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Town of Jacona Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Ensign Ygnacio de Roybal petitioned Governor Pedro Rodriquez Cubero for a rancho on which to raise enough food to support his family and pasture his herds of livestock He reminded the governor that Captain Jacinto Palaez previously had been granted two fanegas of corn land at the Pueblo of Jacona[1] and stated that his application covered the “surplus” lands at that site. He described the tract as being bounded:

 On the north, by the road which leads from the new village to Jacona and some bluffs above said road; on the east, by the lands of Juan de Mestas and the lands of Oyu, formerly owned by Francisco de Anaya Almanzan; on the south, by the forest between this village and Jacona; and on the west, by a cañada, which comes down by a house built by Matias Madrid and some red bluffs near the little mesa of San Ildefonso.

Cubero granted all of the tract embraced within the above boundaries to Roybal on October 2, 1702, save and except the two fanegas tract which was owned by the minor son of Jacinto Palaez, He also directed the Alcalde of Santa Fe, Roque Madrid, to deliver possession of the grant to Roybal in the customary manner. The grant was entered in the corporation book of Santa Fe on September 7, 1713.[2] Roybal allegedly was placed in royal possession of the concession, and it is generally accepted that he and his family moved to the grant and commenced cultivating the premises. By 1846, there were at least fifty families living at the Town of Jacona.

The inhabitants of the Town of Jacona, as the heirs and legal representatives of Roybal and Palaez, petitioned Surveyor General James K. Proudfit on January 5, 1874, seeking the confirmation of the two ancient grants.[3] After a brief investigation, Proudfit, in an opinion dated June 10, 1874, found the grant papers to be genuine and recommended that the grant be confirmed to the legal representatives of said Roybal by Congress, “according to the boundaries set forth in the petition of said Roybal to Governor Cubero, and as granted by said governor.”[4] A preliminary survey of the grant was made in September, 1878, by Deputy Surveyors Griffin & McMullen for 46,341.48 acres.[5]

Notwithstanding Proudfit’s favorable report, Congress took no action on the claim. Therefore, following the creation of the Court of Private Land Claims, the inhabitants of the grant turned to that forum for relief.[6] They filed their petition on September 21, 1892, alleging that a valid grant had been made to Roybal in 1702, and was subsequently confirmed in 1782 by Governor Jun Bautista de Anza. In support of this contention the plaintiffs, referred to Archive No. 1261, which was a copy of the confirmation proceedings. This record showed that Mateo Roybal, a son of the original grantee had requested the confirmation of the entire grant. Anza, in his decree dated September 11, 1782, stated:

I granted and do grant in the name of his majesty (whom God preserve) that portion of land which he possessed and actually possesses as his own and no more in accordance with what is expressed in the documents relating to the entirety of the grant which was made of the aforesaid Jacona to the Ensign Don Ignacio de Roybal and without prejudice to what may be owned in the same by the other heirs.…[7]

Anza also directed the Alcalde of Santa Cruz, Jose Campo Redondo, to place applicant in royal possession of “the aforesaid portion of land.” In compliance with the governor’s instructions, Redondo, on September 26, 1782, delivered to Mateo Roybal possession of a tract of land bounded:

On the west, the edge of an Arroyo which likewise serves as the boundary of the heirs of Juana Lujan, the landmark of which is a rock which is on the edge of said Arroyo on the slope of a hill which also serves as the boundary towards the south, and looking from said rock in a straight line towards the north the boundary in this direction is the hills on the other side of the Nambe River; on the east with the lands of his brother Don Bernardo Roybal.…[8]

The plaintiffs argued that these proceedings were a judicial determination by a proper officer and that the entire grant was valid. The government in its answer asserted that the grant was incomplete since there was no evidence that the original grantees had been placed in possession and that the 1782 proceedings confirmed only the lands actually occupied by Mateo Roybal. It also pointed out that the court had no authority to confirm the portion of the Town of Jacona Grant which conflicted with the previously confirmed grants to the Pueblos of San Ildefonso, Tesuque, and Pojoaque.

By decision dated August 23, 1893, the court held that while there was no documentary evidence that possession of the grant had been delivered to the original grantee, the long continuous possession of the premises raised a presumption that the ceremony had been performed. As an alternative ground, the court found that the recitals in the 1782 proceedings indicated that they were brought not to cure a defect in the 1702 grant arising from the failure of the grantee to obtain legal possession of the premises, but evidenced a voluntary partition of the grant amongst Roybal’s heirs. Therefore, the court believed it was justified in holding that Anza had recognized the entire grant and confirmed the rights all the heirs of the original grantee. However, the court excepted from its confirmation of the grant all lands lying within the Pueblo of San Ildefonso, Tesuque, and Pojoaque.[9]

The government appealed the decision to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the court was not justified in presuming that possession had been delivered and, in the absence of a delivery of possession, the grant to Ignacio Roybal would not be one which the United States was obligated under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to recognize. If the original grant was involved, then the confirmation should be limited to the tract described in the 1782 proceedings. For some unexplained reason the Solicitor General of the United States, on February 1, 1897, requested the court to dismiss the appeal. In response to said motion, the court entered a decree dismissing the appeal.[10]

The grant was surveyed by Deputy Surveyor Clayton Coleman in July, 1898. His survey showed that the grant contained 6,952.84 acres after excluding 1,163.64 acres which conflicted with the Pueblo of Tesuque Grant, 901.996 acres lying in the Pueblo of San Ildefonso Grant and 2,775.96 acres situated within the Pueblo of Pojoaque Grant. The grant was patented on November 15, 1909.[11]

[1] The Pueblo of Jacona was a small Tewa Pueblo situated on the south side of the Pojoaque River. At the time of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, it was a vista of the mission of Nambe. It was abandoned in 1696, and its inhabitants settled among the other Tewa Pueblos, 1 Hodge, Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico 627 (1960).


[2] S. Exec Doc. No. 2, 43d Cong., 2d Sess., 3 (1874).


[3] Ibid., 2.

[4] lbid., 5.


[5] The Town of Jacona Grant, No. 92 (Mss., Records of the U.S.G.N.M.).


[6] Gomez v. United States, No. 35 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L, Cl.).


[7] Archive No. 1261 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[8] Ibid.


[9] 1 Journal 195 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).


[10] United States v, Gomez, 17 S. Ct. 1001, 41 L.Ed. 1185 (1897) (mem.).

[11] The Town of Jacona Grant, No. 92 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).