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Paraje del Punche Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Suit was instituted[1] on March 3, 1893, by Antonio Jose Gomez and Jose Marie Baca in the Court of Private Land Claims against the United States in an effort to obtain the recognition of the Paraje del Punche Grant. In their petition; the plaintiffs alleged that the grant had been issued to their respective fathers. Antonio Mateas Gómez del Costillo and José Luis Baca de Sandaga, by Governor Facundo Melgares on December 7, 1821. It was allegedly made pursuant to a decree issued on April 6, 1820 by Jose Marie Mechelem,[2]Provisional President of Mexico a decree of the Mexican Congress dated August 20, 1820, and an order by the Provisional Governor of New Mexico,[3] Manuel Salazar, dated March 1, 1820. They described the grant as being a 90,000 acre square tract of land bounded:

On the north, by the source of the Rito de la Sierra Madre del Rancho with the intersection of the Sierra Blanca on the east, by the source of the Hurraca; on the south by the junction of the waters having their source in the springs of the mountains to the north and on the west, by the Ojo de la Sierra Pedregosa.

Although the plaintiffs had not filed any grant papers in support of their claim, they stated they believed that they could produce them by the time the case came up for trial. The government filed a general answer putting the allegations contained in the plaintiffs’ petition in issue.

The claim was set for hearing on May 17, 1897, and the plaintiffs still had not been able to locate any documentary evidence of their claim in the archives of New Mexico. Therefore, the plaintiffs, recognizing the applicability of the adage “ … if there is no record, there is no grant; and if there is no grant, there is no title”[4] requested the dismissal of their petition. The court complied and on the same date issued a decree rejecting the claim.[5]

[1] Gomez v. United States, No. 241 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] Jose Mariano de Michelena and Miguel Dominguez were chosen as substitutes to discharge the duties of the Triumvirate on March 31, 1823. Dominguez was very aged and uneducated. The Triumvirate was comprised of Generals Nicolas Bravo, Guadalupe Victoria and Pedro Celestino Negreto, who, during the early part of 1823 and early part of 1824, were frequently in the field attempting to check the activities of the Iturbidista. Thus, the government, during this period, was practically in charge of Michelena. 5 Bancroft, History of Mexico, 2, 8 (1885). It should also be pointed out that Mexico never asserted its independence until the Plan of Iguala was adopted on February 24, 1821. Thus, the plaintiffs were obviously mistaken in asserting that the grant had been made pursuant to directions from officials of the Mexican Government in 1820.

[3] Facundo Melgares was Governor of New Mexico between 1818 and 1822. I Coan, History of New Mexico 267 (1925).

[4] Keleher, “Law of the New Mexican Land Grant,” 4 New Mexico Historical Review, 362 (1929).

[5] 3 Journal 207 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).