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Town of Galisteo Grant

by J. J. Bowden

When the Spaniard first occupied New Mexico, there were five occupied Tano pueblos in the Galisteo Basin. The largest became known as Santa Cruz de Galisteo. During the Pueblo Rebellion of 1680, these Indians revolted, killed their missionaries, and migrated to Santa Fe after Governor Antonio de Otermin retreated to El Paso del Norte. Governor Diego de Vargas drove them out of the capital when he reconquered New Mexico in 1692. They then established a new pueblo at San Cristobal in the Santa Cruz Valley but were moved further up the valley in 1696, to make room for the new settlers from Mexico. In 1706, Governor Cuervo y Valdez re‑established the deserted Pueblo of Galisteo by moving the Indians back to their original habitat. Deaths from smallpox and Comanche raids reduced the population of the pueblo so greatly that in 1794 the few survivors moved to the Pueblo of Santo Domingo.[1]

 Early in February 1814, Felipe Sandoval, Jose Luis Lovato, Julian Lucero. Matias Sandoval. Pedro Sandoval for themselves and in the flame of “other associates”, all citizens of Santa Fe petitioned Governor Alberto Maynez, seeking a grant covering a tract of land situated at the abandoned pueblo of Galisteo, which they described as being bounded:

On the north, by the Ojito de Galisteo; on the east, by the Loma Parda; on the south, by the Canada de la Jara; and on the west, by the Arroyo del Infierno.

The petitioners called the Governor’s attention to the fact that the tract was the field of the Indians called the Tanos, but that they were almost extinct and the few remaining, who were scattered among some other pueblos had no intention of returning to their old homes. Continuing, they stated that they needed land for the support of their large families and that within the requested tract, there was sufficient land and water for the maintenance of as many as twenty families. They were careful to point out that a settlement at Galisteo would afford protection to Santa Fe and its surrounding settlements against the hostile Indians who freely passed to and fro from their spoils and would also relieve the government of the expense of maintaining the detachment of Pueblo Indians and citizens who were then stationed there in an effort to check the Indian raids. By decree dated February 14, 1814, Governor Maynez unconditionally granted the requested tract to the petitioners but reserved for the benefit of the inhabitants of Santa Fe and its surrounding ranches the privilege of pasturing and watering their livestock upon the premises.[2] The petitioners apparently were placed in posses­sion of the grant shortly thereafter, but the Act of Possession is no longer in existence, The town was in existence when the United States acquired New Mexico.

Ygnacio Chaves, for himself and on behalf of the other heirs and legal representatives of the original grantees, petitioned Surveyor General T. Rush Spencer on July 20, 1871, seeking the confirmation of the grant which they alleged contained about 9,000 acres of land. In support of the claim, they filed an undated copy of the petition and granting decree which was certified as being “a true and legal copy taken from the original” by Trinidad Barcelo. E. W. Eaton, as owner of the confirmed Domingo Fernandez Grant, which adjoined the grant on the east, filed notice on October 25, 1871, of his intention to oppose the approval of the claim on the ground that the grant conflicted with his grant.

When the claim came up for hearing on December 2, 1871, Eaton withdrew his objection and filed an agreement wherein the owners of the Town of Galisteo Grant agreed that their grant did not cover any lands lying within the boundaries of the Domingo Fernandez Grant. Two witnesses testified at the hearing. The first Augustin Duran, stated that:

Alberto Maynez was Governor of New Mexico in 1814, that he knew Trinidad Barcelo who, in 1814, was secretary to either the prefecture or alcalde, and that Bacelo’s signature on the petitioners’ muniment of title was genuine. The second witness, Donaciano Vigil, testified that he saw the expediente of the grant in the Archives of the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe in 1831 or 1832, and that the petitioners’ muniment of title was a true copy of the expediente He stated that he never knew of Barcelo holding public office under the Mexican Government until about 1846, when he was clerk of the circuit court.

Surveyor General Rush, on February 24, 1872, issued an unfavorable decision in connection with the claim wherein he held:

As the document filed as the basis of this claim is but a copy of an alleged original grant, purporting to have been made in the year 1814 by Governor Alberto Maynez, authenticated as a copy in a manner showing no official character or authority in the premises, and as no data of any such concession has been found among the archives or records of this office, and especially as said archives and records show that Jose Manrique, and not Alberto Maynez, was governor of new Mexico in the year 1814, all the evidence and circumstances produced and observed in the investigation of the merits of this claim have been carefully noted and considered.

