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Sanguijuela Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Jose de Jesus Ulibarri, Jose Francisco Ulibarri, Juan Griego and Jesus Gonzales petitioned the Alcalde of San Miguel del Vado, Santiago Ulibarri, for a grant of land located on the Arroyo Sanguijuela on March 20, 1839. Two days later, Alcalde Ulibarri granted the request. However, he referred the matter to Governor Manuel Armijo for his confirmation. Some three years later, Armijo, on May 8, 1842, ratified the action taken by Alcalde Ulibarri. The grant was reapproved by Armijo on October 3, 1843, when he ordered the Alcalde of Las Vegas, Juan de Dios Maese, to place the grantees in legal possession of the grant. In response to the governor’s directions, Maese, On July 4, 1843, proceeded to the grant with the grantees and in due form delivered possession of it to the four grantees and fixed its boundaries as follows: 

On the north, the hill that lies immediate to the Puertocito del Sapillo, on the east, a monu­ment at the foot of a small hill on a small canyon called Canada de los Pecos; on the south, a mound on the road that comes down from Las Vegas there it intersects the Arroyo de Sanguijuela; and on the west, the foot of the mountains.[1]

On September 17, 1844, Jose Francisco Ulibarri petitioned Governor Armijo requesting him to revalidate the grant and thereby remove any objection that might be raised as a result of its being located within the exterior boundaries of the Las Vegas Grant. Ulibarri pointed out that the lands covered by the grant were unoccupied by any of the inhabitants of the town of Las Vegas and the grant would not prejudice the rights of anyone. He concluded by pointing out that the development of the grant would tend to shield the town of Las Vegas from attacks from the Indians. For some unexplained reason, no action was taken on this request.[2]

The grantees moved to the grant shortly after possession was given to them and they or their heirs and assigns continuously occupied the approximately 20,000 acres covered thereby. The grant was never presented to the Surveyor General for his investigation. However, on March 3, 1893, the owners of the grant filed suit[3] in the Court of Private Land Claims seeking its confirmation.

When the case came up for trial on July 16, 1898, the plaintiffs offered a certified copy of the grant appear, which had been recorded in San Miguel County on March 9, 1855. There was a notation on this copy which stated that the date on Armijo’s confirmation decree of October 3, 1843, had been changed from 1842 to 1843. This required the plaintiffs to contend that Alcalde Maese had erred when he dated the Act of Possession. The government objected to the introduction of the certified copy of the grant papers on the ground that the recorder had no authority to record them in 1855. The Court sustained the objection. Next the plaintiffs offered the Act of Possession which was certified by Donaciano Vigil, as having been recorded in Book B at Pages 64 and 65 of the Kearny Register.[4] The government’s objection to the introduction of this instrument on the ground that the plaintiffs had not established its validity was also sustained by the court. Notwithstanding the fact that they were unable to get any of the documentary evidence into the records, the plaintiffs offered a substantial amount of oral evidence supporting their claim. The government argued that the claim should be rejected since there was no evidence in the archives that a valid grant had ever been made, and that the grant was at best an inchoate claim. If this were true, then the confirmation of the Las Vegas Grant by Congress would deprive the court of jurisdiction over the case. The court concurred with the government’s position and on June 27, 1898, announced its decision rejecting the claim and dismissing the plaintiffs’ petition.[5]


[1] Deed Records 138‑140 (Mss., Records of the County Clerk’s Office, Las Vegas, New Mexico).

[2] Archive No. 1026 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[3] Grzelachowski v. United States, No. 170 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[4] This book was stolen from the Surveyor General’s office in 1880.

[5] 4 Journal 84 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).