Courtesy of the State Records Center and Archives.
Reproducing prohibited without express permission from the State Records Center and Archives.

Atrisco Grant

Atrisco Land Grant, 1692-1977

 by Joseph V. Metzcar

The Atrisco land grant today is one of few Spanish colonial grants still relatively intact and one continuously owned by the original settlers and their heirs since the seventeenth century concession. Almost 300 years of Spanish‑mestizo entrenchment in the Atrisco‑Albuquerque area comprise the scaffolding of its history.


About the mid‑seventeenth century, Don Diego de Peñalosa, governor of the “kingdom” of New Mexico in the isolated northern reaches of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, seemingly intent on pacifying the province against marauding Indians[1]  through more extensive Spanish settlement, tried to found a villa “in the midst of the settled region” in the Atrisco area, because it was “the best site in all New Mexico.”[2] Although the plan never materialized, the Río Abajo area of Atrisco did afford the widest, most open fertile bottomlands along the Río Grande, a circumstance which had prompted several families to establish estancias and haciendas there even before Peñalosa’s tenure. One of the most influential families to do so was that of Don Pedro Durán y Chaves.[3]


The Pueblo Revolt of 1680, however, forced the hasty and fearful departure of Spaniards, mestizos, and their Indian allies, including those scattered settlers of the Río Abajo and Atrisco.[4] It took more than a decade before authorities in New Spain proper could launch the Reconquista under Don Diego de Vargas, an enterprise including many volunteers whose only substantial payment for service might be a land grant in the reconquered territory. Thus, while on the march northward along the Río Grande corridor­, near the hacienda de Mejía destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt, Don Fernando Durán y Chaves, a volunteer and native New Mexican, asked the Captain General for “a new grant” at Angostura and another at Atrisco, where his father had once lived.[5]  On October 28, 1692, De Vargas complied with the request, stipulating, however, “that his children, heirs and successors may possess them with the condition that when it shall be the will of the King our Master that this Kingdom shall be settled, the said Don Fernando de Chavez shall be one of the settlers and if he does not do this then the grant shall be void.…” [6]


Durán y Chaves served until the province was pacified and then carried out the provisions of the two grants made by De Vargas. Finally, on October 19, 1701, he asked Governor Pedro Rodríguez Cubero for formal possession of the land grants. The Atrisco investiture ceremonies were presumably conducted in 1703 by Captain Diego Montoya, Alcalde Mayor of Bernalillo, in whose jurisdiction the tracts lay. [7] Three years later, the new governor Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdés ordered the settlement and provided the backing for the founding of the Villa de Albuquerque.[8]


Atrisco settlers established three or four functional areas of grant land to provide for their needs. Atrisco proper and what became Ranchos de Atrisco contained individually owned grant lands in the valley, the former comprising the village nucleus, the latter the better bottom lands, determined by unpredictable floods and course changes of the river and the people’s adjustment to them.[9] Lands were used for irrigated cultivation of corn, beans, wheat, and alfalfa. As population grew, Atrisqueños brought a third element of the grant into use, namely, the common lands of the west mesa where the increasing number of sheep and other livestock could graze more freely. Atrisco, like other villages in New Mexico, was closely knit and largely self‑sufficient. Its economy was closely tied to the Chihuahua‑New Mexico trade. In the early eighteenth century, Chihuahua, six hundred miles to the south, had grown into an important silver‑mining and trade center.


By the 1750s, Río Abajo settlers had begun migrating westward to the village of San Fernando on the west bank of the Río Puerco where a large land grant had been made to Bernabé M. Montaño and others.[10] In the next decade, new migrants followed to found other towns along the Puerco. Settlers also moved southward along the Río Grande to the Belén Valley. Indeed, by 1760, the Río Abajo area of Albuquerque contained 270 families and 1,814 persons, mostly Spanish and “Europeanized mixtures.” [11] Over 200 people had settled in Atrisco alone.[12] The increasing numbers of Atrisqueños began squabbling over boundaries and land titles during the decade, [13] beginning the long and convoluted history of court proceedings which were to plague the land grant. Finally, the people of Atrisco began looking westward for additional acreage to bolster their developing grazing economy.


In the 1760s, therefore, Atrisco sheepherders ranged far to the west, setting up corrals and ranches much beyond the generous boundaries of the original grant of 1692. Atrisqueños also availed themselves of wood from the Bosque Grande on the Puerco, about a league and a half from San Fernando. Such movements so disturbed the people of San Fernando that they finally drove the Atrisqueños out by force. Thereupon the powerful Sanchez and Durán y Chaves families joined in petitioning the governor for redress and official expansion of Atrisco’s land holdings, the action having been brought principally through the instrumentalities of Doña Efigenia Durán y Chaves de Sánchez and José Hurtado de Mendoza, her son‑in‑law.


