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Lo de Basquez Grant

by J. J. Bowden

The heirs of Antonio Ortiz petitioned[1] Surveyor General T. Rush Spencer on April 13, 1872, seeking the confirmation of the Lo de Basquez Grant which had been in the possession of their family since the “first rememberence [sic] of the oldest inhabitants of New Mexico.” They described the grant, as covering a tract of land bounded:

On the north, by the La Bajado; on the east, by Los Alamitos; on the south, by the Una del Gato; and on the west, by the lands belonging to the Pueblo of Santo Domingo.

Although the petitioners were unable to file any muniment of title in support of their claim, they called Spencer’s attention to the fact that the grant was mentioned in several ancient documents among the archives of New Mexico. They also pointed out that ever since their grandfather, Jose Ortiz, had acquired the premises, it had been in the peaceable possession of their family, and, while there was not sufficient water on the grant to conduct farming operations, livestock had been pastured on the property for generations.

Since the Supreme Court had previously held[2] that the mere assertion of an ancient grant “without any evidence of its loss, or the testimony of any witness who has seen it, together with such evidence of possession as comes only from the ranging of cattle and the occasional cutting of timber, with a partial implied admission of its existence by a territorial governor,” was not sufficient evidence of such a grant, the Surveyor General’s office took no action on the claim.

The owners of the grant filed suit[3] against the .United States in the Court of Private Land Claims on the next to the last day permitted by the Act of March 3, 1891[4] for the recognition of their claim to the approximately 76,000 acres covered by the grant. In their petition, Ortiz’s heirs stated that the expediente of the grant was not in existence but that they hoped to find some documentary evidence of the grant in Mexico City and asked leave to file such evidence and amend their petition as soon as it came to their knowledge. The government filed a demurrer in which it contended that the plaintiffs’ petition did not state sufficient facts to constitute a cause of action against the United States or set forth the information required by Section 6 of the Court of Private Land Claims Act.[5] Since the grant conflicted with the Pueblo of Santo Domingo, Ortiz Mine, Mesita de Juana Lopez, and La Bajada Grants, the government filed a motion asking that the owners of those grants be made parties defendants. The government also filed a general answer putting in issue the allegations contained in the plaintiffs’ petition.

As a result of the plaintiffs’ failure to locate any documentary evidence of the grant and since they undoubtedly would be confronted with Archive No. 84[6] which showed that a grant known as the Lo de Basquez Grant had been made to Jose Basquez by Governor Juan Domingo de Bustamante on March 6, 1727, but subsequently revoked by Governor Gervasio Cruzat y Gongora, they announced that they no longer wished to prosecute their suit when it came up for trial on August 28, 1899. Thus, the court, on the same day, issued a decree rejecting the grant and dismissing the petition.[7]


[1] The Lo de Basquez Grant, No. F‑101 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[2]  De Arguello v. United States, 59 U.S. 539 (1855).

[3] Delgado v. United States, No. 178 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[4] Court of Private Land Claims Act, Chap 539, Sec, 12, 26 Stat. 854 (1891).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Archive No. 84 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[7] 4 Journal 109 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).