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Lo de Padilla Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Diego de Padilla, a resident of the Town of Albuquerque, finding himself without sufficient lands to support his family, petitioned the Governor of New Mexico for a grant covering the tract of land known as Lo de Padilla. He described the tract as being bounded on the east bank of the Rio Grande River, bounded:

On the north, by the bluff of the sand hills of Isleta; on the east, by the Sandia Mountains on the south, by the lands and houses that my grandfather, Balencia, formerly owned; and on the west, by the Rio Grande.

He stated that the land rightfully belonged to him since his ancestors previously had owned the land but had been forced to abandon it during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. In response to Padilla’s petition, Antonio Valverde y Cosío, Governor ad litem of New Mexico, on May 14, 1718, granted him the requested lands and directed Alonso Garcia, Alcalde of the Pueblo of Isleta, to place him in royal possession of the grant. Upon the same paper, and immediately following the signature, begins a statement, in a different handwriting, describing the action of the alcalde in connection with the delivery of possession of the land. It originally occupied most of the full page, but about one fourth of it is missing and only a portion of the signature of the alcalde remains. The missing part contained the main portion of the description of the lands, but what is left indicates that possession of the grant had been delivered to Padilla.[1]

The claim[2] was presented to Surveyor General T. Rush Spencer on may 31, 1872, for his investigation and recommendation. However, for some unknown reason, copies of the grant papers were not filed with the petition although they were readily available and located in the Archives of New Mexico, which were then in the Surveyor General’s office. This technical oversight probably caused the Surveyor General to pass over this claim, notwithstanding the fact that at this time grants were given cursory investigations. Nothing further was done in regard to that claim until December 4, 1884, over twelve years after the initial filing, when Franz and Charles Huning, as legal representatives of Diego Padilla, filed an amended petition[3] and attached a copy of the expediente They also introduced a great deal of oral and documentary evidence tending to connect themselves with the original grantee and showing that the grant was located north of the Pueblo of Isleta Grant and bounded:

On the north, by a line about two and a half miles north of the second correction line north of our public surveys; on the east, by the Sandia Mountains; on the south, by the grant to the Isleta Indians; and on the west, by the Rio Grande.

A number of persons who had homesteaded within the area claimed by the Hunings protested the confirmation of the grant, claiming that the lands granted to Padilla were located much farther south. The controversy turned upon the location of the bluffs of the sand hills of Isleta which marked the northern boundary of the grant. Witnesses on behalf of the claimants located those bluffs just below, the mouth of the Canada de Carnal and about eight miles south of Albuquerque and six or seven miles north of the Pueblo of Isleta. They also fixed the location of Balencia’s house at or near the northern boundary of the Pueblo of Isleta Grant. By decision[4] dated March 6, 1886, Surveyor General George W. Julian found that the grant papers were genuine, and the preponderance of the evidence showed that the lands claimed by the Hunings were the lands granted. He noted that a number of descendants of the original grantee were living; and, while the real parties in interest should been shown, it was not necessary that they be shown at the time the claim was filed. Therefore, he recommended that the grant be confirmed to the descendants and legal representatives of Diego Padilla subject to the reservation of all minerals by the United States. The protestants petitioned[5] the Commissioner of the General Land Office on September 13, 1887, asking him to recommend the rejection of the claim on the ground that it had been erroneously located. Their contention was supported by a number of affidavits in which it was alleged that the bluffs of the sand hills of Isleta were looted opposite the pueblo and rose up directly from the river to a height of from 200 to 400 feet while the “bluffs” claimed by the Hunings were situated five or six miles north of Isleta and about two miles east of the river and were not very high; in fact, they were “only a little rise of the ground.” They pointed out that it was perfectly natural to look for a natural object near the place after which it is named. They also pointed out that Julian’s finding that Balencia’s house was located on the northern boundary of the Pueblo of Isleta Grant was not supported by evidence. Continuing, they noted that five or six miles south of the pueblo there was a town on the east side of the river known as Valencia. They contended that it was most probably the place where Balencia had his lands and house, and the town was most likely called after him. This protest, together with the supporting affidavits, was transmitted without any further recommendation to Congress for its information.[6]