 On April 28, 1768, the petition was filed with Governor Pedro Fermín de Mendinueta. The Atrisqueños complained of the “very circumscribed condition” of their town and its lands, since their ranchos lay to the north of the Río del Norte (Río Grande), while Albuquerque and the Ranchos del Estero lay to the east, and the lands of Captain Antonio Baca to the south. They contended that their lands to the west were insufficient for grazing their livestock “of all kinds,” and they had thus resorted to using the lands between the Cerro Colorado and the Río Puerco for pasturage and for “its fine wood.” They also insisted that the Bosque Grande had never been settled by the San Fernandinos, because they had no need for it and had plenty of room in other directions. The Atrisqueños asserted that they, on the other hand, required the land in question and asked for the governor’s assistance in the matter, else “we shall be utterly lost, our families ruined and we rendered worthless for the service of our King and Sovereign in the constant attacks made by the enemy [Apache].” The Atrisqueños therefore contended that their occupation of the disputed land would serve as a bulwark for the defense of San Fernando itself. [14]  The petitioners then asked for formal possession of the land on the basis of effective occupation and the lack of such by the people of San Fernando.[15]


Governor Mendinueta issued the grant to the Atrisqueños and their heirs on condition that they settle the land with their livestock and “not sell or alienate the same, by any title, to any ecclesiastical persons and without injury to any third party having a better right.” The governor also commissioned the Chief Alcalde and War Captain of Albuquerque, Don Francisco Trebol Navarro, to make the investiture. Thus, on May 7, 1768, Navarro ordered the people of San Fernando to appear before him to inform them officially of the matter, a procedure carried out the next day. [16]


However, on May 9, 1768, Juan Bautista Montaño, an official of San Fernando, and other citizens of the town presented Navarro with grant documents purporting to show their ownership of the land in question. Navarro determined that the papers had been falsified and produced a witness, one Antonio Candelaria of Albuquerque, a recent resident of San Fernando, who swore to the truth of the documentary tampering. Thereupon, Navarro ordered that the governor’s mandate be carried out immediately.


Since José Hurtado de Mendoza received the honor of taking possession of the new lands in the name of Atrisco, Navarro reported how he took Mendoza by the hand, and in the name of the king and by authority of the governor, “I gave him royal and personal possession of the said tract, and led him over the land, and he plucked up grass, threw dirt, and performed other demonstrations in sign of true possession . . . .” Ironically, Navarro admonished that they should not engage in lawsuits or disputes “but live in peace and friendly union . . . . And lastly, none of these said settlers may sell or alienate his ranch, through any title, whether to his relative, friend, or neighbor, for this grant is made by His Excellency the Governor that the parties placed in possession may, with their stock, use and enjoy the same, and not for gain.” [17]


With the annexation of this grant, Atrisqueños now held lands stretching from the Río Grande on the east to the Río Puerco on the west, tens of thousands of acres of pastoral land, setting the stage for a possible large‑scale sheep industry. But it was not to be. The Navajo Indians launched such ferocious attacks against the Puerco villages and ranches that by 1774 they all had been abandoned.[18]  Even along the more heavily populated Río Grande valley, Indian attacks drew the settlers in toward the hub of the Atrisco-Albuquerque Valley. [19]  Thus, the harsh environment, primarily due to Apache‑Navajo marauding, prevented expansion of sheep raising for more than a generation. Not till the nineteenth century would a true sheep industry emerge.


The economic independence of Atrisqueños came slowly through the nineteenth century. Independence from Spain, the establishment of the Santa Fe Trail in 1821, and independence from Mexico all contributed to opening new markets, and grant rights seemed secure through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceding New Mexico to the United States in 1848. Increased livestock sales in California in the next decade followed by stimulation of the cattle industry during the Civil War also helped Atrisco ranchers to prosper. Locally, the defeat of the Navajo at Armijo Lake in 1864 helped insure the security of flocks and herds.


The real breakthrough for the livestock industry, however, and therefore for Atrisco, came with the railroad in 1880 and 1881. The cattle and sheep industries grew to unprecedented proportions. In 1880, for example, there were about 160,000 cattle in New Mexico; by the turn of the century there were almost a million head. Sheep ranchers, mostly locals, owned over two million sheep in 1880; by 1900 that number had risen to almost five million.[20] Competition for range land in the entire territory, including Atrisco, became fierce.


