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Town of Tecolote Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Salvador Montoya, for himself and five associates, petitioned Diego Padilla, the Alcalde of San Miguel del Vado, on October 8, 1824, requesting that they be granted for agricultural purposes a tract of land having the following boundaries:

On the north, the Cueva; on the east, the Pueblo, on the south, the Puertecito de las Gailinos; and on the west, the Canada de Tres Hermanos.

The petition was referred on October 9, 1824, to the Territorial Deputation for its further action. Ten days later, the Territorial Deputation forwarded the petition to the Bartolome Baca, Governor of New Mexico, for a report upon the merits of the request. On the same day, Baca advised that august body that he earnestly recommended the granting of the requested tract to Montoya and his associates. Baca pointed out that there were no obstacles to granting the land to the petitioners. However, in order to avoid any future misunderstandings with the inhabitants of the pueblo which adjoined the land on the east, he recommended that the Alcalde of San Miguel del Vado carefully establish the eastern boundary of the new grant so that it would not overlap or conflict with any lands occupied or claimed as commons by their neighbors. The Territorial Deputation promptly took up the matter on the same date and issued the grant in accordance with Baca’s recommendations. On the 23rd of the following month, the grantees were placed in legal possession of the grant by the Alcalde of San Miguel del Vado, Thomas Sena.

The grantees promptly occupied the grant and formed the settlement known as the Town of Tecolote, which was located on the north bank of the Tecolote Creak and about eight miles south of Las Vegas. The town was in existence at the time the United States acquired New Mexico and has continued in existence up to the present time.

On July 26, 1856, the heirs of Salvador Montoya, for themselves and on behalf of the inhabitants of the town of Tecolote, petitioned the Surveyor General’s Office for the confirmation of the grant. In response to the petition, Surveyor General William Pelham investigated the claim and in his decision dated December 21, 1856, found the grant to be good and valid. Since no one had contested the petition, he unqualifiedly recommended to Congress that the grant he confirmed.[1] Based on his recommendation, Congress, by act approved December 22, 1858[2] confirmed the title of the Town of Tecolote as reported by Pelham.

The grant was first surveyed in August, 1859, by Deputy Surveyor John W. Garretson, but his survey, which covered 21,636.83 acres, was rejected when it was found that he had inaccurately located the eastern and southern boundaries of the grant. The grant was re‑surveyed in December, 1881, by Deputy Surveyor William H. McBroom. McBroom discovered that the Puerticito do los Gailinos, which in the meantime had been renamed Puerticito del Jaspe, was located south-southeast of the Town of Tecolote and marked the southeast corner of the grant. The pueblo referred to in the grant as fixing the eastern boundary was found to be an old Indian pueblo located on the south bank of Tecolote Creek about six miles down stream from the Town of Tecolote. The McBroom survey showed that the grant actually contained 48,123.38 acres and was approved on December 9, 1882.[3]

When it was learned that the Land Department pro­posed to issue a patent to the Town of Tecolote for the lands covered by the grant, the heirs of Salvador Montoya protested on the grounds that the patent should be issued in the name of the original grantees since the Town of Tecolote was not a corporate entity and, therefore, could not legally hold title to the grant. By decision[4] dated August 13, 1886, Assistant Secretary of Interior H. L. Muldrow held that the act of December 22. 1858, confirmed title to the grant to the town and not to the grantees as individuals. A patent was issued to the Town of Tecolote based on the McBroom Survey on June 21, 1902.[5] In 1903 the New Mexican Legislature vested the management and control of the grant in a Board of Trustees.[6]

[1] H. R. Report No. 321, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 100­-104 (1860).

[2] An act to confirm the land claims of certain Pueblos and towns in the Territory of  New Mexico, Chap. 5, 11 Stat:. 374 (1858).

[3] The Town of Tecolote Grant, No. 7 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[4] The Town of Tecolote Grant, 5 L.D. 61 (1886).

[5] The Town of Tecolote Grant, No. 7 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[6] 6 New Mexico Statutes 690 (1941).