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Town of Torreon Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Twenty‑seven inhabitants of the Town of Valencia appeared before Acting Alcalde Vicente Otero on February 15, 1841, and advised him that they had appointed Nerio Antonio Montoya as their attorney‑in‑fact with authority to represent them in soliciting a grant covering a tract of vacant land at the Torreon Spring, Montoya formally accepted the power of attorney and received a testimonio of the proceedings from Otero. Three days later Montoya, for himself and on behalf of his twenty‑seven principals, petitioned the Prefect for the Central District of New Mexico, Antonio Sandoval, for a grant which he described as being:

From the spring above mentioned towards the north with the lands of Tajique, a distance of about eight hundred varas; to the south one league; on the east as far as the water reaches, and on the west to the farm belonging to me, being a distance of about five hundred varas,

 He advised the Prefect that the petitioners were all “short of tillable land” and needed the requested property for the support of their families. Sandoval referred the petition to the Alcalde of Tome on February 23, 1841, for a full report as to whether the petitioners had any land from which to obtain their subsistence and the nature of the premises. Alcalde Juan de Jesus Chaves, by Report dated March 1, 1841, advised Sandoval the petitioners did not have sufficient land to earn a livelihood and, while the requested lands offered all of the advantages necessary for colonization, it was then vacant. Since the report raised no obstacle, Sandoval directed Chaves to proceed to give the petitioners national and personal possession of the land which he had granted to them. By virtue of this commission, Chaves met the grantees at the Torreon and, after reading the grant to them, proceeded to survey the premises which measured one league from north to south and one and a half leagues from east to west. He designated the following natural objects to serve as their landmarks:

On the north, by the boundary of Tajique; on the east by the junction of the Torreon Canon with that of the Cuero; on the south, by the Cuero Mountains; and on the west by the boundary of the farm of Nerio Montoya.

Next, he allotted each of the grantees one hundred varas of tillable land within the out boundaries of the grant.[1]

 Montoya presented the testimonio of the grant to and filed a petition with surveyor General William Pelham on January 8, 1856, requesting an early investigation into the validity of the claim. He also introduced oral testimony proving that the town had been in existence in 1846. Based upon a brief inquiry into the background of the grant, Pelham, on May 12, 1859, advised Congress that the claimants title papers appeared to be genuine. Continuing, he noted that while the claimants had contended that Prefects had authority under the laws of January 4, 1813 [2] and March 20, 1837[3], to make the grant, he was of the opinion that the laws of January 4, 1813 had no bearing on the case and that he had been unable to ascertain if the Law of March 20, 1837 gave them any such authority. However, he noted that since the witnesses who had appeared before him clearly established the existence of the Town of Torreon prior to 1846, such existence raised a presumption in favor of the validity of the grant. Since no evidence had been produced indicating that the Mexican Government had disapproved the action of the Prefect, he was of the opinion that the land had been severed from the public domain. As a result of such severance, he believed that under its treaty obligations, the United States was obligated to treat the claim in the same manner. There­fore, he approved the grant and transmitted it to Congress for its further action in the premises.[4]

By Act approved June 21, 1860, Congress confirmed the Town of Torreon Grant.[5] The grant was surveyed in February 1877 by Deputy Surveyors Sawyer & McElroy for 14,14611 acres. The grant was patented on April 9, 1909.[6]

[1] H. R. Exec. Doc No. 14, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 54‑60 (1860).

[2] Reynolds, Spanish and Mexican Land Laws 83 (1895)

[3] Ibid, 211.

[4] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 14, 36th Con, 1st Sess., 61‑62 (1860).

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

[6] The Town of Torreon Grant, No. 22 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).