The claimants have filed in this case the said copy, and in their notice to the surveyor general represent it as an original grant; they ignore the fact that it is prima facie a copy, and that, being such, the absence of the original must be accounted for, or due diligence be shown to have been exerted to find and produce it. This the claimants have entirely failed to do, either by declaration in their notice or by the testimony of witnesses.

  The document is stated to be a true copy by one Trinidad Barcelo. His certificate sets forth no date or locality, nor does it state or in any manner indicate in virtue of what authority or in what official character or capacity he certified, nor does it show the motive of the certificate, or in what depository the original of the copy was found or remained. The witness Duran states that Trinidad Barcelo was, in 1814, when this grant is said to have been made by Maynez, either secretary of the prefecture or alcalde, and the witness Vigil states that he never knew Barcelo to have held any office until about the time of the transfer of national sovereignty over New Mexico in 1846. There is nowhere any evidence in the files of this office or elsewhere showing that he was secretary of state or had any official connection with the general government of the province. The time of the certificate could not have been in 1814, when Duran says Barcelo was secretary to the prefecture or alcalde, because the grant by Maynez could not have been made in that year, as appears to the satisfaction of the surveyor genera], as hereinafter explained. His power to authenticate transcripts is not shown or indicated by statement of rank or faculties, and whether he possessed it or not is not shown in his certificate or otherwise that he was in the exercise thereof at the time he certified to the copy in question.

As no register or book of records of the acts of the provincial government of about the period of Governor Maynez’s incumbency can be found to consult, the surveyor general, in searching for light in the investigation of land grant claims, is obliged, in this as in other cases, to depend in a great degree for his information upon that afforded by the old archives preserved in his office. These he has consulted in this case, and from them it appears that Governor Maynez did make, in the year 1816, to a number of individuals at Galisteo a verbal grant for lands there, and that in the year 1822 the alcalde, in virtue of that verbal concession or authority, and by direction of the ayuntamiento of April 8th of that year, placed certain individual parties in formal possession of these lands, which he states they had been occupying and cultivating during the previous six years, some of them, it appears, being the identical individuals named as grantees in the claim of 1814, now in investigation. Five of these acts of possession, each bearing date of April 29, 1822, made respectively to Jose Antonio Alarid, Maria Nieves Mirabal, Matias Sandoval, Rafael Sena, and Felipe Sandoval, at least three of whom appear as grantees in the claim of 1814, are found among said archives, files 58, 616, 892, 893, and 894 thereof; and they each recite substantially that, whereas the ayuntamiento of Santa Fe had, on the 8th day of April, 1822 as appeared from its recorded proceedings of that day, directed the constitutional alcalde to execute acts of possession for lands to the nineteen settlers at Galisteo, shown in a list on file among the archives of his office formed six years before, when Acting Governor of the Province Alberto Maynez made a verbal order in virtue of which the grantee had already held the land six years, he, the alcalde, therefore declared said party invested with title in fee to the land there described by extent and boundaries and given in possession, and further declared that any other title thereafter appearing for said land was invalid and of no force.

