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Overview of Land Grants in New Mexico

The United States government began its occupation of New Mexico in 1846.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo established New Mexico as part of the United States in 1848.

The United States government began its occupation of New Mexico in 1846.  The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo established New Mexico as part of the United States in 1848.  The treaty stated that, “property of every kind now belonging to Mexicans not established there shall be inviolably respected.”  To validate these land claims the United States government established the office of the Surveyor General.  The mission of this office was to determine “the origin, nature, character, and extent to all claims to lands under the laws, usages, and customs of Spain and Mexico.”  In 1891, the United States government established the Court of Private Land Claims to adjudicate land claims in New Mexico and other states because the Office of the Surveyor General was not successful in confirming the validity of New Mexican land grants.

 LAND GRANTS RECOGNIZED BY THE NEW MEXICO LEGISLATURE
(Land Grant Committee, 2008)

The Santa Rosa de Abiquiu Land Grant was petitioned in 1825, by a group of Genizaros who first settled the area in 1744. Acting Alcalde, Jose Maria Chavez of Santa Cruz de la Canada, made additional allotments in 1841.  The grant was approved by Governor Tomas Velez Cachupin for 10,980 acres. Located in Rio Arriba County the grant was confirmed following proceedings with the office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims for 16,547 acres. 

 The Anton Chico Land Grant was petitioned by Manuel Rivera and 22 men in 1822.    

The grant was clearly a community grant under Mexican law.  At the time of confirmation of the grant under United States law, Surveyor General, Henry Atkinson attempted to change the status of the grant to a private grant and deed it to the New Mexico Land Livestock Co., of which he was president.  This legal maneuver failed in the courts, but illustrates the level of corruption that prevailed in the Surveyor General’s office.  The grant is located in Guadalupe and San Miguel counties and covers 378,537 acres.

 The Arroyo Hondo Land Grant was petitioned by Neris Sisneros and other families on April 2, 1815.  It was approved by Governor Alberto Maynes.  The original grant was 30,674 acres.  The grant was sent to the Surveyor General and to the Court of Private Land Claims and was confirmed for 20, 629 acres.  The grant is located in present day Taos County.

 The Puesto de Atrisco Land Grant was petitioned by fifteen vecinos of Atrisco to Governor Pedro Fermin de Mendinueta for a land grant consisting of 82, 728 acres.  Proceedings before the office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims confirmed the grant for the same acreage.  The grant is located in Bernalillo County.  This land grant is now known as the Westland Development Corporation. 

 Canon de Carnue and Carnuel, San Miguel de Laredo Land Grant are the same grant located in Bernalillo County.  The original petition was made by Manuel Armijo and 18 families on February 12, 1763.  The grant was approved by Governor Tomas Velez Cachupin for around 90,000 acres. The U.S. government heard proceedings for this grant before the office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims and reduced the acreage to 2,000 acres. 

 The Town of Cebolleta Land Grant was petitioned by Francisco Aragon and others in 1800.  It was approved by Governor Fernando Chacon for 199,567 acres.  Located in three New Mexico counties (Sandoval, McKinley, and Valencia), the grant was confirmed by the office of the Surveyor General for the same acreage.

 The Chilili Land Grant was petitioned by Francisco Aragon and others in 1841.  The grant was approved by Governor Manuel Armijo for 88,345 acres.  The office of the Surveyor General confirmed the grant for 23, 686 acres.  Located in Torrance and Bernalillo counties the land grant was converted to an agricultural cooperative in 1943.  Many of the original heirs to the grant were excluded from the management of the co-op and the common lands were sold without their consent. 

 The Cristobal de la Serna Grant was petitioned as a private land grant by Cristobal de la Serna in 1710, for 30,000 acres.  Governor Joseph Chacon Medina Salazar y Villasenor, Marquis de la Penuela approved the grant.  Located in Taos County the office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims confirmed the grant for 22,232 acres.  Known as a quasi-community grant, it began as a private grant, but with the coming of additional colonists who settled the area it came to be regarded as a community grant with the use of unalloted lands in common. 

