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Jose Antonio Lucero Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Jose Antonio Lucero, a resident of Santa Fe, peti­tioned Governor Gervasio Cruzat y Gongora for a tract of vacant land on the north side of the Santa Fe River “suffi­ciently large to permit the planting of two fanegas of corn”. He stated that he needed the tract to meet his obligations and described it as being situated within the following boundaries:

On the south, by the Cerro Gordon; on the east, by an arroyo which runs into the Santa Fe River; on the south, by the lands of Captain Manuel Tenorio; and on the west, by an arroyo which comes down by the lime kiln.

Having examined the petition carefully, Governor Cruzat found it entitled to due consideration. However, he decided that the concession should be limited to one fanega of corn planting land. Therefore, he granted Lucero a fanega of land at the place mentioned on September 20, 1732 and ordered the Alcalde of Santa Fe, Captain Antonio de Ulibarri, to place him in royal possession of the grant. Early on October 17, 1732, Ulibarri delivered possession of the grant to Lucero after having designated the following natural objects as its boundaries:

On the north, the woods; on the east, an arroyo which comes down to the river; on the south, a stone brow located above the river; and on the west, a large stone opposite the lands of Manuel Tenorio.

The morning of the 17th of October apparently was stormy and cloudy. However, later in the day the weather cleared, whereupon it was discovered that the grant contained “just a little more than half a fanega.” Lucero protested, and after being assured by his two attending witnesses, Juan Lucero and Geronimo de Ortega who were experts in farming matters, that the tract was deficient. Ulibarri assigned Lucero another small piece of land by extending the east boundary eastward to another arroyo. Lucero promptly occupied the grant and his descendants were still in possession when the United States acquired New Mexico.[1]

Notwithstanding its proximity to Santa Fe, the claim was not presented for investigation by the Surveyor General’s office until July 23, 1885. Juan Lucero and seven other persons, each claiming to be a descendant of Jose Antonio Lucero, petitioned Surveyor General George W. Julian on that day seeking the confirmation of the grant, which they asserted covered about a league of land. In support of their claim, they filed the testimonio of the grant. Julian received the testimony of two witnesses who stated that the grant was about two and a half miles square and that the Luceros had held peaceable possession of the premises since time immemorial.

The results of Julian’s investigation are contained in an opinion dated March 13, 1886. He found that while the muniments of title came from private hands, they appeared to be genuine. He also noted that while the archives contained no direct documentary evidence of the grant, it was referred to as forming the southern boundary of the Canada Ancha Grant, which was acknowledged to be genuine. Since the grant was adjacent to Santa Fe and had been occu­pied for more than one hundred and fifty years, he believed there was sufficient evidence to raise a presumption that a valid grant for one fanega of land had been made. Therefore, he recommended the confirmation of that quantity of land to the legal representative of Jose Antonio Lucero. He stated that the best information available indicated that a fanega was a Spanish measurement equal to 50,784 square varas, or 8.82 acres.

The petitioners “with due deference” to Julian’s “ability and honesty as an officer of the United States Government”, requested him to reconsider his opinion on the grounds that it was unfair to limit the grant to one fanega of land. They argued that the term fanega was not a Spanish measurement but simply a provincial expression without any real meaning. They contended it was inconceivable that the Spanish Government would restrict any subject in such a far off and unsettled country to the mere planting land which he occupied and not give him any timber and pasture lands for domestic purposes. Therefore, they asked that the grant be confirmed in accordance with the boundaries set forth in the Act of Possession. In conclusion, they requested Julian to reject the grant in toto if he was unwilling to revise his opinion. They pointed out that if the grant was rejected, each of the petitioners would be free to apply for 160 acres of land under the public land laws.[2]

The Jose Antonio Lucero Grant, like so many other New Mexico private land claims, was never acted upon by Congress. Thus, it was one of the many claims which were presented to the Court of Private Land Claims for its adjudication. On February 23, 1893, Juan Bautista Lucero, the owner of an interest in the grant by inheritance, filed suit against the United States for the recognition of the claim, which he estimated to contain an area of 700 acres.[3] In view of the fact that all of the land covered by the grant was situated within the Santa Fe Grant, which previously had been confirmed by the Court of Private Land Claims, the plaintiff failed to appear when the cause came up for trial on February 16, 1898. Therefore, the court entered a decree dismissing his petition and rejecting the claim.[4]

[1]The Jose Antonio Lucero, Grant No. 147 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lucero v. United States, No. 117 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[4] 3 Journal 367 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).