From these documents, the signature to each of which of the Alcalde Pedro Armendaris is known to the office, it appears, or is rationally deducible, that there was no general or community grant to the Town of Galisteo, such as is alleged by the claimants in this case, and that, so far as has been made known to this office, there was no written grant or original title for the lands at Galisteo, except that referred to and executed as above by the alcalde to the individuals for distinct tracts, and other than which the alcalde announced and declared no legal one existed. And the apparent non‑existence of any such general grant is corroborated by testimony taken before the surveyor general on the 23d ultimo and the 3d and 5th instants, in the matter of the application of E. W. Eaton for a resurvey of confirmed private land claim No. 16, the San Cristobal Grant, In that case, the witness Amaya, who had resided at Galisteo for twenty‑odd years prior to 1840, testified he never knew of any grant to the people of that town. The witness Joaquin Chaves testified he had resided there since 1822, and was not aware of any general grant to the town or people, but was aware that the land had been divided out to eighteen or nineteen individuals in tracts of 100 by 1,000 varas in size, on the Galisteo River, under verbal authority of Governor Maynez, in the year 1815 or 1816, and afterward, in 1822, given in possession to said individuals. And the witness Sandoval, formerly alcalde and member of the ayuntamiento of Santa Fe now territorial adjutant general and auditor, testified that the land at Galisteo was applied for in 1815 or 1816 by his grandfather as the principal petitioner, an the alcalde placed the applicants in possession in the latter year, according to his recollection; that this title from the alcalde, under which he understood the people still held their lands, was the only one ever received by them, as he recollected; that he knew of no general grant for the land, and that, from his familiarity with the affairs of Santa Fe and Galisteo, he did not believe any such grant or any title whatever, other than that described as from the alcalde, could have been extant without his knowing If there was, indeed, a grant made by Governor Maynez in the year 1814, as positively stated by the witness Vigil, to the grantees named as such in the claim presented, what was the motive or necessity for the grant to the same parties in the year 1816, and how can the statements of the alcalde in 1822 be reconciled with the facts in the case? Vigil states that in the year 1831 or 1832, he saw in the office of the Ayuntamiento at Santa Fe the grant to Galisteo made by Maynez in 1814, and names eighteen of the grantees, one of them a woman from Tesuque. The petitioners and grantees in that claim are but seven in number, and they were all residents of the city of Santa Fe and were all males, as set forth in their petition and indicated by their names.

If, notwithstanding the statement of the witness Vigil, there was not such a grant, his testimony may, nevertheless, be reconciled to the fact without prejudice to his honesty and good faith. As the record of the action of the ayuntamiento, itself more or less in the nature of a grant referred to by the alcalde in his acts of possession and not mentioned by the witness, was most likely to be seen at the office of that body, and as the unreliability of men’s memory over an interval, as in this instance, of forty years, is undeniable, the conclusion is, in view of the ascertained facts in this case, that what the witness there saw was the action of the ayuntamiento of 1822 concerning the verbal authority of Governor Maynez of 1816, therein cited, concerning the lands at Galisteo, which were immediately thereafter given in possession to the grantees by the alcalde in pursuance of the action of the Ayuntamiento. This theory is sustained by the circumstance that witness stated that he saw, at the same time and place, a list of the grantees. Such a list, of nineteen individuals, being the grantees in the grant of 1816, was on file at the office of the ayuntamiento, as appears from the acts of possession of 1822, and one of these grantees was a woman; and further, the names of some of the grantees mentioned by the witness are identical with those mentioned in the said acts of possession. It is therefore believed that, as the witness Duran was clearly mistaken in the succession of governors in stating that Maynez succeeded Alencaster, whereas our archives show that Manrique intervened, so the witness Vigil was mistaken in stating that Governor Maynez, in the year 1814, made a grant of land to the town of Galisteo, whereas our archives show, beyond question. that Maynez was not governor in that year.

If Alberto Maynez was governor of New Mexico in the year 1814, the claim in this case is consistent in its alleged emanation; if not, it is from that circumstance per se fraudulent, null, and void. There being no standard history of the country, the yet more reliable data and authority of the old archives in this office pertaining to the provincial government of New Mexico of the period in question must be consulted, and they seem to determine the question conclusively. From them it appears that Jose Manrique, in 1808, 1809, 1810, 1811, 1812, 1813, 1814, 1815, Alberto Maynez, in 1815, 1816, 1817, were the governors of the province during the period and particularly the year concerned in the investigation of this claim. From the evidence afforded by this statement it is manifest that this claim, the alleged grant of 1814 for land to the town or people of Galisteo is destitute of legitimate origin and foundation, and has no legal existence, and must be treated as null and void from the beginning.

