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Jose Ignacio Alari Grant

by J. J. Bowden

On March 3, 1893, Juan Antonio Quintana filed suit[1] against the United States in the Court of Private Land Claims seeking the confirmation of a tract of land estimated to contain 1,000 acres located on the Ojo Caliente River. Quintana claimed an interest in the tract by inheritance from Gabriel Quintana, one of the original grantees of the Jose Ignacio Alan Grant. His claim was based on an old Spanish archive.[2] This document consists of three instruments, a petition, a grant decree and an act of possession. In the petition, Jose Ignacio Alari and Gavriel Quintana, residents of Ojo Caliente, request Governor Pedro Fermin de Mendinueta to give them a grant covering the house and lands which formerly had been owned by Gerónima Pacheco, a widow, and her son, Jose Martin. The petitions assorted that the tract had been allotted to Pacheco and her son as original colonists of Ojo Caliente but had forfeited their rights to the land by moving to the Town of Abiquiu permanently.

The petitioners further stated that while they each had a small tract of land at Ojo Caliente, which had been given to them by their respective fathers-in-law, such lands were not sufficient and they “registered” the tract in question in order to support their large families. The second instrument is dated March 21, 1768, and recited that after having examined the petition and being familiar with the facts Mendinueta found the land in question to be Crown Lands.” It seems that on December 6, 1767, Mendinueta had issued a proclamation which permitted anyone who had abandoned his lands at Ojo Caliente the right to renew his grant by resettling thereupon, but no one had timely exercised such privilege. Thereafter, all such abandoned lands had been forfeited and. were open for reappropriation by bona fide settlers. Finding no impediments to the request, Mendinueta regranted such lands and house to the two petitioners upon the condition that they settle upon this grant within the time prescribed by law. The decree also ordered the Alcalde of Santa Cruz to place the new grantees in royal possession of the grant, which was to have the same boundaries as those owned by the original grantees. The final instrument is an act of possession which evidences that on March 24, 1768, Alcalde Antonio Jose Ortiz accompanied by the adjoining landowners, Joseph Baca and Manuel Lucero, performed the customary ceremony necessary to place the two grantees in royal possession of the new grant and pointed out their boundaries which were:

On the north, the lands of Manuel Lucero; on the south, the lands of Joseph Baca and on the east and west, the same boundaries which the first owners had under their grant.

The plaintiff, in conjunction with his petition, filed a crude sketch map of the grant which did not appear to be to scale or tie the grant into the public land system. Therefore, it did not afford the government any information as to the location or extent of the grant. On October 20, 1896, the government filed a motion asking the court to require Quintana to make the owners of the Ojo Caliente Grant parties defendants since they claimed an adverse interest in the land. The government filed an answer containing a general denial on December 29, 1896, putting all of the plaintiff’s allegations into issue. A motion seeking a more specific sketch map was filed by the government on October 5, 1898.

No further proceedings were filed in the case until May 5, 1900, when the case came up for trial. At that time, the plaintiff recognized that the court, under the doctrine of the Conway case,[3] had no authority to act upon this grant since it was located wholly within the Ojo Caliente Grant,[4] which had previously been confirmed. Therefore, he announced that he no longer wished to prosecute his claim. In response his motion, the court entered a decree[5] dismissing the plaintiff’s petition and rejecting the claim.

[1] Quintana v. United States, No. 227 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] Archive No. 43 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[3] United States v. Conway, 175 U.S. 60 (1899). This case held that the Court of Private Land Claims did not have jurisdiction over lands which were covered by a patented, conflicting private land claim.

[4] The title papers to the Ojo Caliente Grant shows that each of the 53 original grantees, one of whom was Jose Martin, were allotted individual farm tracts measuring 150 varas in width on both sides of the Ojo Caliente River. The southern boundary of this grant was located at a holy cross made of cedar just below the tower of Jose Baca. The Ojo Caliente Grant, No. 77 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.). Thus, it would appear that the Jose Ignacio Alari Grant was a very small tract located from 150 to 300 varas north of the southern boundary of the Ojo Caliente Grant.

[5] 4 Journal 162 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).