 The Town of Cubero Land Grant was petitioned by Juan Chavez and others in 1833. Located in Valencia County the original grant was 47,743 acres.  Following proceedings at the office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims the grant was approved by the U.S. government for 16,490 acres.  Judge George Shiras approved the grant without existing documents.  He based his decision on rules of international law and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. 

 The Don Fernando de Taos Grant which is located in Taos county was petitioned in 1796, by Tomas Montoya and a group of families.  Governor Fernando Chacon approved the grant for 38,400 acres.  Following proceedings with the office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims the grant was approved by the U.S. government for 1,817 acres. 

 The Town of Jacona Grant is also known as the Ignacio de Roibal Grant.  Located in Santa Fe County it was petitioned by Ignacio Roibal in 1702, and is considered a “quasi-community grant.  Governor Pedro Rodriguez Cubero approved the grant for 46,341 acres.  It went before the office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims and was approved for 6,952 acres by the U.S. government. 

 The La Majada Land Grant, located in Santa Fe and Sandoval counties, was petitioned in 1695, by Captain Jacinto Pelaez.  It was approved by Governor Diego de Vargas Zapata Lujan Ponce de Leon. It covers 54,404 acres.  The grant was confirmed by the Court of Private Land Claims and the U.S. government for 54, 404 acres.  In the 1930’s, La Majada was added to a New Deal program known as the Hispanic Land Reform Program. 

 The La Petaca Land Grant is located in Rio Arriba and Taos counties.  It was petitioned by Jose Julian Martinez and a group of families in 1836.  The grant was approved by Governor Albino Perez for 186,977 acres. Following proceedings with the Office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims the total acreage was reduced to include 1,392 acres.  The U.S. Supreme Court violated international law when it ruled in favor of this major reduction in common lands held by land grant heirs. 

 The Town of Las Vegas Grant was petitioned by Juan de Dios Maese and 28 families in 1835.  The requested acreage was for 496,446 acres.  The grant was approved by Territorial Deputation.  Proceedings before the office of the Surveyor General confirmed the acreage at 431,653. The Town of Las Vegas grant was awarded twice.  The first petition was made by Don Maria Luis Baca and his seventeen sons in 1821.  This grant was approved by the provincial deputation of Durango, Mexico.  Both grants are located in San Miguel County. 

 The Town of Manzano Grant was petitioned in 1829, by Jose Manuel Trujillo.  The acreage requested was 17,360 acres.  The grant was approved by Territorial Deputation.  Proceedings before the office of the Surveyor General confirmed the grant at 8,689 acres.  The Town of Manzano Grant is located in Torrance county. 

 The Nuestra Senora del Rosario San Fernando y Santiago Grant is located near the community of Truchas in Rio Arriba County.  The land grant was petitioned by Nicolas Romero and 12 families in 1754.  Governor Tomas Velez Cachupin approved the grant for 20,000 acres. Proceedings before the office of Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims confirmed the grant for 14,786 acres.  Truchas was one of the first fortified plazas built under Governor Cachupin’s frontier defense policy.  As a legal historian, he recognized the defensive advantages of the fortified village and tried to enforce the Spanish laws pertaining to settlements on the northern frontier. 

 Nuestra Senora del Rosario San Fernando y Santiago Grant (Nuestra Senora del Rosario San Fernando y Santiago Grant ) Grant is a Mexican period grant which is located in Mora, San Miguel, Colfax, and Taos counties.  The land grant was petitioned by Jose Tapia and others in 1835, for 827,631 acres.  It was approved by Governor Albino Perez.  The grant was confirmed by the office of the Surveyor General for 827,631 acres.  The Mora land grant has a long and complex history because of the involvement of territorial attorney, T.B. Catron and the Santa Fe Ring. 

 The San Antonio de las Huertas Grant was petitioned by Andres Aragon and others in 1767.  Governor Pedro Fermin de Medinueta approved the grant for 130,000 acres. Proceedings before the office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims reduced the acreage to 4,763 acres and confirmed the tract for that amount.  This land grant is located in Sandoval County. 

