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Town of Manzano Grant

by J. J. Bowden

The Estancia Valley, with its gentle sloping prairies, was ideal for stockraising. Shepherds from Santa Cruz were grazing their herds in the valley as early as 1703. Later a number of wealthy inhabitants of the Rio Abajo area also commenced using the valley as a pasturage for their extensive flocks. In 1829, the Rio Grande went on one of its frequent rampages and washed away part of the Town of Tome. Many of its residents, whose lands had been destroyed, moved to a picturesque site at the foot of Manzano Peak and near the Ojo del Gigante.

On September 22, 1829, Jose Manuel Trujillo and the 172 other citizens of the new settlement, which was called Manzano, petitioned the Ayuntamiento of Tonic for a grant covering the lands which they had appropriated. They described the boundaries of such lands as:

… from north to south, from Torreon to the old mission of Abo, and from east to west, from the Mesa de los Jamaneos to the mountain.

They also stated that the grant would be utilized as a common pasture ground, crossroads and other uses necessary for every town established on the solid basis of common and private property. As a condition of the grant, the petitioners agreed that they and all subsequent colonists would be entitled:

to acquire legal property therein, that he shall construct a regular terraced house of adobe in the square where the chapel is to be constructed (for which permission has been granted us), and he shall bring with him his property of every description, contribute to all community labor, procure the increase and prosperity of the town, defending with arms the firesides of his town to the fullest extent against any domestic or foreign enemy and finally, that the person who will not reside in said town with the family belonging to him, and who shall remove to another settlement, shall lose all right he may have acquired to his property.

In conclusion, the petitioners requested the Ayuntamiento to appoint a committee to investigate the merits of their petition, establish the boundaries of the town at the points designated in their petition, and refer their petition to the Territorial Deputation in order that the proper approval may issue therefrom.[1] The Ayuntamiento considered the petition during its regular session held three days later. It was resolved that the matter should be referred to the Territorial Deputation, as requested, together with a report that it knew of no obstacle against the granting of the request except that all the arable land located within the requested premises belonged to Bartolome Baca, However, it pointed out that each ownership should not prejudice the grant, since Baca had agreed that he would be satisfied with the land which he would receive as a new settler together with the lands he had purchased from other settlers provided he was not required to move to the grant but continuously caused his lands to be cultivated and improved. On November 28, 1829, the Territorial Deputation took up the matter and issued a decree granting the petitioners a four‑square league of land and directing the Alcalde of Tome, Jacinto Sanchez, to place the grantees in possession of the grant. The decree also directed Sanchez to allot each of the grantees all of the tillable land which he could cultivate, leaving the balance for the benefit of subsequent colonists who might settle upon the grant.[2] In compliance with this decree, Sanchez went to the Town of Manzano on December 24, 1829, and proceeded to survey the grant. Since the settlers requested that the Alto del Pino de la Virgin be established as the central point of the grant, he commenced his survey at that point and measured one league therefrom in each of the four cardinal directions. The boundaries were, thus, established:

On the north, at two solitary cedar trees in the Canon del Alto which was also known as the Canon of the deceased Ulas; on the east, by the red mesa known as the Rancho de Pedro de la Torre; on the south, by the rise on the opposite side of the gulf of the Cienega; and on the west, by the summit of the hill.

Although Sanchez was willing to allocate the tillable lands amongst the settlers, they requested and received his permission to remain in possession of the lands which they were occupying and had already improved.[3]

Ramon Cisneros, for himself and in behalf of the other residents of the Town of Manzano filed the testimonio of the grant on January 9, 1856, in Surveyor General William Pelham’s office and presented his petition seeking the confirmation of the concession. Cisneros’ petition described the grant as covering the tract of land described in the petition to the Ayuntamiento in 1829. In connection with his investigation of the claim, Pelham received the testimony of two witnesses who stated that the Town of Manzano was in existence in 1846 and that the Decree of the Territorial Deputation was genuine. Based upon his cursory examination, Pelham announced his decision in the case on August 10, 1859, in which he held that the grant was good and valid and recommended its confirmation by Congress to the Town of Manzano to the extent of one league towards the four cardinal points of the compass “as granted by the Territorial Deputation.”[4] By Act approved June 21, 1860,[5] Congress confirmed the claim in accordance with Pelham’s recommendation.

The grant was surveyed in February, 1877, by Deputy Surveyors Sawyer & McElroy for 17,360,97 acres. This survey stood until May 24, 1886, when, in response to a request by one of the claimants of the grant seeking the prompt issuance of a patent for the grant, Commissioner Strother M. Stockslager ordered Surveyor General George W. Julian to examine the case, and if he found no objectors, to prepare a description of the grant for incorporation into the patent. Julian, upon investigating the record, concluded that the grant was a diamond‑shaped tract with its points one league in each of the cardinal directions from the Alto del Pino de la Virgin instead of a four‑square league tract. Therefore, he ordered Deputy Surveyor Charles Ratliff to resurvey the grant accordingly. Pursuant to these instructions, Ratliff surveyed the grant for 8,689.74 acres, or one‑half the size of the grant depicted by the Sawyer & McElroy Survey. The owners of the grant protested, and by decision dated May 14, 1904, Secretary of Interior, J. H. Timple, rejected the Ratliff Survey. Due to a closing error in the Sawyer & McElroy Survey, he ordered a resurvey of the grant. A new survey of the grant was made in 1904 by W. V. Hall for 17,360.24 acres. A patent, based on Hall’s Survey, was issued on February 8, 1907, to the Town of Manzano Grant.[6]


[1] H. R. Exec Doc. No. 14, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 68‑69 (1860).

[2] Archive No. 1013 (Mss., A.N.M.).

[3] H. R, Exec. Doc. No. 14, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 70 (1860).

[4] Ibid, 63, 73

[5] An Act to Confirm Certain Private Land Claims in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 167, 12 Stat. 71 (1860). It should be remembered that the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Vigil, 13 wall (80 US.) 449 (1871) held that a grant by the Departmental Assembly was void.

[6] The Town of Manzano Grant No, 23 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).