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Medano Spring and Zapato Grant

by J. J. Bowden

 Elias Brevoort, Matthias Smythe, Augustus Z. Huggins and Luis Elsberg, as legal representatives of the heirs and assigns of Antonio Matias Gomez and Jose Luis Baca de Sondaga, petitioned[1] William L. Campbell, Surveyor General of Colorado, on August 30, 1877, and requested the investigation and confirmation of their claim to the Medano Spring and Zapato Grant under Section 17 of the Act of February 28, 1861.[2] In support of their claim, the petitioners filed a Spanish document which showed that Gomez and Baca had petitioned the Senate of the Republic of Mexico, asking for the grant covering the lands commonly known as Medano Spring and the Zapato, in consideration of the four years of services which they had rendered as members of the Ayuntamiento. In response thereto, the ad interim President of Mexico, on April 1, 1820, granted the request and directed Governor Facundo Melgares to deliver possession of the grant to the grantees. Melgares, in compliance with the terms of the decree, went to the grant, and, on January 29, 1821, placed them in possession of a tract of land, described as being bounded:

On the north, by the Sierra Grande to the source of the Rito which heads in the Pedregosa Mountains; on the east, by the Rito de la Hurraca; on the south, by a large lake and the junction of the springs; and on the west, by the Rito de la Sierra to its junction with the large lake.

Notwithstanding the fact that the concession, which was unsigned, purportedly had been made by the ad interim President of Mexico, the Act of Possession stated:

I put them in possession thereof in the name of His Majesty and of the law that governs us which the interested parties received with pleasure, running and plucking up grass, herbs and stones, and shouting long live the King our Sovereign who protects and favors us … .

The petitioners alleged that the grantees jointly had occupied and cultivated the grant until October 29, 1828 when Baca conveyed his interest in the premises to Gomez, and that Gomez’ son and sole heir, Jesus Maria Gomez y Lopez, conveyed the grant to them on November 29, 1873. In support of these allegations, the petitioners filed the two deeds, together with the testimony given by Jesus Maria Gomez before Surveyor General Henry M. Atkinson in connection with the Una del Gato Grant, and in which he stated that he was the son of Antonio Matias Gomez, that his mother died on August 21, 1852, that his father passed away on September 19, 1858, and that Francisco Lopez, Judge of the Probate Court for San Miguel County, turned over all of Antonio Matias Gomez’ property to his son as his sole heir.

 

In connection with the examination of the Una del Gato Grant, William H. Meyer testified before Surveyor General Atkinson that he had known Jesus Maria Gomez since 1867 and had seen him in the county jail at San Luis, Colorado, on August 1, 1873, awaiting transportation to the penitentiary to serve his sentence following his conviction on a charge of forgery. At that time Gomez had in his possession a number of forged grants, one of which was the Medano Spring and Zapato Grant. The evidence presented during the trial of the forgery case showed that Gomez had been a janitor in the Surveyor General’s office and, during the excitement and confusion created by the Confederates entering Santa Fe on March 10, 1862, he stole a number of documents and a large amount of unused stamped paper from the archives. It also showed that Gomez stole some blank stamped paper from an old Mexican administration. Gomez’ companion, Francisco Mendoza, had told Meyer he had seen Gomez steal the paper at Albiquin. Gomez admitted to Meyer that the Medano Spring and Zapato Grant papers had been forged and that he was the one who forged them. In closing, Meyer stated that Gomez had escaped jail and had sold the Medano and Zapato Grant on at least three separate occasions ‑ first, to Jose Armijo Vigil, next to Brevoort and his associates, and finally to a resident of Las Vegas, whose name he could not recall.[3] As a result of Gomez’ conviction for forgery and the fact that the grant papers obviously were spurious, Campbell, in a Report to Congress[4] dated October 22, 1877 recommended the rejection of the 229,814.53 acre claim. Campbell’s adverse report understandably caused the claimants to lose interest in the further prosecution of the claim. No action was ever taken on the report by Congress, and it long since has dropped from sight.

 

 


[1] The Medano Spring and Zapato Grant, No. 1 (Mss., Records of the Surveyor General’s Office of Colorado).

[2] An Act to Provide a Temporary Government for the Territory of Colorado, Chap. 59, Sec. 17, 12 Stat. 172 (1861).

[3] The Una del Gato Grant, No. 94 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[4] The Medano Spring and Zapato Grant, No. 1 Records of the Surveyor General’s Office of Colorado).