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Jose Trujillo Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Jose Trujillo, a native of New Mexico and soldier stationed at Santa Fe, appeared before Governor Pedro Rodrigues Cubero requesting a grant covering the tract of land known as the Mesilla of San Ildefonso. He stated that he needed the land as a pasturage for the livestock which his brother was then bringing him and that after his retirement he would use the grant for the support of his family. On April 23, 1700, Cubero granted the tract to Trujillo and directed the Alcalde of Santa Cruz, Roque Madrid, to deliver royal possession of the premises subject to the conditions prescribed by law. Madrid, in compliance with the Governor’s decree, proceeded to the grant on May 22, 1700, and placed Trujillo in possession of the lands within the following boundaries:

 On the north, the road running between the Pueblo of Pojoaque and Santa Clara; on the east, the hills; on the south, the Mesilla de San Ildefonso; and on the west, the Rio Grande.[1]

Sometime later, Trujillo was promoted to the rank of Captain and transferred to the garrison at Santa Cruz. He commenced cultivating the valley lands along the Arroyo Seco, and grazing his stock upon the uplands. By 1707 his operations had expanded to the point that he needed additional grazing land. Therefore, he petitioned Governor Francisco Cuerro y Valdes for the adjoining tract of land which was called Arroyo Seco. He described the tract as being only fit for the pasturage of livestock since it was comprised of timber covered hills cut by many dry arroyos. The Governor accepted the petition as presented on May 23, 1707, and issued the grant forthwith together with instructions to Madrid to place Trujillo in possession of the additional tract.[2] By virtue of this decree Madrid, on June 16, 1707, delivered possession of the grant to Trujillo and designated the following natural objects as its boundaries:

On the north, a cross on the highway to Santa Cruz; on the east, the ridge from which the prairie of the Pueblo of Nambe may be seen; on the south, the high ascent from which the Pueblo of Pojoaque may he seen; and on the west, Trujillo’s first grant.[3]

Two years later the Solicitor-General of Now Mexico, Juan de Ulibarri, made a judicial visit to Santa Cruz to investigate the charges made by the Indians of the Pueblo of Pojoaque that the Spaniards were illegally encroaching upon their lands. In connection with his general investigation, Ulibarri reviewed the proceedings had in connection with Trujillo’s two grants arid, since no objections had been raised against these grants, he issued a decree on July 15, 1709, in which he found Trujillo to be the lawful owner and possessor of both tracts.[4]

Thereafter, the two grants frequently were treated as a single or consolidated tract. Following Trujillo’s death in 1735, his widow, Antonia Lopez, petitioned the Alcalde of Santa Cruz, Juan Estevan Garcia de Noriega, for the partitioning of Trujillo’s estate amongst his devisees. In response to her petition, Garcia notified the inhabitants of the Pueblo of Ildefonso of the proposed partitioning of the tract in order that they might witness the proceedings. When Garcia arrived at the grant on May 20, 1735, a number of the Indians met him at its south line with a petition addressed to Governor Gervacio Cruzat y Gonsorga protesting the recognition of the southern portion of the Jose Trujillo Grant on the grounds that it conflicted with their property. As a result of the protest, Garcia suspended the partitioning of the grant. It appears that Cruzat later rejected the Indians’ protest on the grounds that they had not “plead in a form that could be admitted in their favor.” Therefore, Garcia proceeded with the partitioning of the grant on September 22, 1735. First he measured the length of the Mesilla of San Ildefonso Grant and found it to be 5,750 varas. He set aside north 593 varas to Bartolome Trujillo, the next 493 varas to Jose Trujillo, the next 493 varas to Isidro Trujillo and the next 493 varas to Cristóbal de Tafoya. The south 2,050 varas was set aside as a commons for the benefit of Trujillo’s widow and four children. Antonia received the north 493 varas of the Arroyo Seco Grant. The balance of that grant was also set aside as a commons.[5]

Silvestre Gomez, for himself and the other heirs and legal representatives of Jose Trujillo filed separate petitions on September 28, 1877, requesting Surveyor General Henry M. Atkinson to investigate and approve the Mesilla of San Ildefonso and Arroyo Seco Grants. The sketch maps filed by the claimants indicated that the Mesilla of San Ildefonso Grant covered approximately 6,100 acres and the Arroyo Seco Grant contained about 12,000 acres. During his investigation of the claims, Atkinson received testimony from three witnesses. David J. Miller, translator and chief clerk of the Surveyor General’s Office, testified that since the organization of the Surveyor General’s Office in 1854, he had continuously worked in the Archives of New Mexico and in that capacity had become familiar with the signatures of most of the former officials of New Mexico. Continuing, he stated that, after examining each of the muniments of the claimant’s title, he had “no hesitation in declaring” such documents genuine. The testimony of the other two witnesses tended to prove that the claimants and their predecessors had held peaceful possession of the premises as far back as they could remember. They also stated that some twelve families lived in the two settlements ‑‑ Mesilla and Polvadera ‑‑ which were located on the grants. In his opinion dated December 13, 1878, Atkinson recommended that both grants be approved by Congress.[6]

A preliminary survey of the consolidated grant as made in October, 1879, by Deputy Surveyor John Shaw for 5,999.69 acres. Shaw’s survey showed that almost all of such land conflicted with either the Santa Clara, San Ildefonso or Pojoaque Pueblo Grants. The claimants of the Jose Trujillo Grant protested the approval of the Shaw Survey on the grounds that it located the eastern boundary of the consolidated grant approximately two leagues too far west. In the alternative, the claimants contended that the Shaw Survey covered only the Mesilla of Ildefonso Grant and that a survey of the Arroyo Seco Grant was not covered thereby. Congress never got around to acting upon the claim.[7]

Manuel Archuleta, for himself and the heirs and legal representatives of Jose Trujillo filed suit in the Court of Private Land Claims on February 23, 1893, seeking the confirmation of the Arroyo Seco Grant.[8] However, before the case came up for trial, Archuleta determined that it would be impossible to prove that vague call for the eastern boundary of the Arroyo Seco Grant was not located as depicted by Shaw’s survey. Therefore, November 13, 1896, the plaintiffs filed a motion asking for the dismissal of his petition. The court granted the request and entered a decree rejecting the claim.[9]

Meanwhile, Archuleta had filed a second suit[10] seeking the confirmation of the Mesilla of San Ildefonso Grant. Since virtually all of the land covered by the Mesilla of San Ildefonso conflicted with previously confirmed grants, he realized that the court had no jurisdiction over such lands. Therefore, shortly before the case came up for trial, he requested that his suit be dismissed. In response to such request, the court by decree dated November 26, 1896, rejected the grant.[11]


[1] The Mesilla of San Ildefonso Grant, No. F‑117 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[2] It appears that as a result of his successful campaign against the Navajos, Trujillo became one of the most important men in northern New Mexico. In addition to being the Commander of the garrison, he was Alcalde of Santa Cruz. Chaves, Origins of Mexico Families 297 (1954). This accounts for the reason why Madrid was ordered to deliver possession of the grant.

[3] The Arroyo Seco Grant, No. F‑118 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[4] S. Exec. Doc. No. 63, 46th Cong. 3d Sess. 12, 18 (1881).

[5] Ibid., 8‑10.

[6] Ibid., 19‑23.

[7] The Jose Trujillo Grant, No. 112 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[8] Archuleta v. United States, No. 115 (Mss, Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[9] 3 Journal 125 (Mss,, Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[10] Archuleta v. United States, No. 268 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[11] 3 Journal 124 (Mss., Records of the Ct Pvt. L Cl.).