 The San Antonio del Rio Colorado Land Grant was petitioned by Rafael Archuleta in 1842.  Prefect, Juan Andres Archuleta, approved the grant for 18,955 acres.  Legal proceedings before the Office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims rendered a decision not to confirm the grant.  This grant is located in Taos County. 

 The San Miguel del Vado Land Grant was petitioned by Lorenzo Marquez and 51 individuals in 1794.  The petition was approved by Governor Don Fernandes Chacon for 315,300 acres.  Proceedings before the office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims confirmed 5,147 acres.  This land grant is located in San Miguel County.  The grant was confirmed by the Court of Private Land Claims for 315,300 acres.  The U.S. government appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and forced the Court of Private Land Claims to reduce the acreage to around 5,000 acres.   

 The Sangre de Cristo Land Grant was petitioned by Narciso Beaubian and Luis Lee in 1843.  The grant was approved by Governor Manuel Armijo.  Proceedings before the Office of the Surveyor General confirmed the grant for 998,780 acres.  The grant is located in Taos and Colfax counties and Costilla County in Colorado.  This grant is one of the controversial confirmations made during the administration of Governor Armijo during the Mexican Period.  This grant and the Maxwell grant were made in violation of the Mexican Colonization Law of 1824. 

 The Santa Cruz de la Cañada Grant was petitioned by Joseph Mascareñas and a group of families in 1695.  The grant was approved by Governor Diego de Vargas and Pedro Cubero for 60,000 acres. Proceedings before the Office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims reduced the acreage to 4,567 acres on confirmation.  The grant is located in Santa Fe and Rio Arriba counties.  Around 1845, some of the settlers from this grant petitioned for another land grant on the Sapello River because of shortages of land and water for agriculture. 

 The Santo Domingo de Cundiyo (Jose Antonio Vigil) Land Grant was petitioned by Joseph Isidro de Mendoza and other families in 1743.  The grant was approved by Governor Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza for 2,137 acres.  Proceedings before the Court of Private Land Claims confirmed the grant for 2,137 acres.  A close-knit community located in Santa Fe County, the land grant heirs rallied together in 1926, and defeated an erroneous tax assessment that threatened loss of common lands.  In 1975, this land grant participated in a title clearance project that secured title to private lands within the grant. 

 The Town of Las Trampas Grant is also known as Santo Tomás Apóstol del Río de las Trampas Grant.  The grant was petitioned by Juan de Argüello and eleven other individuals in 1751.  The grant was approved by Governor Tomás Vélez Cachupín for 46,461 acres.  Proceedings before the office of the Surveyor General reduced the acreage to 28,131 acres on confirmation.  In 1781, a smallpox epidemic took a heavy toll on the families living in Las Trampas.  Thirty-one adults and twenty-three children died in the epidemic.  Despite disease, Indian attack, and a harsh life on the frontier, the descendants of the original grantees have survived into the 21st century.  The land grant is located in Taos and Rio Arriba counties. 

 The Town of Tecolote Grant was petitioned by Salvador Montoya and five other individuals in 1824.  The grant was approved by Governor Bartolome Baca and Provincial Deputation for 48,123 acres.  Proceedings before the Office of the Surveyor General confirmed the grant for the same acreage.  Governor Baca in his diputación stated that agricultural decline in the province was “not due to a lack of lands, but of laboring hands.”  This policy was in contrast to Governor Armijo’s belief that low agricultural production was caused by unequal land distribution.  This land grant is located in San Miguel County.

 The Tierra Amarilla Grant was petitioned in 1832, by Manuel Martinez.  Classified as a quasi-community grant it was approved by Territorial Deputation for 594,515 acres.  Proceedings before the office of the Surveyor General confirmed the grant at 524,515 acres.  This grant has a long history of conflict and controversy which culminated in 1967, with a raid on the county courthouse by Reis Lopez Tijerina and the Alianza Federal de Mercedes (Federal Alliance of Grants).  Following the raid the U.S. Forest Service adopted a more conciliatory position on the rights of land grant heirs in federal forest lands lost by U.S.  legal proceedings.  These rights are still being addressed by land grant heirs today.  This grant is located in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico and Archuleta County, Colorado.     

