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The Santiago Ramirez Grant

The Santiago Ramirez Grant is found in Chapter Six, Part II, Volume Two.

by J. J. Bowden

Santiago Ramirez petitioned Governor Joaquin Codallos y Rabal for a grant covering “a piece of wooded land” which was situated above “the line of Simon Nieto and extending to the high rocks and bounded on the north and south by the mountains.” He called the governor’s attention to the fact he was married and had a large family but no land upon which to plant the corn and other things necessary to meet his obligations. He also pointed out that he was the son of Gregorio Ramirez, who faithfully had served the King from the reconquest of New Mexico up to the date of his death while escorting the Royal Mail to El Paso del Norte. Codallos referred the petition to the Alcalde of Santa Fe, Antonio Ulibarri, on July 7, 1744, and requested him to examine the land in order to see if the granting of Ramirez’s request would prejudice the rights of any third party. In his report to the governor on the following day, Ulibarri stated that as a result of his examination, he had found all of the land from the Penasco del Aqua Sarco up the river to be crown lands with no owner other than the King. Based upon these findings, the governor, on the same day, granted Ramirez’s prayer and ordered Ulibarri to place him in possession of the premises in accordance with the boundaries mentioned in his petition. In obedience to the governor’s decree, Ulibarri proceeded to the grant with the grantee and his two witnesses, Domingo Valdez and Simon Nieto, who were the adjoining landowners on the west. Upon arriving at the grant, Ulibarri first designated its boundaries, which were:

 On the west, two crosses and two large pines which marked the boundaries of the lands of Simon Nieto; on the east, a high rock on the river bank; on the north and south, the falda of each mountain range.

Since the above boundaries met with the approval of all the interested parties, Ulibarri placed Ramirez in royal possession of the property.[1] Ramirez or his heirs and their assigns continuously used and occupied the grant at all times subsequent to 1744.

In order to protect the property rights of the in­habitants of New Mexico, General Stephen Watts Kearny, following the American conquest of New Mexico, set up a procedure for the recording of documents pertaining to real estate transactions. The grant papers were recorded in the Kearny register on August 20, 1850.[2] The grant was first presented to Surveyor William Pelham for investigation on May 22, 1857, by Harvey E. Easterday, who in the meantime had acquired an interest in the grant by purchase.[3] However, as a result of the continuous failure of that office to act upon the claim, Benito Barrego, who also claimed an interest in the grant by purchase, filed a second petition on June 14, 1883, asking for its confirmation.[4] By decision dated September 29, 1883, Surveyor General Henry M. Atkinson found the title papers to be genuine and in view of the long, continuous possession of the land, which extended back as far as the memory of man and by common reputation even prior thereto, he believed that the claim was valid. Therefore, he recommended to Congress that the grant be confirmed to the heirs, assigns, and legal representatives of Santiago Ramirez. A preliminary survey of the grant was made in April, 1885, by Deputy Surveyors Warner & Laderen for 6,165.90 acres.[5]

As might have been expected, Congress failed to act upon Atkinson’s recommendation and the claim was still pending when the Court of Private Land Claims was created. Borrego, in an effort to obtain its recognition, filed suit in that court on February 28, 1893.[6] The case came up for trial on November 11, 1896, at which time he introduced the testimonio of the grant, documentary evidence establishing a chain of title connecting himself with the original grantee, and oral testimony showing a long continuous occupation of the land by parties claiming under the grant.

The government raised no special defenses to the confirmation of the grant but joined issue with the plaintiffs over the location of its northern aid southern boundaries. The government contended that these lines should he located at the lowest point where the mountains began to rise out of the valley on each side of the Santa Fe River. Borrego insisted they were located at the top or point on the mountain side where the assent is precipitous to final assent to summit of the mountains. The issue turned on the interpretation of the clause in the Act of Possession which fixed these boundaries at the falda of each of the mountains. This is an amusing instance of the uncertainty of Mexican land boundary descriptions. The term primarily means “the skirt of a woman’s dress.” Thus, the issue turned on just where the skirts of the mountains were situated. The plaintiff’s attorney insisted that the falda was up about the timber line. The government ‘s attorney contended that the fixing of the falda at such a high elevation would be highly improper since it would fix the bottom of the mountain’s skirt so high above its foot “as to expose the trunks and limbs of trees, after the fashion of the knee‑plus‑ultra skirts of a ballet dancer — a meaning never intended by the pious Mexicans. Such an interpretation would surely cause the setting sun to blush upon such immodest mountains. Therefore, the term should be construed to bring the skirts down to the trails of the foothills after the style of the decorous ladies who, in 1744, assisted the street sweepers in gathering up the microleus from the sidewalk. The court held the case under advisement until May 28, 1897, when after thoughtful consultation in chambers it finally issued its decision confirming the grant but holding that a falda of the pattern of an average bicycle skirt of that day was about the proper thing for mountain use and so decreed that the northern and southern boundaries of the grant should be surveyed along the upper edges of the valley—a little above the foot of the slopes at the lower edge of the calf pastures.[7]

The grant, as confirmed by the court, was surveyed by Deputy Surveyor George H. Pradt between October 21‑24, 1899, for 272.168 acres. A patent for such land was issued on January 4, 1912.[8]

[1] The Santiago Ramirez Grant, No. 136 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[2] Record of Land Titles 246 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[3] The Santiago Ramirez Grant, No. 136 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Borrego v. United States, No. 148 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.). Five days prior to the institution of the Borrego case, Hijinis Lujan, who claimed an interest in the grant by purchase, filed a similar suit. Lujan v. United States, No. 122 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.). The two suits were consolidated under Cause No. 143 by order of the court dated September 5, 1896.

[7] 3 Journal 229 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[8] The Santiago Ramirez Grant, No 136 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).