For example, in February 1884, numerous heirs to the grant signed a document authorizing two of their number to take appropriate action “porque hoy andan brincadores americanos queriendo tomar posesión de dicho sitio,” an area of land within grant boundaries.[21] Although the granters were successful in ousting the squatters, such incidents prompted Atrisqueños to form a commission of six heirs to carry on the land grant claims of the towns of Atrisco and Ranchos de Atrisco before the Surveyor General of the territory. Nearly 150 residents signed the document giving the commission broad powers and agreeing to pay the costs of the legal action. As a result, the commission hired Amado Chaves of San Mateo in Valencia County and Urbano Chacón of Santa Fe to present Atrisco’s claims to the new Surveyor General.[22] 


By late December 1885 in Santa Fe, testimony was being heard in the Atrisco case before George W. Julian, the surveyor general. Eventually, the Atrisco lawyers asked that the original land grant made “in or about the year 1700” and the additional grant made in 1768 be consolidated and sent to Congress for approval as one grant.[23]  A sketch map of the consolidated claims and authenticated documentation of the 1768 grant were made part of the petition. Meanwhile, Atrisco attorneys instituted a search for the original concession papers.[24] 


In January 1886, Chaves and Chacón filed a brief on behalf of the claimants acknowledging that the original grant papers had not been found. They did, however, point to the “circumstantial evidence” in the documents of 1768 which indicated the existence of the first grant. The Surveyor General agreed. Thus, on January 28, 1886, Julian, a man not noted for free‑wheeling acceptance of land grant claims,[25]  wrote his recommendation for approval. He contended that “the facts and circumstances stated are sufficient to warrant the presumption of a grant,” which he maintained would have been recognized "under the laws, usages, and customs of Spain and Mexico, and therefore. .. should be confirmed by the United States.” [26]  Atrisqueños seemed to have gained a victory assuring confirmation of their land grants.


When application was made for a survey, however, the apparent victory turned decidedly hollow. In May 1887, the Commissioner of the General Land Office of the Department of Interior wrote to Julian rejecting the survey request and the land claims altogether. As grounds for disapproval, he cited the lack of evidence establishing a claim to the original grant on the Río Grande, the insufficiency of boundary details, the lack of undisputed evidence showing continued occupation of the lands in question, the uncompleted listing of legal heirs, and generally insufficient corroboration of any claims against the United States [27] themselves back where they had started some forty years earlier.


Fortunately, there were other forces at work urging final settlement of outstanding land claims. President Benjamin Harrison, Governor Edmund G. Ross of New Mexico, various commercial interests, and ordinary settlers in the Southwest cajoled and petitioned Congress to take action. Finally, on March 3, 1891, a congressional bill proposing creation of the special Court of Private Land Claims became law.[28] Several days earlier, the territory itself passed a law providing for incorporation of community land grants.[29]  These actions started the legal‑judicial process whereby, under American law, Atrisqueños finally gained permanent possession of their ancestral lands from the Rio Grande to the Puerco.


In January 1892, Atrisqueños filed a petition, through the law firm of Warren, Fergusson and Bruner, in the District Court of Bernalillo County for incorporation of their grant. The petition described the boundaries of the land grants of 1692 and 1768 on the basis of available documentation, since no official survey had ever been made. The petition also listed the names of 225 people who claimed interest in the grants, with some ninety of the listed persons signing the document.[30] 


Tomás Sanchez, Mariano Herrera, and Manuel Antonio Jaramillo were among the leaders of the petition action and of subsequent legal moves to gain confirmation of the land grant. As a result, on March 2, 1892, these three men were appointed by the District Court to conduct an election among the claimants, as prescribed by law, to determine how many were in favor of the petition for incorporation.[31]  On April 11, 1892, Judge William D. Lee decreed that all requirements for incorporation under the Territorial Act of 1891 had been fulfilled, including proper notices in English and Spanish and approval of the petition for incorporation by more than two‑thirds of the claimants. He therefore granted the petition creating a body politic and corporate with the name of the Town of Atrisco.[32]


