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Jose Dominguez Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Santiago Valdez petitioned[1]Surveyor General Henry M. Atkinson on January 14, 1880 stating that the papers evidencing a grant to Jose Dominguez had been in his possession a number of years and, while he diligently had searched for the heirs of Jose Dominguez, he had been unable to find them. Therefore, he decided to file the grant papers so an investigation of the claim could be conducted pursuant to the eighth article of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.[2] The papers showed that Jose Dominguez had petitioned Governor Pedro Rodriguez Cubero seeking a grant covering a tract of vacant land located in the Taos Valley which had formerly belonged to Francisco Gomez Robledo as a remuneration for the military services he had rendered against the Indians. On February 9, 1702 Cubero granted the request and directed the Alcalde of Taos, Juan Paez Hurtado, to place Dominguez in royal possession of the lands he had requested. In response to the governor’s decree, Hurtado assembled the officials and in­habitants of the Pueblo of Taos and advised them of the grant. Since no objections were raised, he delivered possession of the grant to Dominguez. The grant papers consisted of a certified copy of a certified copy of the testimonio. The certificate was dated March 9, 1836 and made by Antonio Jose Ortiz, based on a certified copy made by Santiago Martinez on June 12, 1795. None of the three instruments which comprised the grant papers contained a description of the boundaries of the tract or other means of identifying its limits or areal extent.

Twelve days later, Atkinson, who usually approved even dubious claims, handed down a decision[3] recommending the rejection of the claim. He pointed out that the claim was based upon a copy of a copy, neither of which were properly authenticated, and that there was no documentary evidence of the grant in the archives. Therefore, he did not believe that the claim had been documented sufficiently to form the basis of a valid title. And, even if the grant papers were presumed to be genuine, the claim still could not be approved for the muniments of title nowhere contained a legal description of the grant.

Ordinarily one would think that after this adverse decision the grant quickly would have been forgotten. However, the grant was destined to play an important role in interpretation and fixing of the boundaries of the Antonio Leroux Grant. The grant papers of that grant recited that it was bounded on the south by the lands of Sebastian Martin. Deputy Surveyors Sawyer & McElroy interpreted this call to mean the Sebastian Martin Grant which was located some twenty-two miles southwest of Taos. Several protests were filed against the approval of the Sawyer & McBroom Survey on the grounds that it had mislocated the boundaries of the grant. As a result of these protests, Atkinson conducted a full investigation of the boundaries of the Antoine Leroux Grant. During the course of his investigation he discovered a deed in the Archives[4] which disclosed that on October 25, 1723, Dimas Jiron and Maria Dominguez, his wife, conveyed a tract of land which Maria had inherited from her father, Jose Dominguez, to Sebastian Martin. The tract was described as being located on both sides of the Arroyo Seco and bounded:

On the north, by the lands of Diego Lucero and the Arroyo del Lucero; on the east, by the landmarks of the Pueblo of Taos; on the south, by the Taos River; and on the west, by the Rio Grande.

This obviously was the Sebastian Martin Grant which fixed the southern boundary of the Antoine Leroux Grant. Thus, the rejected Jose Dominguez Grant played an important role in reducing the size of the Antoine Leroux Grant from the 126,024.53 acres contained in the Sawyer & McElroy Survey to the 56,428.37 acres covered by its patent.

The discovery of the deed did not prompt Valdez to seek the reopening of the claim on the ground it amounted to newly discovered evidence because it was obvious he had no interest in the grant. In the meantime, the Antonio Martinez Grant, which had been granted subsequent to the Juan Dominguez Grant, had been approved for confirmation and covered all of the lands in question. Thus, this rather obscure grant was allowed to slip back into oblivion.


[1] The Jose Dominguez Grant No 120 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[2] 5 Miller, Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, 217-218 (1937).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Archive No. 510 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).