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Manuela Garcia de las Ribas Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Juan Garcia filed suit[1] on March 3, 1893, against the United States in the Court of Private Land Claims in an effort to secure the recognition of his interest in the Manuela Garcia de las Ribas Grant. In support of his claim he referred to the expediente[2] of the grant which was among the archives turned over to the United States when it acquired New Mexico. This document recited that Manuela Garcia de las Ribas, widow of Captain Salvador Montoya, for herself and her two sons, and Francisco Quintana, a widow with two daughters, “registered” a tract of uninhabited land in a nook on the north side of the Rio Chama in front of the old pueblo of Abiquiu on which four or five fanegas of corn could be planted. They further described the tract as being bounded:

On the north, the hills; on the east, the lands of Felix Bustos; on the south, the Chama River; and on the west, some bluffs, the river ford, and the intake of an irrigation ditch.

They explained that while they needed the land to support their children and servants they could not plant the land during the winter which “in this kingdom is long” and therefore, in view of their helplessness they requested that they be given ample time to settle upon the premises. On April 14, 1735, Acting Governor Juan Páez Hurtado considered the petition and since the King had charged his officials to protect and assist widows, he granted the request on condition that they settle upon the property within one year. He also directed the Alcalde of Santa Cruz to place the grantees in royal possession of the grant. Alcalde Juan Estevan Garcia de Noriega delivered of the grant to the three widows and allocated each one third (832 varas) of the total river frontage. At the foot of the expediente was a notation that the grant had been recalled by “Cruzat.”

The government answered the petition on September 29, 1896, by putting into issue the plaintiff’s allegations and also asserting, as a special defense, that the claim was not a perfect grant on the date of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo since it had long since been recalled and revoked by a competent authority. This was the defense which the government had successfully urged in connection with the Juan Estevan Garcia de Noriega[3] and Barranca[4] Grants. While the petition did not indicate the quantity of land covered by the grant, an investigation conducted by a special agent of the government’s attorney’s office indicated that it contained 7,577.92 acres and covered the same lands as the Plaza Colorado Grant.

Confronted with precedent established by the Garcia and Baca cases,[5] the plaintiff announced to the court, on June 15, 1898, that he no longer wished to prosecute the suit. Whereupon, the court dismissed his petition and rejected the grant.[6]

[1] Garcia v. United States, No. 249 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] Archive No. 322 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[3] Garcia v. United States, No. 254 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[4] Baca v. United States, No. 97 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[5] Supra., notes 3 and 4.

[6] 3 Journal 406 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).