By early November 1892, Manuel Antonio Jaramillo, President of the Town of Atrisco Board of Trustees (or Commissioners), and José de la Luz Sánchez, Secretary and Treasurer, had filed suit in the Court of Private Land Claims against the United States of America and the City of Albuquerque. In the petition they acknowledged the lack of a survey and the loss of the original grant papers issued to Don Fernando Durán y Chaves about 1700. They contended, however, that the first tract comprised about 41,533 acres and the second about 25,958 acres. In addition, they maintained that the direct heirs of Fernando Durán y Chaves did not dispute title to the original grant by the Town of Atrisco and that the grant included a portion of Old Albuquerque. They stated that the Atrisqueños had occupied, improved, and cultivated the Durán y Chaves tract since about 1700. Finally, they told how in the 1880s their claims to the two grants had been submitted to and approved by the Surveyor General but they had remained unconfirmed because of congressional inaction.[33]


The two most crucial points at issue in the case before the Court of Private Land Claims were the validity of the Atrisco claim against Albuquerque and the more important question of available documentation for the 1692 grant, with the subsidiary but sensitive question of its interpretation. On November 14, 1892, E. W. Dobson, attorney for the City of Albuquerque, filed a brief with the court denying that any grant had been made to Durán y Chaves or to Atrisco between 1692 and 1768 and questioning the existence of Atrisco at the date of the “supposed grant.” He also rebutted the plaintiff’s assertion of continuous occupation and improvement of the first tract, acknowledging only the 1768 tract as valid and the continuous occupation of that tract by Atrisqueños. As for the lands of the first tract, Dobson maintained the Villa of Albuquerque had jurisdiction and pointed to the confirmation judgment by the Court of Private Land Claims made on April 26, 1892. Dobson later filed the decree of the court which had confirmed the Albuquerque tract and which indicated a 17,361 acre grant straddling the river, with the center at the plaza of Old Albuquerque.[34] The confirmation of the grant placed Atrisqueños in the anomalous position of having the town of Atrisco itself within the municipal grant of Albuquerque.


Matthew G. Reynolds, U.S. Attorney for the Court of Private Land Claims, took a tough stand for the government against the Town of Atrisco claims, as demanded by the adversary system of the court and his own conception of duty.[35] He especially fought Atrisco’s claims to the 1692 grant, and even when the original grant document made to Don Fernando was uncovered in records prescribed by the Kearny Code of 1846, he maintained that it indicated an individual grant, not a community grant, thus allegedly making the suit of the Town of Atrisco invalid. He contended that the family of Don Fernando never surrendered the grant, and it was therefore never reassigned to anyone else.[36]


 The pertinent documents, meanwhile, had been certified by Charles F. Easley, U.S. Surveyor General for New Mexico, and then on September 1, 1894, Associate Justice Henry C. Sluss of the Court of Private Land Claims made the crucial interpretation. Justice Sluss wrote that the government’s case for the individual nature of the grants was false. He contended that the documents showed sufficient prima facie evidence that the two tracts were community grants. The grant to Don Fernando Durán y Chaves was issued in his capacity as conqueror and founder (poblador). Don Fernando had stated protesto poblarlo which was equivalent to declaring his intention to found a settlement on the tract. Sluss further stated that the language of the grant indicated the governor understood the communal nature of the enterprise. As to the lack of records on investiture in 1703, the judge wrote: “However, we regard the evidence as sufficient to justify a finding that he was given possession in pursuance of the [Atrisco] grant.” Sluss therefore concluded that the preponderant evidence supported the view of a community land grant and one held continuously by the settlers of Atrisco and their descendants.[37]


On September 4, 1894, the Court of Private Land Claims issued its decree, signed by Chief Justice Joseph R. Reed, which found the Town of Atrisco to be “the lawful successor in title and interest of the original grantees . . . .” It considered the two tracts to be one continuous land grant consisting of 67,491 acres, based on the documents and estimates extrapolated therefrom.[38]


The Commissioner of the General Land Office in Washington, D.C., authorized official survey of the grant in May 1896. George H. Pradt conducted it in October, and a year later, the Court of Private Land Claims approved the Atrisco survey over the objections of the Assistant U.S. Attorney William H. Pope. The grant survey indicated lands consisting of 82,728.72 acres, which the court found to be “in substantial accordance with the decree of confirmation.”[39] Later motions, however, did result in some minor readjustments of the original plat due to surveys of neighboring grants.


The total cost of the Atrisco survey came to $813.59. Such costs, including those incurred in the process of clearing title with the Court of Private Land Claims, brought on a peculiar trustee arrangement in late 1898 which resulted in the Town of Atrisco losing some 2,000 acres of its common lands. This loss occurred less than a decade after confirmation of the grant by the Court of Private Land Claims and even before the Town of Atrisco received its official patent from the President of the United States.


