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Luis de Armenta Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Luis de Armenta, a resident of Santa Fe, petitioned Governor Gervacio Cruzat y Gongora, seeking a grant of a tract of about two fanegas of vacant agricultural land situated on the left side of the road leading to the Pueblo of Pecos and adjacent to Chamisos Hill. In support of his petition, Armenta pointed out that he had a wife and children but no land upon which to grow food for their support. In response to Armenta’s petition, Cruzat, on September 11, 1732 granted his prayer but limited the size of the grant to one fanega of tillable ground. The granting decree also ordered the Alcalde of Santa Fe, Antonio de Ulibarri, to establish the boundaries of the grant and place Armenta in royal possession of the premises. Pursuant to the mandate set out in the granting decree, Ulibarri proceeded to the grant with his attending witnesses and Armenta. Upon arriving at the grant, Ulibarri designated its boundaries as:

… starting from the house of Sebastian de Vargas along the hills, the first cross to another cross near the straw shed, and another small hill of the same size on the east side where there are two other crosses.[1]

In the year 1783, Nicolas Armenta, son of the original grantee, petitioned Governor Juan Bautista de Anza, seeking a copy of the expediente of the grant which was on file in the archives. As a result of his request, an authentic copy of the expediente was given to Nicolas Armenta over Anza’s signature.

The grant was continuously occupied and used by Luis de Armenta or his heirs from 1733 up until May 30, 1868, when the grant, together with the house and other improvements located thereon, were sold to Luis Gold by a remote heir of the original grantee, Jose Ascencio Archuleta and his wife, Marie de Jesus Martin, for $250. The deed to Gold described the grant as being bounded:

On the north, by the Armenta Height; on the east, by the road formerly known as the rocky hill road but then known as the Pecos road; on the south, by the Chamiso Arroyo; and on the west, by the old Pecos Road.[2]

Gold petitioned Surveyor General T. Rush Spencer, seeking the confirmation of the grant on January 20, 1872. In his petition Gold asserted that the grant had been originally made in 1732 and “renewed” in 1783. He also described the grant as being located in the southern part of the city and measuring 3,200 varas from north to south, 500 varas wide on the north and about 1200 varas on the south. Thus, the tract contained about 623 acres of land.

Spencer was succeeded by Surveyor General James K. Proudfit before he had an opportunity to investigate the claim. In connection with his examination of the grant, Proudfit took the testimony of two disinterested witnesses, who testified that Jose Ascencio Archuleta had inherited the grant as the heir of the original grantee and that they knew of their own personal knowledge that the tract had been continuously occupied “as far back as 1806 or 1807” under and by virtue of the grant. On December 3, 1872, Proudfit announced his decision in the case. He held that while the petitioner’s muniment of title was only a certified copy of the transcript of the grant made from the Government Book by Governor Anza, it appeared to be genuine. Proudfit stated that he had carefully compared Anza’s signature on the grant papers with other papers in the archives and from the examination he concluded that the instrument was genuine. He also pointed out that Gold had alleged that the grant had been renewed and while the allegation was clearly erroneous, he did not deem it to be material. Therefore, he recommended the confirmation of the grant to Luis Gold in accordance with the boundaries set forth in the Act of Possession. This would fix the boundaries as follows:

On the north, a straight line between the Pecos Road and a hill (Chamisos Hill); on the east, a line between the Chamisos Hill and a monument near the straw shed east of Sebastian de Vargas’ house; on the south, a straight line along the bluffs north of the Chamisos Arroyo and running from the monument near the straw shed to the Pecos Road; and on the west, the Pecos Road.

A preliminary survey of the grant was made in September, 1879 by Deputy Surveyor John Shaw, for 444.24 acres.[3]

Since Congress had not acted upon the claim, it was one of the grants re‑examined by Surveyor General George W. Julian under his instructions of December 11, 1885, from Commissioner William A. J. Sparks. In a Supplemental opinion dated June 22, 1886, Julian stated that he believed the grant to be genuine but pointed out:

The petition asks for two fanegas but only one was conceded, the restriction being no doubt made because it was so near this city, then, as now, the seat of government of the territory ... From what has been stated, it is quite apparent that one fanega of planting or corn land was all that was granted or delivered to the grantee.

Therefore, he recommended the confirmation of the claim to the extent of one fanega of corn‑planting land or 8,82 acres to the legal representatives of Luis de Armenta, "to be selected within the exterior boundaries named in the Act of Possession.”4

Notwithstanding Julian’s Supplemental Opinion, Congress continued to drag its feet and the claim was still pending when the Court of Private Land Claims was created. Gold apparently realized that he would probably not confirm the grant for more than 8.82 acres and decided that the cost and effort which would be necessary to secure the recognition of that small amount of land could not be economically justified. Therefore, he abandoned all further efforts to secure, the recognition of the grant.

Since 1951, attorneys have disregarded the grant in connection with their examination of title to land lying within its boundaries and it has become one of New Mexico’s numerous “Ghost Grants.” 

[1] S. Exec. Doc. No. 37, 42d Cong., 3d Sess. 4‑5 (1873).

[2] Deed Records 448‑450 (Mss., Records of the County Clerk’s Office, Santa Fe, New Mexico).

[3] The Luis de Armenta Grant No. 68 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).