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Ranchito Grant

by J. J. Bowden

The Pueblo of Santa Ana filed suit[1] in the Court of Private Land Claims on March 2, 1893, seeking the confirmation of its title to a tract of land commonly known as the Ranchito Grant. It alleged 'that during the eighteenth century its inhabitants had purchased five adjoining tracts. The first was acquired on June 27, 1709, from Captain Manuel Baca for fifty pesos and was described as being:      

The piece of farm land which he had at the bend of the river at the mouth of the Santa Ana River, which is bounded on the north, by a mesa; on the south, by the river; on the west, by the lands of the Pueblo of Santa Ana of the other side ‑‑which said lands Manuel Baca had by grant from the Marquez de Brazinas (Governor Diego de Vargas).

The second had been purchased from Josefa Baca on June 4, 1742, for nine hundred pesos and covered:

A tract of farming land which she had at Bernalillo, bounded on the north, by the termination of the Angostura at the trunk of a tree which the Indians had cut; on the east, by the Rio Grande; on the south, by the junction of the two rivers, and on the west, by the lands of the pueblo.

The third covered the tract which Captain Juan Gonzales con­veyed to the Indians of the Pueblo of Santa Ana on October 13, 1713 and being the same land which he had acquired from Cap­tain Diego Montoya. This tract was described as being bounded as follows:

On the north, by the lands of Javier Miranda; on the east, by the Rio Grande as it ran in about 1709, which was at the place called “Estero”; on the south, by a line from said ancient bed of the river to the house of Baltazar Perea; and on the west, by the Ceja del Rio Puerco.

The fourth was the tract which Alejandro Mora had sold to the Indians on May 24, 1753 for seven hundred thirty-nine pesos. The deed described the premises as being bounded as follows:

On the north, by the boundary of the Town of Bernalillo which is at an arroyo that comes down from Santa Ana; on the east, by a line from the ancient bed of the Rio Grande; on the south, by the walls of the house of Felipe Gutierrez; and on the west, by the Rio Puerco.

The final parcel was the land which Quitaría Contreras had sold to the Indians on July 7, 1763 for three thousand pesos. It was described as:

A sitio or tract of land which is upon the other bank of the Rio Grande from Bernalillo, consisting of 4,300 varas in length from north to south and bounded upon the north, by a cross in the middle of the Angostura and the lands of the Pueblo of San Felipe; on the east, by the foot of the Sierra de Sandia; on the south, by three cottonwoods located below the house of Cristobal Martinez Gallego, deceased; and on the west, by the Rio Grande, save and except the tract which had been conveyed to her husband by Josefa Baca and located between the three álamos and the Pueblo of San Felipe.

The Petition alleged that the five tracts formed a single compact of land lying in the Rio Grande Valley and containing an aggregate area of 95,630 acres. It described the premises as being bounded as follows:

On the north, the Angostura; on the east, a red. hill at the foot of the Sandia Mountains; on the south, the bridge in front of the Town of Bernalillo; and on the west, the Arroyo Hondo.

Although the deeds evidencing the pueblo’s muniments of title[2] had been recorded in Kearny’s Register, the claim was never presented to the Surveyor General’s office for investigation.

When the case came up for trial on May 25, 1897, the claimants submitted a great deal of oral and documentary evidence which tended to prove that the deeds conveying the five tracts to the Indians were genuine and that they had occupied and cultivated at least part of the land “from time out of mind.” The government offered no special defenses against the recognition of the grant. However, it contended that the area and boundaries claimed by the plaintiff were excessive. In order to obviate this objection, the Indians, at the conclusion of the hearing, amended their petition so that the amount of land claimed by them was reduced to a comparatively small area bounded:

On the north, by an east‑west line running through the house of Cristobal Martin Gallegos, which was located at least 4,300 varas south of the point known as “Loma Infernado” and about one and a half miles north of the present Church at Bernalillo, said house forming the south boundary of the Pueblo of Santa Ana Grant; on the east, by a north‑south line following the top of the range of hills first east of the old river bed; on the south, by a line running east from the northwest corner of the Pueblo of Sandia Grant to east boundary of the grant; and on the west, by old bed of the Rio Grande River which was located several hundred yards east of the new bed of the river through the place known as the Estero in the vicinity of the house of Cristobal Martin Gallegos, deceased.

The Court entered a decree[3] on May 31, 1897, confirming the grant as described in the plaintiff’s amended petition. In his report[4] to the Justice Department, the government’s attorney stated that in his opinion the confirmation was proper and just. He also noted that the land which had been confirmed by the Court covered practically all of the agricultural land held by the Indians. He closed by stating that the Indians had paid a valuable consideration for the land, the Spanish authorities had recognized their right to it, they had occupied it for generations, and, “in short, they were entitled to it.”

Since the decision was not appealed, a contract was awarded to Deputy Surveyor John H. Walker to survey the grant. The survey, which was made between October 28 and November 2, 1898, showed that the grant contained only 4,945.24 acres, of which 694.61 acres conflicted with the pueblo of San Felipe Grant. However, since the survey of the San Felipe Grant, which previously had been confirmed was then pending, it was impossible to determine if Walker’s survey, insofar as it covered the overlap, was correct. In order to expedite the patenting of their grant and avoid future problems, the Indians of the Pueblo of Santa Ana waived their rights to the area in conflict. The grant was patented on October 18, 1909.[5]

 


[1] The Pueblo of Santa Ana v. United States, No. 157 (Mss. Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] Records of Land Titles 27‑34, 54‑65 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[3] 3 Journal 232 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[4] Report of the United States Attorney dated June 19, 1897 in the case Pueblo of Santa Ana v. United States (Mss., Records of the General Services Administration, National Archives, Washington, D.C.), Record Group 60, Year File 9865‑92.

[5] The Ranchito Grant, No. (2.D. 157 (,Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.)