In view, and consideration of all the premises, this claim is believed to be one which, in law and equity, would have been declared fraudulent and void by the government of the Republic of Mexico, and one which, tried with the same test by the Government of the United States and by the stipulations and principles of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, must be disapproved and declared invalid, and the same is disapproved, and a transcript of all of the papers in the case is transmitted for the action of the Congress of the United States, with the recommendation that the claim be rejected.[3]

The rejection of the claim undoubtedly greatly disappointed the inhabitants of Galisteo and naturally they were not anxious for Congress to act upon Spencer’s recommendation. Therefore, it was still pending in 1891, when the Court of Private Land Claims was created. On December 7, 1892, Luciano Chavez filed suit against the United States in an effort to secure the recognition of his claim that a valid Spanish grant had been made and possession delivered to a number of colonists for a certain 24,000 acre tract of land described as being bounded:

On the north, by the brow of the mesa of the Ojito de Galisteo; on the east, by the Loma Parda; on the south, by the Arroyo de Jara; and on the west, by the Arroyo de Infierno.[4]

However, this new claim was not based upon the 1814 grant but upon a number of subsequent proceedings The first of these proceedings was an oral unconditional grant allegedly made by Governor Alberto Maynez to Felipe Sandoval, Rafael Lujan an fourteen other residents of Galisteo in 1816. Thereafter and pursuant to another oral order of Maynez, Matias Ortiz, the Alcalde of Santa Fe and its jurisdiction (which included the lands in the Galisteo Basin) personally placed the sixteen grantees in royal possession of the grant on January 8, 1816, and at the same time allotted in severalty to each grantee an individual tract of agricultural land located within the grant. Sandoval and Lujan each received a 150‑vara tract of land. Each of the other grantees were allotted 100 varas. However, no title papers were given to the grantees evidencing their individual ownership of such tracts. This caused the settlers no little concern, and they frequently asked for their title papers. Finally, on April 7, 1822, acting Governor Facundo Melgares recognized and confirmed the 1816 grant ordering the Alcalde of Santa Fe, Pedro Armendaris, to give each of the grantees an hijuela evidencing his title subject to the concurrence of the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe. The Ayuntamiento investigated the matter on the following day and found that the new settlement had relieved the immensity of the unsettled land, had been of great assistance in the protection of travelers and shepherds, and the fruitful crops raised at Galisteo had tended to relieve the almost annual shortages of food at the capital. Therefore, it concurred in the governor’s finding that the grant should be confirmed and the claims of the settlers to their individual tracts should be protected. The Ayuntamiento instructed the Alcalde to require the settlers to fence their farm tracts, and build and maintain a tank sufficiently large to hold the water necessary for the irrigation of their crops. He was also to caution the settlers that should they fail to continuously cultivate their tracts or abandon them for any reason other than the “accidents of war”, they would forfeit their rights thereto. In obedience to the governor’s command and the Ayuntamiento’s instructions, Armendaris promptly went to Galisteo on April 29, 1822, where he found fourteen of the original grantees, the legal representatives, or successors of two deceased original grantees and three new settlers and, after they had pointed out their farm tracts, he placed each in formal possession of his tract and gave him a hijuela evidencing his ownership thereof, which described the land covered thereby in metes and bounds. All of the tracts were 100 varas in width and 1,000 varas in length except the tracts held by Sandoval and Lujan, which were 150 varas wide. [5]

On January 29, 1842, eight new residents of the grant petitioned the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe, asking that they each be given an allotment of land at Galisteo The matter was taken up by the Ayuntamiento at its regular session on February 12, 1842, and transmitted with a favorable report to the Prefect, Juan Antonio Archuleta, Archuleta, on February 18, 1842, granted each of the petitioners 200 varas of land and directed the Alcalde of Santa Fe to place the grantees in possession of their land which was to be located within a tract described as being bounded:

On the north, by a little hill; on the east, by the old wall; on the south, by a cross on the creston; and on the west, by a cross within a pile of stone.

A second petition was submitted to the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe on February 3, 1843 by seven persons seeking a further allotment of land within the grant at the place known as Mesita Blanca, The Ayuntamiento also recommended the granting of this request to Archuleta, who on February 7, 1843, granted each of the petitioners 200 varas of land. In connection with this grant, he directed the Alcalde to locate the allotments within a tract bounded:

On the north, by a cross on an arroyo; on the east, by the lands of Domingo Fernandez; on the south, by the point of a white bluff; and on the west, by upper point of Gagalin Hill.

