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Rancho de Coyote Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Nepumecena Martinez de Aragon, through his attorney, Maye Wieks of Los Angeles, California, filed suit[1] in the Court of Private Land Claims against the United States on March 3, 1891, seeking the confirmation of the Rancho de Coyote Grant. He alleged that his ancestors had acquired an interest in the grant, which had been duly made and juridical possession lawfully given, but that he did not possess or know where the grant papers were located. However, he assured the court that he would make every effort to supply all deficiencies in his petition and amend it as soon as he had obtained this data. He also alleged that the grant contained approximately one hundred square leagues of land. His petition closed with an allegation that he was an ignorant, illiterate, non‑resident of New Mexico, with limited means, and, by reason of his ignorance, poverty, and the re­moteness and fragmentary condition of the archives in the Surveyor General’s Office, he had been unable to obtain either the details pertaining to the issuance of the grant or its legal description. The government filed a demurrer in which it called the court’s attention to the fact that Martinez’ petition did not state sufficient facts upon which to base a decree against the United States nor describe the nature of the claim, date, by whom made, to whom made, or its boundaries as required by Section 6 of the Act of March 3, 1891.[2] It also noted that no map was attached showing the location of the grant. To overcome these objections, Martinez filed an amended petition on January 28, 1895, alleging that the grant had been issued to “__________ Martinez and _______ Madrid” in about 1820, and that the grantees, in response to a command by the governor, had been placed in legal possession of the tract known as El Coyote” which was bounded:

On the north, by the Capulin mountains; on the east, by the Salina Creek and Pedernales Mountains; on the south, by the Vallecito de la Cueva; and on the west, by the mountains extending from Jemez to Piedre Lumbre.

 In an effort to explain his failure to file the grant papers, Martinez alleged that the testimonio and other papers were in “________ Martinez’” possession when he left New Mexico in 1849 to settle in California, but they had been lost following his death. The government filed a general answer putting in issue the allegations contained in the amended petition.

The case was set for trial on June 11, 1898. Martinez undoubtedly realized that without some documentary evidence to support his contention that a valid grant had been issued he would be unable to sustain his claim. Therefore, when the case came up, Martinez notified the court that he no longer wished to prosecute the suit. Whereupon, the court entered a decree dismissing his petition and rejecting the claim.[3]


[1] Martinez v. United States, No. 248 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt L.Cl.). Martinez filed five additional suits. His petition in each of these suits was similar to that in the Rancho de Coyote Grant. The first was for the confirmation of the Rancho de la Gallina Grant. Martinez v. United States, No. 244 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.). The second was for the Rancho de Rio Arriba Grant. Martinez v. United States, No. 245 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.). The third was for the Rancho de Los Rincon Grant. Martinez v. United States, No. 246 (Mss., Records the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.). The fourth suit was for the Rancho de Abiquiu. Martinez v. United States, No. 247 (Mss., Records of the CL. Pvt. L. Cl.). The fifth suit was for a rancho whose name he did not know. Martinez v. United States, No. 223 (Mss., Records of the CL. Pvt. L. Cl.). Since none of the petitions contain a description, it is impossible to locate the grants. However, it would appear that they cover the same land as the Rancho de Coyote Grant. Each of these suits was dismissed at Martinez’ request. 2 Journal 164, 271; and 3 Journal 197‑198 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

Wieks also filed a series of cases for a number of other California residents seeking the confirmation of (1) Maria Martinez de Berry’s interest in the Rancho de la Merced del San Joaquin del Rio Chama y de las Gallina Grant, which allegedly covered 44 leagues. (Martinez v. United States, No. 218 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.)); (2) Marco Antonio Chaves’ interest in the Rancho de Comanches Grant, which allegedly covered 22 leagues. (Chaves v. United States, No. 219 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.)); (3) Clotilda Chaves de Spencer’s interest in the Rancho de Rio Puerco Grant, which allegedly covered 22 leagues, (Chaves v. United States, No. 220 (Mss., Records of the CL. Pvt. L. Cl.)); (4) Luciano Chaves’ interest in the Rancho de los Corrales, which allegedly covered. 22 leagues. (Chaves v. United States, No. 221 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.)); (5) Clotilda Chaves de Spencer’s interest in the Rancho de Gallina Grant, which allegedly covered 22 leagues. (Chaves v. United States, No. 222 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.)); and (6) Agapito Ortega’s interest in a 22 league the name of which he did not know. (Ortega v. United States, No. 226 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.)). The petition in each of these cases, like most of the others Wieks prepared, contained no description of the grant. However, the names of the grants indicate that they covered lands within or in the vicinity of the Canon de Chama and San Joaquin del Nacimiento Grants. These suits obviously were filed to protect the fanciful claims of each of the plaintiffs from being barred by the two year statute of limitations prescribed under Section 12 of the Act of March 3, 1891. Court of Private Land Claims Act, Chap. 539, 26 Stat. 854 (1891). Each of these suits subsequently was dismissed at the plaintiff’s request. 2 Journal 164; and 3 Journal 197-198 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L.Cl.).

[2] Court of Private Land Claims Act, Chap. 539; 6, 26 Stat. 854 (1891).

[3] 3 Journal 393 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.)