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Maragua Grant

by J. J. Bowden

 

Francisco Baca y Pino. Francisco Baca y Ortiz, and Agustin Duran, residents of the Town of Galisteo, petitioned the Territorial Deputation of New Mexico on September 16, 1825, seeking a grant covering a piece of vacant agricultural land at Maragua together with sufficient water to farm a small field. They described the requested tract as being bounded:

On the east by the boundaries of the Galisteo Grant; on the south by the hills and on the west by the little mountain known as Maladero.

While a northern boundary was not mentioned in the petition, it called for the tract to extend 4,000 varas from east to west and 1,000 varas from north to south. The Territorial Deputation referred the petition to the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe for a report on its merits on January 3, 1826. The Ayuntamiento, in turn, appointed a committee consisting of Alderman Miguel de Sena and Domingo Fernandez together with its Prosecuting Syndic to gather the facts pertinent to the request. On February 10, 1826, the Committee filed its report in which it recommended the granting of the land in order to promote the development of the agriculture industry but not to the extent requested by the petitioners. The Committee was of the opinion that a grant to each of the petitioners of a tract of land 500 varas in width and extend from hill to hill on each side the river would be sufficient. It also recommended that the petitioners be allowed to appropriate sufficient water to irrigate their fields, since the purpose of the grant was for the promotion of agriculture. The Committee concluded its report by recommending that the grant be made subject to the conditions that the grantees fence their fields and keep less than one hundred ewes and cows on the land, and, if these conditions were violated, the land could be denounced by another who would cultivate it. The Ayuntamiento approved the report and forwarded it to the Territorial Deputation five days later. After studying this favorable report, the Territorial Deputation, on March 6, 1826, decided to and did grant the petitioners the quantity of land which the Committee had recommended and ordered the second Alcalde of Santa Fe to place the grantees in possession of the premises. Pursuant thereto, Alcalde Vicento Baca, together with his witnesses and the grantees, went to the place known as Santo Domingo de Maragua where he allocated to and placed each of the grantees in possession of the tract of land which he had been granted. These tracts of land were described in the Act of Possession as follows:

(1) Agustin Duran ‑ five hundred varas of land bounded: On the north, by the foot of the hills; on the east, by a mount in front of Maragua Hill; on the south, by the foot of the hills; and on the west by the lands of Francisco Baca y Pino.

(2) Francisco Baca y Pino ‑ five hundred varas of land bounded: On the north, by the foot of the hills; on the east by the lands of Agustin Duran; on the south by the foot of the Caja; and on the west, by the lands of Francisco Baca y Ortiz.

(3) Francisco Baca y Ortiz ‑ five hundred varas of land bounded: On the north, by the foot of the hills; on the east, by the lands of Francisco Baca y Pino; on the south, by the foot of the Caja; and on the west, by El Badito de los Pecos.

The three grantees continuously occupied and farmed their individual tracts at all times prior to the conquest of New Mexico by the Americans, except for the period when they were molested and forced to temporarily abandon them for the protection of their lives as a result of the incursions by the hostile Indians. In 1847, Agustin Duran acquired the interests of the other two grantees and in turn sold all of his interest in the grant to Andres Murphy. Murphy conveyed the entire grant to Richard Campbell on October 6, 1847.[1]

The claim was presented to Surveyor General Henry N. Atkinson for investigation on November 15, 1878, Atkinson, in his opinion dated February 6, 1880, noted that while Murphy, in support of his claim, had filed only a certified copy of the grant papers which had been recorded in Santa Fe County, he believed the grant to be valid since the Journal of the Territorial Deputation, which was on file in the Archives, showed that it had made a grant to Francisco Baca y Pino, Francisco Baca y Ortiz, and Agustin Duran on March 26, 1826. Therefore, he approved the claim and recommended its confirmation by Congress.

A preliminary survey of the grant was made by Deputy Surveyor John Shaw in January, 1883, for 389.82 acres.[2]

No further action was taken in connection with the recognition of the grant until after the establishment of the Court of Private Land Claims: Peregrina Campbell, the daughter of Richard Campbell, deceased, filed suit[3] against the United States on May 27, 1897, in the Court of Private Land Claims for the confirmation of the grant. Her petition alleged that the grant was complete and perfect and, therefore, not subject to the two year limitation for the filing of suit imposed by Section 12 of the Court of Private Land Claims Act.[4] The petition described the grant as a 400 acre tract of land bounded:

On the north, by the hills in front; on the east, by the boundary of the settlers of the town of Galisteo; on the south, by the foot of the Ceja; and on the west, by the Cerrito del Matadero otherwise called El Badito de los Pecos.

The government filed a general answer putting the allegations contained in the plaintiff’s petition in issue.

When the case came up for trial on October 3, 1898, the plaintiff failed to appear. The government made a brief argument in the case in which it argued that based on the decision in the Hayes case the grant was void for lack of power in the granting officer.[5] The court then took the case under advisement based on the title papers presented by the claimant and the issue formed by the government’s argument. On the following day, the court handed down its decision rejecting the claim on the ground that under the Colonization Law of August 18, 1824, the express power to make grants in the territory of New Mexico was given to the Executive Government in Mexico and from that time until the issuance of the Regulation of November 21, 1828, there was no power in any official in New Mexico to make a valid grant. Since the Maragua Grant had been made during the interim period, it was void.[6]


[1] The Maragua Grant No. 121 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Campbell v. United States, No 276 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[4] Court of Private Land Claims Act. Chap. 539, Sec. 12, 26 Stat. 854 (1891). The decision of the United States Supreme Court in the Ainsa Case was interpreted by the Court of Private Land Claims as meaning that the holder of a complete title from a former sovereignty had the right to present his claim to the court at any time and that the statute only barred the presentation of imperfect claims. This position was later upheld by the United States Supreme Court in the Reloj Cattle Company Case, Ainsa v. New Mexico & Arizona Railroad Company, 175 U.S. 76 (1899); Reloj Cattle Company v. United States, 184 U.S. 624 (1902).

[5] Hayes v. United States, 170 U.S. 637 (1898).

[6] 4 Journal 33 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).