Yellow sunset

Supreme Court Law Library

Explore Section

Land Grants

RESOURCE GUIDE – LAND GRANTS IN NEW MEXICO

United States History

In 1848, Mexico and the United States signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican-American War and ceding the land that is now New Mexico to the United States. The treaty set the new boundary between Mexico and the U.S. and proclaimed to honor the property rights of inhabitants and their heirs as they had been under both the Spanish and Mexican governments.

In 1854, the U.S. Congress established the office of the Surveyor General of New Mexico to ascertain “the origin, nature, character, and extent to all claims to lands under the laws, usages, and customs of Spain and Mexico.” These duties included making recommendations to Congress concerning the validity of land grant claims.

In 1891, the US government established the Court of Private Land Claims to adjudicate land grant claims in New Mexico and other states. Some of the decisions of the Court of Private Land Claims were appealed by the United States Supreme Court. The court was disbanded in 1904.

Getting Started

Secondary resources are an excellent place to begin if you do not know the details of which land grant you are looking for or when and where it was adjudicated. There are a number of books, research reports, theses, and articles written by legal experts that have been published for others to retrace their research.

 

Select Journal articles:

  • J. Bowden, “Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in the Southwest”, 8 Land & Water L. Rev. 467 (1973). Available through HeinOnline.
  • Alvar W. Carlson, “Spanish-American Acquisition of Cropland within the Northern Pueblo Indian Grants, New Mexico.” Ethnohistory, Volume 2, Spring 1975, pp. 95-100. Available through JSTOR at https://www.jstor.org/stable/481640
  • Iris Wilson Engstrand, “Land Grant Problems in the Southwest: The Spanish and Mexican Heritage.” New Mexico Historical Review 53, 4 (1978). Available at https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nmhr/vol53/iss4/5
  • Placido Gomez. “The History and Adjudication of the Common Lands of Spanish and Mexican Land Grants.” Natural Resources Journal, vol. 25, no. 4, 1985, pp. 1039–1080. Available at https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nrj/vol25/iss4/11
  • Phillip B. Gonzales, “Struggle for Survival: The Hispanic Land Grants of New Mexico, 1848-2001.” Agricultural History, vol. 77, no. 2, 2003, pp. 293–324. Available through JSTOR at jstor.org/stable/3744837.
  • Myra Ellen Jenkins, “Spanish Land Grants in the Tewa Area.” New Mexico Historical Review 47, 2 (1972). Available at https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nmhr/vol47/iss2/3
  • George W. Julian, “Land-Stealing in New Mexico.” The North American Review, vol. 145, no. 368, 1887, pp. 17–31. Available through JSTOR at jstor.org/stable/25101255.
  • A. Keleher, “Law of the New Mexico Land Grant.” New Mexico Historical Review 4, 4 (1929). Available at https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nmhr/vol4/iss4/4
  • Howard R. Lamar, “Land Policy in the Spanish Southwest, 1846-1891: A Study in Contrasts.” The Journal of Economic History, vol. 22, no. 4, 1962, pp. 498–515. Available through JSTOR at jstor.org/stable/2116109
  • Sandra K. Mathews-Lamb, “Designing and Mischievous Individuals: The Cruzate Grants and the Office of the Surveyor General.” New Mexico Historical Review 71, 4 (1996). Available at https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nmhr/vol71/iss4/3
  • Victor Westphall, “Fraud and Implications of Fraud in the Land Grants of New Mexico.” New Mexico Historical Review 49, 3 (1974). Available at https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nmhr/vol49/iss3/2

 

Primary Sources

Spanish and Mexican Law

Reynolds, Matthew G., Spanish and Mexican land laws : New Spain and Mexico (1895) Available for use in the Law Library only.

Spanish Archives of New Mexico Volume I (SANM I) The Spanish Archives of New Mexico were divided into two sections, the first being entirely dedicated to land grant claims. Ralph Emerson Twitchell first compiled and published a list of these documents with English translations in 1914. The Supreme Court Law Library has copies of both this and a later reprint available for use only in the Law Library.

 

New Mexico Statutes

New Mexico Statutes Annotated 1978 Chapter 49 “Land Grants” Available in print in the Law Library and online at https://laws.nmonesource.com/w/nmos/Chapter-49-NMSA-1978#!b/a1

1953 New Mexico Statutes Annotated Sections 8-1-1 through 8-10-6 Only available in print in the New Mexico Supreme Court Law Library.

1941 New Mexico Statutes Annotated Chapter 9 “Community or Spanish Land Grants”. Available in print in the Law Library.

1929 New Mexico Statutes Annotated Chapter 29 “Community Land Grants” Available in print in the Law Library.

1915 New Mexico Statutes Annotated Chapter 22 “Community Land Grants” Available online through Gale Primary Sources and in print in the Law Library.

1897 Compiled Laws of New Mexico Chapter 22 “Land Grants” Available online through Gale Primary Sources and in print in the Law Library.

1884 Compiled Laws of New Mexico Chapter 22 “Land Grants” Available online through HeinOnline, Gale Primary Sources and in print in the Law Library.

New Mexico Supreme Court Cases

Available online at www.NMOnesource.com

Federal Government Reports

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo definition and list of community land grants https://www.gao.gov/assets/240/230014.pdf Preliminary report by the U. S. General Accounting Office.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: Findings and Possible Options Regarding Longstanding Community Land Grant Claims in New Mexico GAO-04-59 U.S.T. 2 (2004-06-04) Available through HeinOnline and GAO website https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-59)

Reports of surveyor-general of New Mexico on private land claims Available through HeinOnline under U.S. Congressional Serial Set and in print for use only in the Law Library.

Reports of the Governor of New Mexico to the Secretary of the Interior from 1885-1911 Available through HeinOnline under U.S. Congressional Serial Set and in print for use only in the Law Library.

Documents from Court of Private Land Claims

Papers relating to New Mexico Land Grants Microfilm reels available for use in the Law Library.

US Supreme Court Decisions

Westlaw and Lexis are both available to search in the Supreme Court Law Library.

US Supreme Court Transcripts

Transcripts of court cases involving land grant disputes often include reproductions of evidence submitted during trial such as maps, patents, photographs, translations of the original grant, and testimonies.

The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978 Accessible in the Law Library and through Supreme Court’s Internet connection (WiFi and remote desktop).

Private Land Claims (Volumes 2-41) Select transcripts of records and briefs appealing decisions of the Court of Private Land Claims before the U. S. Supreme Court. Available for use only in the Law Library.