The Baca / Douglas Genealogy and Family History Blog

09 July 2010

The Socorro Land Grant and Family History

Some people joke that one never finishes his or her genealogy. There is always more information to find. Actually, I would say this is not a joke. It's reality.

In June 2009 issue of the New Mexico Genealogist, I published an article about my fourth great-grandmother Maria Guadalupe Torres. Guadalupe had been married twice - once to my ancestor Francisco Antonio Garcia and then to Pedro Antonio Baca. Through her two husbands, she had sons who were merchants and politicians who were very influential in Socorro. Recently, I discovered a number of documents about the Socorro Land Grant that shows their influence.

On 15 February 1871, Pedro A. Baca, clerk of the Socorro County probate court, and his son Severo A. Baca, deputy clerk of the same court, transcribed a petition by Manuel Trujillo to the governor of New Mexico to recognize the legitimacy of the Socorro Land Grant. Trujillo, who made the request on 30 November 1845 on behalf of the inhabitants of the grant, explained to Governor Manuel Armijo that the original document that deeded the land to the inhabitants had been lost. He wrote that the inhabitants and their ancestors had been living on the land since "1815 or 1816". Governor Armijo approved Trujillo's request, and ordered that the inhabitants were to "remain in full and pacific possession" of the property, within the limits described in the petition, "henceforth and forever". The order was to serve as the "legal, true and irrevocable title"of the grant.

When Pedro Antonio Baca transcribed this document, he wrote the following:

I, the undersigned clerk of the Probate Court of this county do certify that the foregoing document was recorded by me word for word and letter by letter in book letter "Y", pages 156, 157, and 158.

He signed the transcription, and set his official seal upon the document. Samuel Ellison translated it from Spanish, which was then subscribed and sworn before the Surveyor General James K. Proudfit on 25 February 1875. Additionally, on 4 July 1875, Dav. J. Miller, the translator for the Suveyor General's Office, compared the translated document to Pedro Baca's Spanish transcription and found it correct and adopted it as the official translation. Thus apparently began the process towards having the United States government recognize the grant as per the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

...And then much more happened, which will not be detailed here....

In August 1892, the Territory of New Mexico made the City of Socorro and Candelario Garcia trustee over the Socorro Land Grant. Candelario Garcia was Pedro Antonio Baca's stepson through Pedro's wife's first marriage. This statute appears to have come about due to a lawsuit filed in the Court of Private Land Claims, in the Territory of New Mexico. Judgement in the case of The City of Socorro and Candelario Garcia vs. The United States of America defined the grant as being one Spanish league square, centered on the Roman Catholic church of the city (San Miguel Mission.) The plaintiffs were made the trustees of the grant. The law that followed gave Candelario Garcia sole authority over the grant, with the City of Socorro receiving the trust once it was relinquished by him or he was removed as trustee. It could be assumed that at some point the city took over trusteeship of the grant due too Candelario's advancing age, death or some other reason.

In describing my relatives' role, I do not wish to lessen the importance of others in the history of the land grant. There are many other actors in this story. Much more that can be discussed - history that has already written and history that needs to be written. One day I hope to write a history of the Socorro Land Grant. Until then, above is just a glimpse of what is to come.


Town of Socorro Grant, Spanish Archives microfilm roll # 23, Surveyor General Case File 107, frames 392 - 531.

New Mexico statutes, annotated: containing the codification passed at the second session of the Legislature of the state of New Mexico. In effect June 11, 1915, Volume 1, page 336, retrieved from Google Books website, 9 July 2010,