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Pueblo of Tesuque Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Tesuque, the southernmost of the pueblos occupied by the Tewa Indians, was originally located about nine miles north of Santa Fe near the main road to Taos. It was the seat of the Mission of San Lorenzo, which was probably established by Fray Alonso de Benavides early in the seventeenth century. The Pueblo Revolt commenced at Tesque on August 9, 1680, when a Spaniard named Cristobal de Herrera was murdered by the Indians. It was from Tesuque that Governor Antonio Otermin received the first warning of the general revolt planned by all the Pueblo Indians. On the following day, Father Juan Bautista Pio, who had charge of the Tesuque mission, boldly went to the pueblo from Santa Fe to hold mass in spite of the warning. Upon his arrival, he found the village deserted. He promptly commenced searching for the inhabitants and soon stumbled upon a group of Indians hiding in a nearby arroyo, who murdered him. The original pueblo was abandoned and the mission destroyed during the revolt.

After the reconquest of New Mexico in 1693, the present pueblo was established on the west bank of the Tesuque River. Its name changed to San Diego, probably because the Pueblo Revolt broke out on San Lorenzo Day. The population of the pueblo gradually declined to the point which it could no longer support a priest. In 1760, it was made a vista of Santa Fe with a population of only 232 souls. It was transferred as a vista of Pojoaque in 1782.[1] The Pueblo was still struggling to maintain its existence when the United States conquered New Mexico in 1846.

The Indians presented their claim[2] for the four square leagues of land surrounding the Pueblo to Surveyor General William Pelham on June 14, 1856. No documentary evidence was offered, but the testimony of several witnesses taken by Pelham showed:

There were title deeds to the pueblo, but the authorities of the Mexican government at Santa Fe took them in order to have them Copied and revalidated, the originals being much torn; since which time they have neither seen nor heard of them. [3]

The witnesses further stated that the grant extended “one league in each direction from the church, but the distance east to west only has been measured.”[4] Based on this meager evidence coupled with the long continuous occupation of the land since time immemorial, Pelham recommended the confirmation of the grant.

Being anxious to fulfill its treaty obligations to the Pueblo Indians, Congress, by Act approved December 28, 1858, confirmed the claim.[5] Deputy Surveyor John W. Garretson surveyed the grant in 1859, for 17,471.12 acres and patented on November 1, 1864.[6]

[1] 2 Hodge, Handbook of American Indians 734 (1962); and Forrest, Missions and Pueblos of the Old Southwest, 59‑60 (1962).


[2] The Pueblo of Tesuque Grant, No. L (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).


[3] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 1, 34th Cong., 3d Sess., 515 (1856).


[4] Ibid.


[5] An Act to confirm the land claim of certain pueblos and towns in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 5, 11 Stat. 374 (1858).


[6] The Pueblo of Tesuque Grant, No. L (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).