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Juan Bautista Valdez Grant

by Michael Miller

The Juan Bautista Valdez grant was petitioned in 1807, by Juan Bautista Valdez who was resident of the Town of Abiquiu and a loyal subject to the Spanish crown.  Valdez and seven companions requested two thousand varas in the Canon de los Pedernales.  Manuel Garcia the alcalde in Abiquiu sent the petition to Governor Joaquin del Real Alencaster with a recommendation for approval.  Garcia delivered the grant to Valdez and ten colonists.  Valdez was alloted the land known as the Encinas tract and the nine other petitioners were awarded allotments of 550 varas in width along the Rio Perdernales.

When New Mexico became a territory of the United States there were two small settlements on the land grant known as the Town of Canones and Rancho de Encinas.

The heirs of Juan Bautitsta Valdez  petitioned the Surveyor General in 1871.  No expediente was located for the grant, however the heirs submitted an hijuela (will) from Juan Bautista Valdez as an Act of Possession to the court.  Following four months of deliberation Surveyor General T. Rush Spencer recommended confirmation of the grant known as the Encinas Tract to Congress.  When George Julian took over the office in 1885, he ordered a re-examination of the grant and he recommended that the grant be rejected by Congress.  The testimonio was located by Antonio Valdez and other heirs of the grant and was submitted once again to the Surveyor General for confirmation.  When Henry M. Atkinson became Surveyor General he recommended confirmation of the grant with two stipulations.  First, that the grant be approved by the number of acres in Valdez’s petition and second, that the grant should be approved in the name of Valdez’s heirs and not include the names of the other original colonists.

This recommendation was also rejected based on the investigations submitted by George Julian.  Julian publicly attacked the validity of the grant and went so far as to publish an article in the North American Review, entitled: “Land Stealing in New Mexico” to prove his point. In 1893, Congress created the Court of Private Land Claims which gave the owners of the grant another opportunity to press their claim.  In 1899, the grant was approved for 1,468.57 acres.  A patent for the land was issued on June 19, 1913.  The Juan Bautista Valdez grant is located in Rio Arriba county.