of the grant. The survey:  

Commenced at point on the northwest corner of the Laguna Negro and ran thence eastward to the first hill north of and near a little spring; thence south to the West Ocate River; thence in a southwesterly direction to the mountains lying east of the Mora River near the Town of Agua Negra; and thence north following the top of the mountains to the point of beginning.

Following the completion of the survey, Trujillo performed the ceremonies required to place the colonists in legal possession of the grant. The colonists enjoyed peaceful possession of the grant for the next fifty-nine years.

A petition[1] seeking the confirmation of the Guadalupita Grant was filed in Surveyor General George W. Julian’s office on December 28, 1885, by the heirs of the three original grantees. The testimonio of the grant, which had been given to the grantees by Trujillo, was attached to their petition as an exhibit. However, the list of colonists which was referred to in the Act of Possession somehow had been detached and lost or destroyed. The petitioners also asserted that the Governor of New Mexico, acting with the consent and approval of the Departmental Assembly, had confirmed the grant, and, although they had made a diligent search of the archives, they had been unable to find a copy of such action. They contended that it reasonably could be assumed that the confirmation proceedings had been lost or destroyed since it was a well known and accepted fact that the archives were “notoriously incomplete and fragmentary.” In conclusion, they called attention to the fact that the southern three-quarters of the Guadalupita Grant conflicted with the Town of Mora Grant but that the principal inhabitants of that grant had voluntarily relinquished the town’s interests to such lands. They also pointed out that there were a few persons residing on the northern one‑quarter who were asserting claims under the homestead laws of the United States. The grant purportedly covered one hundred eighty square miles, or 115,200 acres of land. Surveyor General George W. Julian, after carefully considering the grant, wrote an opinion[2] on November 10, 1886, wherein he recommended that the claim be rejected on the ground that an Alcalde had no power or authority to make a grant covering a portion of the public domain in 1837 and there was no evidence that his actions had been ratified or confirmed by the government of New Mexico.

In a final effort to secure the recognition of their claim, the heirs of the original grantees filed suit[3] against the United States in the Court of Private Land Claims on February 27, 1893. Their petition recited the history of the grant but this time estimated that the grant contained only eleven square leagues, or 47,743 acres. The cause came up for trial on November 24, 1896, at which time the plaintiffs announced that they did not desire to further prosecute their claim. Whereupon, the court issued its decree[4] rejecting the claim and dismissing the suit.

[1] The Guadalupita Grant, No. 152 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.). A second claim for the confirmation of the Guadalupita Grant was filed by George Gold on March 4, 1866. Gold claimed an interest in the grant by virtue of the purchase of the interests of several of the colonists who had joined the original grantees in forming the colony. Attached to Gold’s petition was a schedule which contained the names of all the parties who allegedly had been placed in possession of the grant by Trujillo. This list included the names of his grantors. No action was ever taken on this claim. The Guadalupita Grant, No. F‑94, (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[2] The Guadalupita Grant, No. 152 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[3] Gallegos v. United States, No. 131 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[4] 3 Journal 138‑139 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).