A further distribution of land within this grant was made in 1846. These proceedings were commenced on January 31, 1816, with a petition by twenty‑nine persons to the Ayuntamiento of Santa Fe seeking allotments of land at Tacubaya. The petition was referred to the City Attorney for a report or the advisability of granting this request. On February 7, 1846, he reported that he found no objection thereto, hereupon, the Prefect ordered the Alcalde to distribute individual tracts of land to the petitioners and “a number of unemployed persons”. In compliance with these instructions, the Alcalde distributed 50 varas of land to a total of sixty‑two persons on February 23, 1846.[6]

The plaintiff, in his petition, stated that there were many persons claiming small tracts totaling 4,681.5 acres which were located within the boundaries of the grant by virtue of entries they had made under the public land laws. He claimed that these titles were invalid, since the land was not public domain at the date of such entries. He also called attention to the fact that the grant conflicted with about 7,500 acres embraced within the Domingo Fernandez Grant but that the owner of the Domingo Fernandez Grant had not contested the claim of the inhabitants of the Town of Galisteo thereto. However, each of these parties were named as a defendant in the suit. The United States filed a Demurrer on the ground that the date and form of the grant and the name or names of the persons to whom it had been made were not set forth in the plaintiff’s petition. The court overruled the Demurrer and the government filed a general answer putting in issue the allegations contained in the plaintiff’s petition.

At the trial of the case, Chavez introduced a number of other exhibits to show that the persons to whom these lands had been allotted held possession of such lands and that such possession had been recognized by the former governments. He also introduced oral evidence for the purpose of showing the location of the boundaries of the grant and that the settlers in that area claimed under the grant had been in possession of, cultivating portions of, and grazing stock on other portions of the lands lying within the out boundaries of the grant for many years. The defendants introduced as evidence the grant papers to the Domingo Fernandez Grant and the patents for the several patented tracts which conflicted with the grant. Oral evidence was also introduced by the defendants tending to prove that the inhabitants of the grant had never claimed that a grant had been made by Spain or Mexico covering any lands other than those within their individual allotments prior to 1871. In their closing argument, the defendants concluded that there was never a grant to the tract claimed by the plaintiff and that at most it amounted to merely the grant of permission on the part of the Spanish Government in 1816 for certain named persons to cultivate small tracts of land. Continuing, they contended that each of the subsequent proceedings were illegal, since they purported to be independent grants of individual tracts by a prefect who had no authority to dispose of the public domain.

By decision dated September 29, 1894, the court confirmed the plaintiff’s claim insofar as it covered all or any portion of the sixteen allotments made by Alcalde Ortiz in his Act of Possession in 1816, which did not conflict with the Domingo Fernandez Grant or any land previously sold or disposed of by the United States.[7]

Since neither party appealed the decision, the Surveyor General’s office awarded a contract on November 28, 1896 to Deputy Surveyor Albert F. Easley for the surveying of the grants. His survey was made between the first and fourth of May, 1897, for 335.38 acres. Both the plaintiff and the government protested the approval of the survey on the grounds that it incorrectly located the boundaries of the grant. The government also objected to the use of the 33‑1/3 inch vara, claiming that the 33‑inch vara was the standard to be used in New Mexico. The survey was rejected by the Court of Private Land Claims, and a new contract awarded to Deputy Surveyor George H. Pradt for the resurvey of the grant. Pradt resurveyed the premises in October, 1898, for 260.79 acres. A patent based on Pradt’s survey was issued to the heirs and legal representatives of the original grantees on September 14, 1927.[8]


[1] 1 Hodge, Handbook of American Indians. 481-482 (1960).

[2] H. R. Misc, Doc No 181, 42nd Cong. 2d Sess., 88 (1872).

[3] Ibid, 94‑97.

[4] Chavez v, United States, No. 54 (Mss., Records of the Ct Pvt. L Cl.).

[5] Archive Nos. 58, 133, 616, 892, 893, and 894 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[6]Archive Nos. 223 and 398 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.). Juan Ortiz filed a petition in the Surveyor General’s Office for confirmation of several of these allotments on June 11, 1855. However, the claim was never acted upon by that office. The Juan Ortiz Tracts, No, F‑5 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[7] 2 Journal 228‑229 (Mss., Records of the Ct Pvt. L. Cl.).

[8] The Town of Galisteo Grant, No. 60 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).