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Vallecito Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Jose Garcia de la Mora and twelve associates petitioned Governor Joaquin del Real Alencaster for a colonization grant covering a tract of vacant land at the place called Vallecito, which was located on Vallecito Creek (Canon Seco) between the Santa Clara mountains on the east and those “looking towards the ranch of Jose Riaño on the west.” Alencaster, on April 7, 1807, ordered the Alcalde of Santa Cruz to give him a list of the names of Garcia’s twelve associates and advise him if he knew of any objections to granting the request. Eleven days later Alcalde Manuel Garcia de la Mora answered his request. In addition to furnishing the governor with a list of the applicants he stated that there would be no objection or injury resulting from the issuance of the grant so long as the pasture lands remained as commons and the grantees enclosed their fields. After carefully considering the matter, Alencaster granted the tract to the petitioners subject to the following conditions:

  1. If the grantees failed to fence their farms they would be subject to a fine of $50 for the first offense and waive all damages occasioned by livestock invading their fields.
  2. Even if their lands were enclosed, they would not be entitled to damages to their crops if livestock got into their fields since they had no obligation to maintain such fences.
  3. The surrounding pasture lands were reserved as commons and, while they could keep the livestock of any third party 600 varas from their fields and acequias, they were not to injure such animals.
  4. Each grantee was to receive an individual farm lot sufficient in area “to plant a fanega of corn and 2 or 3 of wheat” together with a homesite.

The decree closed with an order directing the Alcalde of Santa Cruz to allot the land and place each grantee in possession of his respective tracts. Following this decree is a portion of another instrument which appears to have been an Act of Possession. It reads as follows:

Canada October 25, 1807

In view . . .

However, the balance of the instrument had been torn off and lost.[1]

The heirs and legal representatives of Jose Garcia de la Mora petitioned[2] Surveyor General Clarence Pullen asking him to investigate the claim which they described as being about 15 miles in length along Vallecito Creek between the Santa Clara and Vallecito Mountains. The northern boundary was described as being along the road to Navajo and the southern boundary of the Pueblo of Abiquiu Grant. The location of the southern boundary was not indicated.

The Surveyor General’s office took no action on the claim and, therefore, when the Court of Private Land Claims was established, Jose Asabel Martinez and five other persons claiming an interest in the grant as heirs or as assigns of the original grantees brought suit[3] against the United States in that forum on February 28, 1893, seeking the confirmation of the grant. They asserted that the grant covered approximately 38,000 acres and described its boundaries as:

The summits of the mountains to the east and west of the Vallecito River and extending from north to south along the river about fifteen miles.  

The plat attached to the petition showed the southern boundary as being located along the bluffs north of the Santa Clara River. The government in its answer placed the plaintiffs’ allegations in issue. Martinez’s deposition was taken by his attorney on November 22, 1893, in an effort to more definitely establish the location of the boundaries of the grant and show that it had been continuously occupied by the grantees and their descendants since its inception. However, on cross examination by the government’s counsel, he testified that while his father had been given a hijuela to an individual tract of land situated within the grant he had lived near the junction of the Chama and Rio Grande Rivers. It also was established that the grant was located within the boundaries of the Juan Jose Lovato Grant.

Even if it were presumed that possession had been delivered, it is obvious that this was not a single grant but a series of thirteen grants covering small individual farm tracts along the river valley. Such small claims did not warrant the expense and trouble which would be necessary to secure their recognition as private land claims. Therefore, the “grant” theory was abandoned and the interested parties elected to secure title to their individual tracts under the homestead laws. When the case came up for trial on September 30, 1897, the plaintiffs announced that they no longer wished to prosecute their cause and the court forthwith dismissed their petition and rejected the claim.[4]

[1] Archive No. 378 (Mss., Records of the A.N.M.).

[2] The Vallecito Grant, No. F‑183 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.)

[3] Martinez v. United States, No. 141 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).

[4] 3 Journal 288 (Mss., Records of the Ct. Pvt. L. Cl.).