More to Explore

Juan de Gabaldon Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Juan de Gabaldon, a resident of Santa Fe, petitioned Governor Tomas Velez Cachupin for a grant covering a tract of vacant agricultural land situated on both sides of the Tesuque River. He stated that he had been landless for some twenty-one years and direly needed the tract to raise food for the support of the large family which God had been pleased to give him. He also pointed out that due to the great scarcity of water at Santa Fe he had been forced to seek a tract outside of the city, but promised to settle upon and develop the tract in accordance with the royal ordinances. He described the requested tract as being bounded:                                                                

On the north, by some hills adjoining the boundaries of the Ranch of Squadron‑Corporal Juan de Benavides; on the east, by the river which comes down the mountain; on the south, by the lands of Juan de Ledesma; and on the west, by the boundary of the Pueblo of Tesuque.

On June 5, 1752, Cachupin ordered the Alcalde of Santa Fe, Jose de Bustamante Tagle, to investigate into the merits of the application and determine whether or not it would injure any third party in the event the grant was made. In response to this order, Tagle met with the adjoining Spanish landowners and representatives of the Pueblo of Tesuque on June 7, 1752, and explained the proposed grant to them and examined their grants and conveyances. Whereupon, Tagle determined that there was no impediment to the granting of the premises to Gabaldon:

 ... as the Pueblo of Tesuque laid quite beyond and as the said settlers ... would not be injured by the settlement of the said petitioner, for, although the said Benavides claims that if the canon be settled not a drop of water would reach him for his fields, I certify that although no settlement whatever be made not a drop could reach him at this time, as it is very near the head, and the said petitioner states that if he is placed in possession of the said place he obligates himself never to occasion the settlers any injury, but will rather use all of his efforts to construct a good reservoir, the said parties aiding in its realization, by doing which they will, I am sure, receive great advantages from the stream of water originating above, which, if dammed up, will enable them to irrigate with increased advantages.

 Nine days later Cachupin reviewed Tagle’s report, granted the tract to Gabaldon and directed Tagle to place the grantee in royal possession of the premises. The granting decree fixed the boundaries of the grant at the following natural objects:

On the north, the commencement of the valley called the Canada de Infierno on the east, the side of the mountain extending from north to south; on the south, the commencement of the little canon and the boundary of the ranch of Juan de Ledesma; and on the west, the boundaries of the ranch of Squadron Corporal Juan Benavides.

The grant was made subject to a number of conditions. First, the grantee was prohibited from alienating the land prior to the “time for possession and settlement prescribed by the collection of laws of these Indies, and thereafter not to any monastery or ecclesiastical person.” Second he could not “injure his neighbors in the pasture or the water, they being in common.” In this connection he was instructed not to use any portion of the grant as a “stock farm” or “dam up or impede the course of the water” necessary for the cultivation and irrigation of the land of the two adjoining Spanish landowners. However, should it become necessary to dam the water from the springs located within his grant in order to irrigate his fields, he was authorized to do so provided the interested parties had agreed upon a plan for equitable distribution of the water supply.

Pursuant to the foregoing decree, Tagle, after giving notice to the adjacent landowners, proceeded to the grant on June 17, 1752, and delivered peaceable possession thereof to Gabaldon. Tagle fixed the boundaries of the grant as follows:

On the north, at a ridge extending to the valley called the Canada de Infierno, at the foot of the main mountain; on the east, the side of the main mountain extending from north to south; on the south, another ridge extending to the foot of said mountain, and which is the commencement of the cajoncito and boundary of the lands of Juan de Ledesma; and on the west, a high hill situated between two rivers, and dividing the lands of Squadron‑Corporal Benavides.

The expediente of the grant proceedings were filed in the Spanish archives and were amongst the papers turned over to the Surveyor General’s office in 1855.[1]

The claim was presented to Surveyor General James K. Proudfit for investigation on October 14, 1872, by Pablo Dominguez, who claimed to be one of the owners of the grant. During his examination of the claim, Proudfit took the testimony of two witnesses who stated that since the early part of the nineteenth century the grant had been owned and occupied by Pablo Dominguez, who had inherited an interest in the grant from his parents. In a decision dated November 22, 1872, Proudfit stated:

 The proceedings in regard to this grant, as shown by these old records, seem to have been conducted with unusual care and propriety... and as I entertain no doubt in regard to the validity of the grant, and the good faith of the parties applying for its confirmation, I respectfully recommend that the said grant of land be confirmed by Congress to the legal representatives of Juan de Gabaldon, to whom the concession was made by the government of Spain in 1752.[2]

The government entered into a contract with Deputy Surveyors Griffin & McMullen to survey the grant in 1877, but heavy snows that year precluded them from working in the mountains. Since the claimants were very desirous of having their claim surveyed at an early date, it was substituted for one of the grants under Deputy Surveyor Charles H. Fitch’s contract. Fitch surveyed the grant in July, 1878, for 11,619.56 acres. No further action was taken in regard to the confirmation of the grant until 1893.[3]

On February 14, 1893, Thomas B. Catron, who in the meantime had acquired the interest of Pablo Domingues, filed suit in the Court of Private Land Claims for the recognition of the grant.[4] A second suit seeking to secure the confirmation of the grant was filed on March 2, 1893, by William T. Russell, who had purchased an interest in the grant.[5] The court consolidated the two claims and tried them under cause number 86. The government offered no special defenses and the court confirmed the grant on December 4, 1893.[6] Once the decree became final, the grant was surveyed by Deputy Surveyor Norris T. Cavalier pursuant to the boundaries set forth in the decree. The grant was patented on May 22, 1902 for 10,690.05 acres.[7]

[1] Archive No. 352 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).


[2] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 128, 42d Cong., 3d Sess, 22 (1873).


[3]The Juan de Gabaldon Grant, No. 65 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).


[4] Catron v. United States, No. 86 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).


[5] Russell v. United States, No. 202 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).


[6] 2 Journal 39‑43 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).


[7] The Juan de Gabaldon Grant, No. 65 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).