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Maes and Gallego Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Archbishop John B. Salpointe and 13 others, as owners in severalty, petitioned Surveyor General George W. Julian on November 22, 1886, seeking the confirmation of their individual parcels of land which were located within the Ranchos of Juan Miguel Maes and Pedro Gallego.[1] The two ranchos covered approximately 1,000 acres and was described as a tract bounded:

On the north, by the Santa Fe River; on the east, by the lands of Gabriel Ortiz; on the south, by the Arroyo de los Chamizos; and on the west, by the lands of Ignacio Sandoval.

The petitioners were the heirs, assigns and legal representatives of Juan Miguel Maes and Pedro Gallego. The claim to the Rancho de Juan Miguel Maes was based on a long uninterrupted possession reaching back more than sixty years. However, there was no documentary evidence that a grant covering the rancho had ever been made In support of the Rancho de Pablo Gallego, the petitioners filed a succession of conveyances, the oldest of which was dated January 10, 1790.

During his investigation of the claim, Julian received a large amount of oral testimony which tended to show that the petitioners and their predecessors had been in and held peaceful possession of the property, which completely surrounded the southwest corner of the Santa Fe League, as long as the witnesses could remember. It was further shown that, while there was no documentary evidence that the lands had been granted, the Spanish and Mexican governments had recognized that they had been segregated from the public domain and were occupied legally at the time jurisdiction over New Mexico was transferred to the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, As a result of his investigation, Julian, in an opinion dated December 4, 1886, recommended the confirmation of the claim. He stated:

These small holders cannot protect themselves by asserting title under either the homestead or preemption law, because these laws cannot be made to apply to their title possessions. Their sole reliance in their right by a prescription under “the laws, usages and customs of Spain and Mexico,” and in my opinion, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo covers their claims and obligates the United States to respect them… To disregard it now would be to confiscate their homes, and commit a wanton injustice. Should it be done, it will be a precedent for the dispossession of many thousands of innocent and worthy small holders in different sections of the territory ...[2]

\While Congress took no action on his recommendation, the opinion undoubtedly prompted the incorporation of the small holding section in the Act of March 3, 1891.[3] This section permitted persons who had held actual possession of lands for more than twenty years prior to the official survey of the township in which it was located to receive a patent, free of cost, of up to 160 acres of such land. The claimants apparently secured the recognition of their interests as small holding claims for the grant was not presented to the Court of Private Land Claims for adjudication.

[1] The Maes & Gallego Grant No. 153 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).


[3] Court of Private Land Claims Act. Chap. 539, Sec. 17, 26 Stat. 854 (1891).