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End of the Long Journey on El Camino Real: La Merced de La Majada y La Caja Del Rió /Part 2
Hilario E. Romero
Part One of this article, in the July issue of Green Fire Times, covered the history of the La Ciénega and La Cieneguilla pueblos and land grants along “El Camino Real.” I explained how these pueblos and Spanish land grant villages were connected through family and trade with villages on the east side moving toward La Villa Real de San Francisco de La Santa Fe. To the west of La Ciénega and La Cieneguilla, there were two other land-grant communities: La Caja Del Rió and La Majada. They too were connected by family and trade. La Majada was granted shortly after the Entrada and subsequent conquest of New Mexico by Governor and Capitán General Diego de Vargas in 1693-96. The King of Spain gave these grants of land to groups of settlers that promised to establish communities and to soldiers for their service to the Spanish Militia.
This connected history is a history of Santa Fe, because many of these families resided first in Santa Fe, raised their children and moved away, but not far. They needed a sustainable environment in which to raise their own stock and agricultural products and not depend on others. As a result, much of the land that sustained them has continued to be used today, or is still viable for agriculture.
This is the last of the four articles that connects the ancient pueblos and six land grants with the end of “El Camino Real” to “La Villa Real.” These articles show that without these connected pueblos and grants, Santa Fe would not have been able to grow to become the capital of “La Provincia de Nuevo México.” This forgotten history adds a deeper understanding of the evolution of the capital of New Mexico.
La Merced de La Majada/La Majada Land Grant, 1695
The El Ojito Land Grant was originally conferred on Feb. 10, 1695 by Governor and Capitán General Diego de Vargas and subsequently, as a grant called La Majada, granted to Jacinto Pelaéz as compensation for services rendered as a soldier during “la Reconquista” de Nuevo México. Its original boundaries overlapped two pueblo grants. The boundaries were as follows:
“On the north, by a line running east to west one league north of the spring on said tract known as the Ojito de la Laguna de Tío Mes, on the east, by the Bocas de Senetu; on the south, on the north boundary lines, the Indian Pueblo of Santo Domingo, and on the west, by the Rió Grande.” Royal possession of the land was never delivered to Pelaéz by Gov. Vargas. (Source: Bowden, J.J., Private Land Claims of the Southwest, Master’s Thesis, 1969, Southern Methodist University, Vol. II Santa Fe Co. Land Grants)
Three years later, Jacinto Pelaéz had to petition Gov. Pedro Rodríguez Cubero for a revalidation of the original land grant. On Dec. 13, 1698, Cubero revalidated the grant and ordered the alcalde of Bernalillo to place Pelaéz in possession of the property. Pelaéz died shortly thereafter, before possession had been formally delivered to him. Portions of this grant were given to Jacinto Sánchez and Nicolas Ortíz. On Jan. 10, 1710, Ensign Ygnacio de Roibal, guardian of Pelaéz’s minor daughter, María, petitioned Gov. José Chacón, asking that the concessions which had been made to Sánchez and Ortíz be set aside and La Majada Grant be revalidated in favor of María Pelaéz. (Source: The Majada Grant, No. F-224 Miscellaneous Records of the Surveyor General of New Mexico)
Eighteen years later, Juan Fernández de la Pedrera, husband of Maria Pelaéz, filed a protest on Aug. 17, 1728 for his daughter María Fernández de la Pedrera, a minor heir of Maria Pelaéz, and complained that the Indians of the pueblo of Cochiti were trespassing on the grant. On the same day, Gov. Juan Domingo de Bustamante directed Alcalde Andrés Montoya to place María Fernández in possession of the grant. On July 17, 1744, Gov. Joaquin Codallos y Rabal granted a request from Bartolomé Fernández, who claimed that his father, Juan Fernández de la Pedrera, had given him possession of the grant, and he wanted permission to sell his interest in it. His request was granted by the governor and he sold his interest to Pauline Montoya.
These transactions on the La Majada land grant were most likely instigated by the constant raiding by Faraon Apachis, Apachis de Nabaju, Yutas, and the new enemy, the Comanchis. These tribes had adopted horse warfare like that of the Spanish. The tribes had captured horses left behind by the Spanish during and after the Pueblo Revolt. (Source: Linda Tigges, “The Pastures of the Royal Horse Herd of the Santa Fe Presidio, 1692-1740” All Trails Lead to Santa Fe, Santa Fe: Sunstone Press, 2010) It is possible that these tribes were also attracted to this particular area because the La Majada land grant, along with La Caja Del Río Grant, were designated areas for grazing the presidio’s large herd.
