I was going through my flash drive looking for stuff to talk about on my blog, when I found a land grant case that was brought before the U.S. House of Representatives by the Secretary of Interior. I downloaded this letter back in March, although I'm not quite sure where I found it. However, I was able to find it again on Google Books: here is the link. Search for "Antonio Chaves" in the book and you should be able to find the letter titled "Land-Grant to Antonio Chaves: Letter from the Secretary of the Interior...."
The letter itself includes transcriptions and translations of certain land documents; therefore, it should not be considered to be a primary document. Thank goodness for the translations, too. I don't read Spanish well.
In February and March, 1825, Antonio Chaves petitioned the Mexican government through Santa Fe for some land in what would later be known as Socorro County. Chaves was a resident of Belen who was feeling a little bit crowded where he lived. He had a hard time pasturing his stock, so he asked for some land at the San Lorenzo Arroyo, which was just north of Amalillo, near Socorro. He believed that the land was so "uninviting, uncultivated, desolate and bleak" that the governor would have no problem granting him this land. With such a description, one wonders why he would ever want to own the land!
The land seems to have incorporated parts of both the Socorro and Sevilleta land grants. According to "Rio Abajo: Prehistory and History of a Rio Grande Province" Alamillo and Sevilleta were just north of where San Acacia is now. San Acacia is 10 miles north of Socorro. (1)
Bartolome Baca petitioned the governor for Antonio Chaves by explaining five reasons why Chaves should get the land. First, it would help increase the population of the area, which would make it harder for Indians to attack. Second, there would be enough land in the area left over for other residents to pasture, grow food and use for transit. Third, by granting Chaves the land, others would get jealous and would begin cultivating vacant lands instead of overusing the property they already owned. Fourth, since Chaves had lost much of his livelihood because of Navajo Indian attacks, he needed the land to rebuild. Fifth, his land would offer employment for the impoverished people of the community. Bartolome's arguments must have been convincing, because Chaves was granted the land.
After Chaves died, his wife and children lived on the land for a while. His widow is named in one of the documents as Mrs. Monica Pino, while he himself is described as Antonio Chaves y Aragon, also known as Antonico Chaves. His children are not named in the document. After 1850, his wife and children sold the land to three men: Ramon Luna, Rafael Luna and Anastacio Garcia. By February 1874, Ramon Luna, Anastacio Garcia, and the heirs of Rafael Luna, who had died in the interim, petitioned the government to keep their lands. The United States Surveyor-General recommended that they be granted this property in accordance to the Treaty of Guadalupe. Whether or not they were granted this land is not mentioned in this document.
Since I am doing extensive research on the Socorro area, I will be doing more digging into this land grant, as well as others. This case gives an interesting perspective into the lives of the people who lived there. The land appeared to be plentiful, but the people were impoverished. The people who owned the land had to fight to keep it after New Mexico became an American territory. Land records existed, but were often vague and it was problematic when trying to prove property rights.
If you would like to add more to this discussion or ask questions, please either post a comment to this article or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Michael P. Marshall and Henry J. Walt, Rio Abajo: Prehistory and History of a Rio Grande Province (Santa Fe: New Mexico Historic Preservation Program, 1984), 260 (map), 265, 274.