After the procedure established by the Act of July 22, 1854,[7] had been proven ineffective and Congress stopped acting upon private land claims, years passed without any concrete efforts having been taken to solve the most serious problem confronting those interested in the development of the Southwest. Finally Congress came to the rescue of the Spanish and Mexican grant owners and passed a comprehensive act[8] in 1891 creating the Court of Private Land Claims with jurisdiction over the adjudication of the validity of their claims. On January 21, 1893, Franz Huning filed suit[9] against the United States in that court, seeking the recognition of the grant, which he estimated to contain 28,000 acres. When the case came up for trial on September 1, 1894, Huning introduced in evidence the testimonio of the grant. He also introduced a number of deeds to him from the heirs of Estevan Padilla and attempted by oral evidence to prove that Estevan was Diego’s son. These witnesses further testified that the grant was located on the east bank of the Rio Grande north of the Pueblo of Isleta and that there had been a continuous possession of such land under the grant since early in the eighteenth century. The government, on the other hand, contended that the land granted to Diego Padilla was not the same tract claimed by Huning. It presented a deposition[10] dated October 6, 1804, which showed that the tract claimed by Huning had been purchased by Estevan and Manuela Padilla from Jose Sanchez. It argued that Estevan and Manuela had not acquired the tracts as heirs of Diego Padilla, for he had never owned it. Next, the government filed a copy[11] of Diego Padilla’s will, which named his children and pointed out that Estevan Padilla was not mentioned. The government introduced oral evidence showing the location of the natural objects called for in the grant and proved that it was located on the east bank of the Rio Grande and south of the Pueblo of Isleta Grant. It also proved that there had been no occupation or possession off the tract claimed by Huning prior to 1862. By decision[12] dated September 8, 1094, the court rejected the claim on the grounds that the land lying northeast of the Pueblo of Isleta was not the tract granted to Diego Padilla, and Huning had not claimed an interest in the tract which had been granted to Diego Padilla lying southeast of the pueblo. Huning appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, but it was dismissed[13] on April 28, 1897, as a result of his failure to submit a printed transcript of the trial.

Meanwhile, the Pueblo of Isleta filed suit[14] on January 27, 1896, in the Court of Private Land Claims seeking the confirmation of the Los Padillas Grant. It alleged that, since the grant was complete and perfect, it was not barred under Section 12 of the Act of March 3, 1891,[15] is from bringing its action. In support of its claim, it filed a copy of the expediente[16] of the grant to Diego Padilla and a deed dated February 4, 1750, wherein the heirs of Diego Padilla conveyed the grant to the inhabitants of the Pueblo of Isleta for a consideration of 1300 reales. The government filed a general answer putting in issue the material allegations contained in the plaintiffs’ petition.

The cause came up for trial on November 11, 1896, at which time the Isletans introduced the grant papers, their deed, and oral evidence tending to prove that the grant was located east of the river and south of their pueblo grant. Since the government conceded that the grant papers and deeds were genuine and there was no dispute over the location of the natural objects fixing the boundaries of the grant, the Court entered a decree[17] on November 3, 1896, confirming the grant to the Pueblo of Isleta. The grant was surveyed by Deputy Surveyor George H. Pradt and patented to the Pueblo of Isleta on April 8, 1908, for 51,940.82 acres.

The issuance of this patent precipitated a controversy between the Pueblo of Isleta and the Town of Peralta over the ownership of the lands lying in the western portion of the grant upon which the Paraltans lived. They claimed title to such lands by virtue of the purchase of such land in 1797 by ten native from the pueblo. The dispute finally ended up in the Valencia County District Court, which, in a decree[18] entered on February 3, 1915, held for the Peraltans based on their long continued use and occupation of the lands in dispute. The Isleta Indians were never satisfied with the decision, and the problem was submitted to the Pueblo Lands Board. The Board, by report[19] dated August 17, 1928, awarded the Peraltans a 14,710.85 acre tract of land out of the western portion of the grant. Notwithstanding the Board’s finding that the tract could not have been recovered by seasonable prosecution, the government paid the pueblo two dollars an acre as compensation for the loss of the Peralta Tract.[20]



[1] Archive No. 681 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[2] The Lo de Padilla Grant, No. 146 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[3] Ibid.

[4] S. Exec. Dec. No. 38, 50th Cong., 1st Sess., 49‑52 (1888).

[5] S. Exec. Doc. No. 60, 50th Cong., 1st Sess., 5‑6 (1888).

[6] Ibid 1.

[7] Act to Establish the Office of Surveyor General of New Mexico, Kansas and Nebraska, to grant donations to actual settlers therein, and for other purposes, Chap. 103, 10 Stat. 300 (1854).

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

[9] Huning v. United States, No. 63 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[10] This instrument had been filed by Huning in the Surveyor General’s office is 1884.

[11] Archive No. 685 (Mrs., Records of the A.N.M.)

[12] 2 Journal 189 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[13] Huning v. United States, 17 5. Ct. 994; 41 L. Ed. 1179 (1897) (mem.).

[14] Pueblo of Isleta v. United States, No. 273 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

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

[16] Archive No. 681 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[17] 3 Journal 143 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[18] Sanchez v. Pueblo of Isleta, No. 1715 (Mss. Records of the District Clerk’s Office, Los Lunas, New Mexico).

[19] Pueblo of Isleta Grant (Mss. Records of the Pueblo Lands Board, General Services Administration, Washington, D. C.).

[20] An Act to authorize appropriations to pay in part the liability of the United States to the Indian pueblos herein named..., Chap. 45, 48 Stat. 108 (1933).