On Nov. 28, 1785, Bartolomé Fernández Jr. conveyed to Manuel Ortíz his interest in the grant. By the next year, Juan de Abrege, husband of Juana Fernández and daughter of Bartolomé Fernández Jr., conveyed her interest in the grant, also to Manuel Ortíz. Francisco Montoya, on behalf of his mother, Pauline Montoya, petitioned for a judicial partition of the La Majada Grant on Feb. 10, 1804, which was approved on Feb. 17, 1805 by Gov. Fernando Chacón. As a result, the grant was divided into four tracts, each owned by Pauline Montoya, Miguel Otero, Pedro Gonzáles and Juan José Silva. Ortíz claimed interest in the grant, which he estimated to contain 20,000 acres, because he was one of the legal representatives of the original grantee.
Six years after the conquest of New Mexico by the United States of North America in 1854, the Surveyor General’s Office of the United States conducted surveys on all of the land grants in the new territory of New Mexico. However, this grant was not surveyed until after it was validated by the U.S. Court of Private Land Claims on Sept. 24, 1894. Deputy Surveyor Albert J. Easley surveyed the grant in October 1895 for 54,404.10 acres. A patent covering lands embraced within the grant was finally issued on Oct. 26, 1908. (Sources: Journal 231 misc. records of the Court of Private Land Claims and La Majada Grant, No F-224, Miscellaneous records of the Surveyor General of New Mexico)
La Majada Grant was overlapped by the Caja Del Rió back in1742, and the Cochiti and Santo Domingo grants were overlapped by both the Majada and Caja del Rió grants. A suit was brought to the Santa Fe District Court in 1903 by the owners of the Caja del Río Grant in order to clear their title. Cochiti Pueblo promptly intervened to protect its land. The court upheld the claims of the Caja del Rió Grant owners, but ruled against them on their western boundary where they overlapped into the Cochiti Pueblo Land Grant. The Majada Grant owners were successful before the Pueblo Land Board in 1927 with the overlapping land on the northern border of the Santo Domingo Pueblo Land Grant. Later, in 1930, before the same Pueblo Land Board, the Majada Grant owners entered a disclaimer, and the Indians’ title to almost all the lands under their grant that were involved in the conflict. As was the case in the Spanish Colonial period, many cases of encroachment on Pueblo lands were ruled in favor of the Pueblos. (Sources: District Court Records, No. 1430, U.S. District Court Records, No 2133 and Report to the Pueblo Land Board by Santo Domingo Pueblo)
La Merced Del Caja Del Rió/La Caja Del Rió Land Grant, 1742
Capitan Nicolas Ortíz (Niño Ladron de Guevara) petitioned Gov. Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza for a grant covering a tract of land called La Caja del Río, which he described as being bounded:
On the north, by a large tableland standing in front of the cultivated lands of San Ildefonso, on the east, by the Cañada Ancha; on the south, by the source of the Ojito Santa Cruz and on the west, the Río Grande.
Nicolas Ortíz petitioned for the grant as a reward for services he had performed, monies he had expended in the reconquista de Nuevo México, and the pacification of the Indians. He informed the governor that he was among the settlers sent to recolonize New Mexico by Viceroy Galve in 1693, and that the colonists had been promised a liberal grant upon which to settle, but he had not received his grant because he spent the previous 49 years campaigning against the Indians. He was careful to point out that during his long military service he had always furnished his own arms, horses, and on one occasion had even paid for a load of powder. This grant, bounded on the west by the Rio Grande and the south by the Río Santa Fe, would become an ideal area for a rancho and for grazing stock. (Sources: Ortíz Family Papers, NMSRCA and Twitchell, Ralph Emerson, The Leading Facts of New Mexican History, Vol. I pages 470-472)
After examining the contents of the petition, Gov. Mendoza, on May 30, 1742, granted the tract to Ortíz, subject to the condition that “pasturage and watering places be in common. Ortíz began to move sheep and cattle to the upper pastures near la Tetilla. As a former capitan of the Royal Militia, there is a high probability that he helped graze the horse herd of the Santa Fe presidio on the south and west borders of his land grant, as had been done in the past. For the remaining years of his life, Ortíz built up his casa del rancho, pastured his animals and irrigated crops along the Río Grande and the Río Santa Fe. Because of frequent raids by semi-nomadic tribes, few settlers considered building near Ortíz and he did not encourage settlement. His descendants continued his rancho, pasturing their herds and irrigating crops for the next 114 years after his death.
