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Los Trigos Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Francisco Trujillo, for himself, Diego Padilla and Bartolome Marquez, petitioned the Governor of New Mexico, Jose Manrrique, on May 26, 1814, for a grant of vacant land located at the place known as Los Trigos for agricultural and ranching purposes. Manrrique referred the petition to the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe for its further action. In his transmittal letter, he called the Ayuntamiento’s attention to the fact that the applicants had made a similar request in 1813, which had been referred to the Chief Military Officer of the District but that no action had been taken on the matter. He also pointed out that the eleventh article of the Royal Order of January 1 4, 1813[1] gave the Ayuntamiento jurisdiction in matters of this nature. On July 30, 1814, the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe issued the requested grant to the three applicants insofar only as it did not conflict with the grants which had previously been made to the Pueblo de Pecos and the settlement of San Miguel del Vado. Notwithstanding the action taken by the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe, Governor Alberto Maynez on June 22, 1815, limited the grant by writing on the back of the decree of July 30, 1814, stating that while the grantees had the right to pasture their stock on any of the lands, others could appropriate any lands which the grantees did not cultivate and fence. Since legal possession of the land had not been delivered, Francisco Trujillo petitioned Matias Ortiz, the Alcalde of Santa Fe, on October 20, 1815, requesting that this indispensable step be performed. In response thereto, Ortiz surveyed and gave the grantees legal possession of the lands on both sides of the Pecos River between the places known as Los Trigos and Gusano. The grantees took immediate possession of the land. Marquez and Padilla built a hut, cultivated several fields located in the river bends near the place known as Parjarito, and pastured their stock on the adjoining hills. Trujillo made similar use of the lands near the place known as Gusano. The grantees continuously occupied the grant until 1829 when the Apaches became very troublesome and killed their shepherd, Vincente Villanueva. This incident so frightened the grantees that they decided to move back to Santa Fe until conditions became more settled.[2]

By 1842, vacant agricultural land in the vicinity of Santa Fe became very scarce and young men were forced to settle along the frontiers in order to support their families. A number of these colonists requested the Alcalde of San Miguel del Vado to allot them tracts of vacant land within the Los Trigos Grant. They contended that the Los Trigos Grant covered only the lands which the grantees had cultivated and fenced and that all the rest of the lands covered by the grant were available for appropriation by persons who would actually settle upon the grant. Between 1842 and 1846, twenty‑Five families had settled upon and had been allotted individual tracts of land within the boundaries of the grant by the Alcalde of San Miguel del Vado.[3]

Donaciano Vigil, as agent and legal representative of the original grantees, petitioned[4] the Surveyor General on July 17, 1855, seeking the confirmation of the Los Trigos Grant. On July 10, 1857, Rafael Gonzales, on behalf of himself and the other settlers who in the meantime had settled upon and acquired interests in a portion of the lands covered by the grant, contested Vigil’s petition insofar as it covered their tracts on the principal grounds:

(1) The grant had never been approved by the Provincial Deputation as required by law.

(2) The boundaries described in the grant papers were too vague and indefinite and, therefore, the grant was invalid.

             (3) The Los Trigos Grant covered only the lands enclosed and cultivated by the grantees and that the grantees had never occupied the tracts which they claimed.

After a long and extensive hearing on the matter, Surveyor General William Pelham, in a decision[5] dated September 17, 1857, held that the Royal Order of January 4, 1813[6] authorized Ayuntamientos to grant land and the requirement that its action be approved by the Provincial Deputation was merely a condition subsequent which in itself would not invalidate the concession. In fact, he noted that there was no Provincial Deputation in New Mexico prior to 1821. Therefore, its approval could not have possibly been obtained. Continuing, Pelham reasoned that if the Ayuntamiento had authority to issue an absolute grant, then the conditions subsequently imposed upon the grantees by Governor Maynez were invalid. He also found that under the laws of Mexico, Alcaldes had no authority to allot public land unless expressly directed to do so by the governor or territorial deputation. Oral testimony presented by the claimants satisfied the Surveyor General that the boundaries of the grant were fixed by permanent landmarks which were well known and could be easily identified. Pelham closed his report by recommending the confirmation of the grant to the legal representative of Francisco Trujillo, Diego Padilla and Bartolome Marquez. Congress by the act of June 21, 1860, which bears the mark of haste and inconsideration, confirmed the Los Trigos Grant, as recommended by the Surveyor General.

The grant was surveyed in 1860[7] by Deputy Surveyors William Pelham and Reuben H. Clements. However, when it was discovered their survey would not close, a new survey was ordered. The resurvey was made in May, 1877, by Deputy Surveyors Sawyer & McElroy, and was approved by Surveyor General Henry M. Atkinson on June 5, 1877. This survey showed the grant as containing 9,646.56 acres.[8]

When Deputy Surveyor John Shaw surveyed the San Miguel del Vado Grant in December, 1879, he ran its western boundary through the Mesa de Gusano while Sawyer & McElroy had fixed the eastern boundary of the Los Trigos Grant at the Arroyo de Gusano, which was east of the mesa. It was conceded that the two grants had a common boundary, but a question arose as to whether the reference to “Gusano” in the two grants was to the Arroyo or the Mesa. While there was documentary evidence that the Los Trigos Grant extended to the “old watering place of El Gusano” which would tend to indicate that its eastern boundary should be located at the Arroyo, the preponderance of the evidence indicated that the western boundary of the San Miguel del Vado Grant, which was senior and controlling, was located at a little round bill commonly known as Mesa de Gusano.

Meanwhile, Surveyor General George W. Julian recommended the Sawyer & McElroy survey he rejected and the grant be resurveyed in order to cover only the lands which were under cultivation on February 2, 1848, the date of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. By decision dated March 13, 1893, Acting Commissioner of the General Land Office, W. W. Rose, overruled Julian’s contentions and held that the grant had been confirmed to the full extent of the boundaries set out in the grant papers, but that the eastern boundary was located at Mesa de Gusano instead of the Arroyo de Gusano. Surveyor General E. F. Hobart notified the owners of the grant o this decision and advised them that if they would accept the western boundary of the San Miguel del Vado Grant as their eastern boundary, resurvey of the grant would not be necessary. They so agreed and a patent for the grant was issued on January 21, 1909, for 7,342 acres.[9]

[1] Reynolds, Spanish and Mexican Land Law, 83‑87 (1895).

[2] H. R. Report No. 321, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 109-112 (1860).

[3] Ibid., 124‑138.

[4] The Los Trigos Grant, No. 8 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[5] H. R. Report No. 321, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 150-154 (1860).

[6] Supra., note 1.

[7] An act to confirm certain private land claims in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 167, 12 St. 71 (1860).

[8] The Los Trigos Grant, 8 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[9] Ibid.