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San Cristobal Grant

by J. J. Bowden

In response to a request made by Severino Martinez for a grant covering a tract of agricultural land on the San Cristobal River, Governor Alberto Maynes, on August 4, 1815, notified the Alcalde of Taos, Pablo Lucero, that he had granted Martinez’s request and directed Lucero to place Martinez in possession of as much land as he could till, together with additional lands for corrals and buildings. The Governor’s granting decree also directed Lucero to give land to others who might request it if there was space to accommodate them. Lucero, after carefully investigating the matter and finding that the grant would not prejudice the rights of any third party, proceeded to the grant with his witnesses and Martinez. The party arrived at the grant on October 8, 1815, and Lucero performed the customary ceremonies necessary to place Martinez in formal possession of a tract of land bounded:

On the west, by the mouth of the Canoncito of the Rio San Cristobal; on the east, by a large spruce which stands above the Sierra del Alamo; and on the north and south, by the ridges lying on each side of the river.

 A tract located between the spruce and a point 400 varas east thereof was given by the Alcalde to Juan Antonio Lucero at the same time.

Almost twenty years later, Father Antonio Jose Mar­tinez, Severino Martinez’s son, presented the testimonio of the grant to the Alcalde of the First Demarcation of Taos, Jose Mariano Jaramillo, and requested a grant covering the lands lying east of his father’s concession be issued to him and four associates. Alcalde Jaramillo studied the papers and concluded that Maynes, in his granting decree, had delegated to his office authority to make the requested grant. Therefore, on November 13, 1835, he granted the following tracts in the San Cristobal Valley to the following persons:

 Tract 1

A 100 vara tract lying east of the Juan Antonio Lucero tract to Antonio Jose Ortiz.

 Tract 2

A 100 vara tract lying east of the Ortiz Tract to Jose Madrid.

 Tract 3

A 600 vara tract lying east of the Madrid tract to Pablo Lucero and his two sons, Juan Antonio and Tomas.

 Tract 4

A 100 vara tract lying east of the Luceros’ tract to Juan Antonio Salazar.

 Tract 5

All the valley lands bounded on the west by the Salazar tract and on the east by the point where the river disembogues from the mountains, to Father Martinez.

 Jaramillo retained the testimonio of the 1815 proceedings in order to file them in the archives, but gave Father Martinez a certified copy of all the proceedings before his office.

On January 19, 1878, Daniel Martinez, for himself and on behalf of the other owners, petitioned[1] Surveyor General Henry M. Atkinson, seeking the confirmation of the 1815 and 1835 grants, which for all practical purposes was consolidated and called the San Cristobal Grant. In support of his claim to the consolidated grant, he filed the certified copy of the two proceedings. The testimony of a number of witnesses was also taken in support of the claim. This testimony tended to prove that the certified copy was signed by Jaramillo and that in 1835 he held the position of Alcalde of Taos. The witnesses also recounted how the insurgents, during the Taos rebellion of 1847, had broken into Prefect Jose Maria Valdez’s house, seized the box containing the Archives of Taos, tore the archives into pieces and scattered them all over town. Next, they testified that while none of the grantees had actually lived upon the lands covered by the San Cristobal Grant, their peons or tenants had continuously used the lands subsequent to the delivery of possession. Atkinson, in an opinion[2] dated October 4, 1878, recommended that Congress reject the claim. First, he noted that there was no record of either grants in the archives of New Mexico. He pointed out that, while the claimants had attempted to account for the lack of archive evidence of the grant by showing that the archives of Taos had been destroyed, they had failed to prove such evidence ever existed and were among the archives of Taos at the time they were destroyed during the Insurrection of 1847. Next, he called attention to the fact that under Spanish Law, Severino Martinez would have had to been settled upon the 1815 grant for a period of four years in order to have perfected a valid title, and the testimony showed he had never settled upon the land. Atkinson stated that in his opinion the occupation of the grant by Severino Martinez’s peons or tenants would not satisfy this condition. Finally, he asserted that the decree of August 4, 1815 gave Alcalde Jaramillo no authority to confer a valid grant upon Father Martinez and his asso­ciates and since the claim based upon the 1815 proceedings[3] was at best questionable, it also should be rejected. Thus, the San Cristobal Grant became one of the six grants rejected by the Surveyor General’s office prior to the time Surveyor General George W. Julian took office. Since the San Cristobal Grant covered a relatively small area ‑ less than 5,000 acres ‑ the petitioners abandoned their claim under the grant and sought relief under the homestead laws.

[1] The San Cristobal Grant, No. 110 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.