On May 7, 1871, the descendants of Nicolas Ortíz presented their claim to the U.S. Surveyor General T. Rush Spencer for investigation under the Eighth Section of the Act of July 22, 1854. Three witnesses were examined by Surveyor General James K. Proudfit in November, 1872. Their testimony supported the claimant’s allegations concerning their relationship to Nicolas Ortíz and the continuous use and occupation of the Caja Del Río Grant. By decision dated Nov. 21, 1872, Proudfit recommended that the grant be confirmed by Congress to the heirs and legal representatives of Nicolas Ortíz, deceased. A preliminary survey of the grant was made in November 1877 by Deputy Surveyors Griffin and McMullin for 62,343.01 acres. (Source: Act to establish Office of SGNM in NM Chap.103, Sec. 8 Stat. 308, 1854)
However, Congress never acted on the claim. Felipe Delgado, legal representative for the Ortíz heirs, filed suit in the Court of Private Land Claims on Oct. 14, 1892, seeking confirmation of the grant to the heirs and legal representatives of Nicolas Ortíz, deceased. An amended petition was filed on Aug. 10 1893, in which Felipe Delgado alleged that the preliminary survey was incorrect and that the grant actually contained about 72,000 acres. The plat attached to the amended petition depicted the grant as including all of the Mesa de San Ildefonso extending northward to the boundary of the Pueblo of San Ildefonso Grant. (Source: Records of the Court of Private Land Claims, No. 178) At the trial, the plaintiffs introduced the expediente of the grant including documents that referenced the grant and its occupancy during the Spanish and Mexican periods, all of which recognized the existence and validity of the claim. The government, while recognizing the grant papers were genuine and in order, contended “the north boundary of the grant as claimed by the plaintiff had been stretched so as to include “4,000 acres” more that it should. In its decision dated Aug. 30, 1893, the court confirmed the grant in accordance with the description contained in the grant papers. Thus, it left the boundary question to be resolved by the survey under the provision of Section 10 of the Act of March 31, 1891. (Source: Court of Private Land Claims Act, Chapter 569, Section 10 26 Stat. 854 (1891))
Deputy Surveyor Sherrard Coleman surveyed the grant for 68,070.36 acres, which included 1,221.58 acres that conflicted with the Pueblo of Cochiti Grant. Coleman’s survey located the north boundary just south of the Mesa de San Ildefonso. The plaintiff relinquished any claim to the lands in conflict. This action resolved the dispute between the owners of the grant and the Indians of the pueblo of San Ildefonso and, since no objections were raised, the court approved the survey and a patent based thereon was issued on Feb. 20, 1897. (Source: Miscellaneous Records, Court of Private Land Claims, Caja Del Río Grant, No. 63)
The Río Santa Fe flows through these grants and served the middle and southern sections of these settlement and grazing lands that produced large quantities of beef and mutton in addition to hides, wool and agricultural produce for nearby communities and La Villa de Santa Fe. This was the corridor first used by the colonists on El Camino Real that ascended through the Santa Fe River canyon (Caja del Río) into La Ciénega, La Cieneguilla, the Pacheco Grant, Agua Fría and Rancho El Pino into La Villa de Santa Fe.
There is a need to present more detailed stories of the people who worked the land on these pueblos and land grants along the Rió Santa Fe, Riito La Ciénega and the Río Grande. We will do that in future editions of Green Fire Times. One thing that this detailed, rich history demonstrates to me is that conventional tourism, which is so important to our region, could be diversified and strengthened by developing historical agritourism and ecotourism.
Hilario E. Romero, a New Mexican mestizo (Spanish/Basque/Jicarilla Apache/Ute), is a former New Mexico state historian. He has spent the past 40 years in higher education, as an administrator and professor of history, education and Spanish at the University of New Mexico, Highlands University and Northern New Mexico College.
About the author
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