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Rancho de Gigante Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Since the land east of their pueblo was more secure from pillage by the Apaches, the Lagunans purchased the choice tract of land known as the Rancho de Gigante when it was offered to them sometime before 1813. After its acquisition, the Indians used the land as a pasturage for their livestock. It was one of the tracts which the inhabitants of the Pueblo of Laguna presented[1] to Surveyor General William Pelham on June 29, 1859 for investigation and confirmation under Section 8 of the Act of July 22, 1854.[2] Due to the loss of their title papers to this rancho the petitioners sought to establish the validity of their claim by filing a Spanish document[3] from the Archives of New Mexico, which showed that, upon learning of the resignation plans of their alcalde, Manuel Aragon, the Laguna Indians requested a certificate setting forth their rights. In response to their petition, Aragon, on March 25, 1813, gave them the requested instrument. After stating that the Indians were entitled to receive a just compensation for any services they performed for their alcalde or minister, Aragon noted that the “Canada de los Gigantes to the Ojo del Chamiso” was a pasturage for their animals. Governor Antonio Narbona noted his approval at the foot of the certificate on August 28, 1826. In connection with his investigation of the claim, Pelham took the testimony of two witnesses who, when questioned about the grant, stated that they were acquainted with it and that it was used as a pasturage by the “people of Laguna and Cebolleta.” Notwithstanding the fact that the Indians had offered no direct evidence establishing a grant or that they, in fact, had acquired the premises, and in spite of the testimony showing that inhabitants of both Laguna and Cebolleta had used the land as a commons, Pelham, by Report dated July 10, 1859[4], held that the lands had been severed from the public domain and recommended their confirmation by Congress. Congress unquestioningly accepted Pelham’s recommendation and confirmed the grant by Act[5] approved June 21, 1860.


The confirmation of this claim was somewhat unusual in that none of the supporting papers contained a description of the grant. Therefore, Deputy Surveyors Sawyer & McElroy, who had been awarded the contract to survey the grant, took a number of ex parte affidavits which tended to prove that the grant was bounded:

On the north, by the Rancho de Paguate Grant; on the east, by the Gigante Mesa; on the south, by the Rancho El Rito Grant; and on the west, by the Rancho de San Juan Grant.

Although they thus had determined the boundaries of the grant, which covers approximately 7,000 acres, the surveyors decided to include it in a 25,233.18 acre tract that also included the Ranchos of San Juan and El Rito. The consolidated tract was patented to the Pueblo of Laguna on September 22, 1884.[6]




[1] The Pueblo of Laguna Tracts, No. 30 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[2] An Act to Establish the Offices of Surveyor General of New Mexico, Kansas and Nebraska, to Grant Donations to Actual Settlers Therein, and for Other Purposes, Chap. 103, Sec. 8, 10 Stat. 308 (1854).

[3] Archive No. 688 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[4] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 14, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 165‑167 (1860).

[5] An Act to Confirm Certain Private Land Claims in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 167, Sec. 3, 12 Stat. 71 (1860).

[6] The Pueblo of Laguna Tracts, No. 30 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).