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Juan Jose Moreno Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Crescencio and Simon Moreno filed suit[1]in the Court of Private Land Claims against the United States on March 3, 1893, seeking the confirmation of the Juan Jose Moreno Grant, which they alleged had been granted to Moreno by Governor Joaquin Codallos y Rabal on September 16, 1744. They estimated that the grant contained 35,000 acres and asserted that they had acquired an interest in the grant by inheritance. They further alleged that original papers pertaining to the grant were among the portion of the Spanish Archives which had been deposited in the Surveyor General’s Office, but due to the crowded condition of business in that office they had been unable to secure a copy of the expediente of the grant to file with their petition. Therefore, they requested permission to file a copy of the papers at a later date. A crude sketch map of the grant was also filed, which allegedly showed the location of the boundaries of the grant. Sometime later a copy of Archive No. 773[2] was filed in support of the plaintiff’s claim. This document showed that Lieutenant Juan Jose Moreno, a resident of Santa Fe, Petitioned Codallos seeking a grant covering a tract of vacant land at the place called Santa Cruz which was bounded:

On the north, by the lands of Francisco Ortiz, on the east, by the lands of Andres Montoya on the south, by the lands of the Town of Cochiti; and on the west, by the Rio Grande.

He requested the land for both agricultural and ranching purposes and expressly agreed that the concession should be made “without prejudice to the pastures for grazing the horses” of the royal garrison at Santa Fe. Codallos, on September 16, 1744, directed Lieutenant Governor Manuel Sanz and a lieutenant from the garrison at Santa Fe, Bernardo de Bustamante, to examine the requested lands and advise whether the land was royal domain and if the granting of the tract would prejudice the rights of any third party. In response to the governor’s order, Sanz and Bustamante, on September 18, 1744, reported that the lands were a portion of the royal domain, and, if the grant was made subject to the condition that the horses of the royal garrison could continue to graze on the tract, there would be no impediments to the issuance of the concession. Two days later Codallos granted the requested lands to Moreno on condition that h in no way interfere with the use of the lands as a pasturage for the mounts of the Santa Fe garrison. He also directed Sanz to notify the adjoining landowners of the grant and, if he encountered no opposition, to place Moreno in royal possession of the premises. Sanz, in obedience to such instructions, went to the grant on September 23, 1744, with his attending witnesses and met with Moreno, representatives of the Pueblo of Cochiti, Andres Montoya, and Francisco Ortiz. After reading the petition and grant to the adjoining land owners, they stated that the grant would not prejudice them at all. Whereupon, Sanz placed Moreno in royal possession of the grant and designated the following natural objects as its boundaries:

On the north, by the point of the table land, which is the one cited in the grant of said Francisco Ortiz; on the east, by the same boundary that is cited in the grant of said Andres Montoya; and on the south, by the Santa Cruz hills, which are cited in the sale of lands made to the Indians.[3]

This archive also contained a copy of a gift deed dated August 20, 1755, whereby Juan Jose Moreno and his wife, Juana Roibal, conveyed the grant to Juana Roibal's brother, Santiago Roibal, the vicar and ecclesiastical judge of New Mexico, in consideration of the “good services we have received from him,” and agreed to hold possession of the grant as his tenants and agent until he could occupy or otherwise dispose of the premises. Since the property had a value in excess of five hundred soldeos in gold, the gift deed was presented to and the conveyance approved by Governor Francisco Antonio Mann del Valle.

An investigation made by the government led to the discovery that the grant was situated entirely within the Caja del Rio Grant, which previously had been confirmed by the court. Therefore, when the case came up for trial on August 15, 1900, the plaintiffs consented the entering of a decree,[4] rejecting the grant without prejudice to any rights they might have under and by virtue of such confirmation.

[1] Moreno v. United States, No. 260 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] Archive No. 773 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[3] There is no western call in the description.

[4] 4 Journal 195 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).