 The Town of Torreon Grant was petitioned by Nerio Antonio Montoya in 1841.  It was approved for 14,146 acres by Prefect, Antonio Sandoval.  Proceedings before the Office of the Surveyor General confirmed the grant for 14,146 acres.  This grant, located in Torrance County, is one of the controversial grants made during Governor Armijo’s administration. 

 The Town of Alameda Grant was petitioned by Francisco Montes Vigil in 1710.  It was approved by Governor Jose Chacon Salazar y Villasenor for 106,274 acres.  Proceedings before the Office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims confirmed the grant for 89,346 acres.  According to New Mexico scholar, Gilberto Espinosa, Montes Vigil sold the grant to Captain Juan Gonzales Baz, for 1,000 cows.

This grant is located in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties. 

 The Town of Bernalillo Grant (Luis Garcia and Felipe Gutierrez Grant) was petitioned by Luis Garcia in 1742.  The grant was approved by Governor Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza for 47,743 acres. Proceedings before the Office of the Surveyor General and the Court of Private Land Claims reduced the acreage to 3,404 acres before it was confirmed.  This grant is among a group of land grants that are near Pueblo grants.  In 1858 and 1859, U.S. surveyors set out to establish boundaries for Pueblo and non-Indian grants.  Many of these grant surveys included non-Indian residents within Pueblo boundaries.  To establish Pueblo land boundaries the U.S. government issued patents to the seventeen Pueblos.  President Abraham Lincoln signed each patent and sent a silver cane to each Pueblo as a sign of goodwill by the U.S. government.       

 The Sebastian Martin Grant was petitioned by Sebastian Martin in 1712.  The petition was approved by Governor Jose Chacon Medina Salvador y Villasenor for 54,387 acres.  The Office of the Surveyor General confirmed the grant for 51,387 acres.  In 1751, the twelve petitioners for Las Trampas grant received 1640 varas from the Sebastian Martin grant which borders Las Trampas.  This action provided Martin with better protection from Indian raids and was part of Governor Velez Cachupin’s Indian defense policy.  The Sebastian Martin grant is located in Rio Arriba and Taos Counties.        

 The Town of Tome Grant was petitioned by Juan Barela and others in 1739.  The grant was approved by Governor Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza for 121,594 acres.  The Office of the Surveyor General confirmed the grant for 121,594 acres. This grant was one of the first community grants confirmed by the U.S. government and survived many of the obstacles confronted by land heirs in the territorial era.  Unfortunately, for the heirs, it was eventually sold to a modern day land developer.

 Sources Used:

 Spanish Archives of New Mexico, Series I. NMSRCA.

 J.J. Bowden, “Private Land Claims in the Southwest,” 6 Vols. (LLM Thesis,SMU,1969)

 Center for Land Grant Studies, Land Grant Database Project.  (www.southwestbooks.org/grantsz.htm)

 Diaz, Albert James A Guide to the Microfilm of Papers relating to New Mexico Land Grants.  Albuquerque, NM, 1960.

 Briggs, Charles L. & John R. Van Ness (Editors) Land, Water, and Culture: New Perspectives on Hispanic Land Grants.  UNM Press, Albuquerque, NM, 1987.

 Ebright, Malcolm Land Grants and Lawsuits in Northern New Mexico.  UNM Press, Albuquerque, NM, 1994.

 Westphall, Victor   Mercedes Reales: Hispanic Land Grants of the Upper Rio Grande Region.  UNM Press, Albuqquerque, NM, 1983.

 “Spanish and Mexican Land Grants and the Law”, Malcolm Ebright (Editor)  Journal of the West, (July, 1988).

 Center for Land Grants Studies, (Research Papers 1-21), 1994.