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Town of Tajique Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Manuel Sanchez, for himself and on behalf of nineteen associates, all residents of the Town of Valencia, petitioned the Acting Governor of New Mexico, Francisco Sarracino, on March 9, 1834, for a grant covering a tract of vacant land which they had discovered at the place known as the Tajique. As justification for the request, Sanchez pointed out that the applicants had only a limited amount of land upon which to grow the crops necessary for the support of their families. They described the tract as being one‑half of a league in circumference. Eight days later, Sarracino temporarily granted the premises to the petitioners in order to permit them to proceed with the planting of their crops. However, he expressly provided that the grant was made subject to its subsequent confirmation by the Departmental Assembly. His granting decree concluded with an order to the Alcalde of Valencia, Vicente Otero, to “make the division” asked for, within the boundaries set forth in the petition, provided no injury would result to any third party. In compliance with the governor’s directions, Otero, on April 9, 1834, went to the grant and set aside one hundred and seventy‑two varas as a townsite. Next, he measured a distance of one‑half of a league in each of the cardinal directions from the center of the townsite. These four terminal points were located as follows:

On the north, at a pine tree marked with a cross in the Canon de los Migas; on the east, at a lone pine; on the south, at a thicket of cedars a little above the Canon de los Pinos; and on the west, at a pine marked with a cross on the Mesita de la Cueva.

Due to the absence of seven of the grantees, he decided to postpone the allocation of the individual farm tracts and home lots. He authorized the grantees to proceed with the planting but cautioned them that no one would acquire any right to the land he cultivated excepting those to whom it should fall by lot. However, whosoever received a developed tract would have to develop a like quantity for the first occupant. Otero returned to Tajique on December 24, 1834 and subdivided the tillable lands into seventeen tracts measuring 112 varas from east to west and allotted them amongst the seventeen families who were then residing upon the grant. He also reminded each allottee of his obligation to equally improve the tract acquired by the person who had previously resided upon his tract. He notified them that should any allottee fail to so develop his predecessor’s tract by April 1, 1835, the predecessor would not be obligated to vacate the premises and could continue using it until his land had been so improved. The proceedings were concluded with Otero giving the grantees a testimonio of the grant.[1]

The inhabitants of the Town of Tajique filed their testimonio with and petitioned Surveyor General William Pelham on February 3, 1857 for the confirmation of the grant. Pelham held a hearing on the claim on May 6, 1859, at which time two witnesses appeared and in their answer to the three questions propounded by Pelham, stated that they had no interest in the grant, that they personally knew that the grant had been settled prior to 1842 and was in existence when the United States took possession of New Mexico in 1846, and that the town had a population of about 420 souls. Based on this record, Pelham, in a discussion dated May 10, 1859, held that title to the grant was complete, and in view of its existence in 1846, it should be recognized by Congress.[2]

The Thirty‑sixth Congress considered thirty-­three claims which had been passed upon by Pelham. By Act approved June 21, 1860 [3], Congress confirmed thirty‑two of these claims, including the Town of Tajique Grant. The grant was surveyed in February, 1877 by Deputy Surveyors Sawyer & McElroy for 7,185.55 acres. However, a patent for the property was not issued until March 18, 1912.[4]

[1] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 14, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 49‑51 (1860).

[2] Ibid. 52.

[3] An Act to Confirm Certain Private Land Claims in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 167, 12 Stat. 71 (1860).

[4] The Town of Tajique Grant No. 21 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).