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Santo Toribio Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Refugio Valverde filed suit[1] against the United States in the Court of Private Land Claims on March 3, 1893 seeking the confirmation of the Santo Toribio Grant. The basis of his claim was that a group of colonists had petitioned Governor Juan Bautista Anza: asking for a grant on which to form a new settlement. Anza, sometime prior to 1800,[2] granted the petitioners a tract of land which was described as being bounded­: 

On the north, by the Mójenos Mountains; on the east, by a line running north and south from the eastern edge of the Mójenos Mountains on the south, by the league of the Jemez Indians: and on the west, by the Canon de San Diego Grant.

The Town of Vallecito de Santo Toribio de Jemez was organized and the grantees placed in royal possession of such lands by Alcalde Paulin Montoya in accordance with Anza’s instructions. Valverde claimed a partial and undivided interest in the tract by inheritance from Toribio Gonzales, one of the original grantees. Since he was unable to find any documentary evidence of the concession, he alleged that the grant papers had been lost or destroyed. However, he asserted that under Spanish law each town was entitled to four square leagues of land by operation of law. The plat attached to Valverde’s petition showed that the grant covered approximately 100,000 acres of land. The government filed a general answer putting in issue the allegations contained in Valverde’s Petition.

The case came up for trial on December 7, 1898 at which time Valverde requested the dismissal of his suit without prejudice on the ground that the grant conflicted with the Ojo de San Jose Grant which previously had been confirmed by the court. The government objected to the dismissal of the case because it did not appear that the two grants were the same. It moved the court for a rejection of the claim on ground that Valverde had failed to prove his cause. The question was taken under advisement by the court, which on the following day announced its conclusion[3] rejecting the claim and dismissing the plaintiff’s petition without prejudice to his rights, if any, under the Ojo de San Jose Grant. Neither party appealed from this decision.

[1] Valverde v. United States, No. 256 (Mss. Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[2] Anza was Governor of New Mexico from 1778 to 1789.

[3] 4 Journal 51 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).