Under provisions of the trust deed signed by the president and secretary of the land grant corporation, the Town of Atrisco transferred to a special trustee some 12,000 acres as security for the outlay of $1000 by some eight commissioners of the Town of Atrisco for costs of clearing its land titles. If the corporation did not pay the total amount on or before September 12, 1899, the trustee would then publicly auction the land to the highest bidder after proper notice had been served in an Albuquerque newspaper. Out of the proceeds, the trustee would pay costs of the sale, including $50 for his own work, amortize the debt with the interest thereon, and finally present the balance to the corporation. The commissioners, meanwhile, would be entitled “to bid and purchase at said sale, and shall not be obliged to look to the application of the purchase money.” Since the corporation had no liquid capital, it did not meet the payment deadline, and consequently 12,000 acres, encompassing nearly half of the 1786 grant, passed into the hands of private interests, mostly heirs and officials of the Atrisco grant.[40]


On May 5, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt completed the final step in the land grant confirmation process by signing the United States patent designating the lands approved by the Court of Private Land Claims and delineating the officially surveyed and approved boundaries. The patent invested the Town of Atrisco with the land and all appertaining rights “in trust for the use and benefit of the inhabitants of said original and additional grants as their respective interests may appear, and to their successors in interest and assigns forever.”[41]


The century brought a number of different, complex problems to the Atrisco land grant and its owners. First came the decline of the agricultural and grazing economy. The twentieth century brought rapid economic change and Atrisqueños had to adopt new ways of gaining benefits from their common lands. Meanwhile, a constant problem was that of preventing “inside” interests from gaining rewards and acreage for themselves without regard to the interests of all heirs. Indeed, the corporation failed seriously in several respects. First, it did not establish definitive and complete heirship listings. Second, it did not keep secured and adequate records of all land transactions. Third, it did not provide official accounting of funds. Finally, it did not maintain a record of the minutes of trustee meetings. That kind of free and easy organization fostered wheeling and dealing of acreage, monies, and influence among “inside” politicos, and often most uninformed and busy heirs, struggling to make a living, felt powerless to do anything to stop the machinations. Considering the circumstances, it seems surprising that so much of the common lands remained intact and integrated. Yet there was concern and honest leadership within and without the inner circle which helped regain integrity and beneficial communal development.


In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, nothing on the horizon seemed to indicate a radical shift of economic direction for Atrisqueños. After 1900, however, irrigated agriculture and the basic grazing economy declined drastically in the Río Abajo and in New Mexico generally. From 1900 to 1935 cattle decreased nearly 60 per cent because of depletion of range vegetation. Along the entire Rio Grande watershed of New Mexico, grazing capacity decreased almost 50 per cent. Along the Rio Puerco, depletion and low crop yields forced a second abandonment of settlements even before the turn of the century. With the close of the open range, sedentary sheep husbandry developed, accelerated by such factors as government land management and conservation, private ownership of watering places, and homesteading and fencing. In the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, irrigated acreage fell from about 125,000 in 1880 to 40,000 in 1925.[42] New opportunities for jobs in Albuquerque, which was growing at a steady rate, attracted more and more people from the countryside. The last extensive grazing of sheep on the common lands of Atrisco occurred in the depression of the 1930s, although small irrigated farms of a few acres continued to operate along the river for some time thereafter.[43] Finally, the advent of World War II accelerated the movement of people away from the land and into city industries.


In the 1920s farsighted officials of the Town of Atrisco began leasing grant land for commercial development. On March 20, 1920, David J. Metzgar, president of the Town of Atrisco Board of Trustees, signed the first lease to an outside interest for the exploration and development of any oil and gas resources on grant land.[44] In 1926, the Town of Atrisco concluded a lease with Cegelsky, Avery, and Preston of Albuquerque to mine volcanic ash. In 1929, the first airport lease was issued, out of which would emerge the Cutter‑Carr Airport and Cutter‑Carr Flying Service. Right‑of‑way easements were also secured for telephone and telegraph lines and for construction of Highway 66 in the 1930s. The latter development prompted the Atrisco Board of Trustees to quitclaim five‑acre plots along the proposed route to various heirs, who in turn sold them at minimal prices.


Such economic activity induced James M. Hubbell to file suit in October 1935 to determine all legal heirs who should share in the profits and benefits of the land grant corporation and to specify the respective share to which they were entitled. The district court responded by appointing J. G. Whitehouse as referee and special master with power to conduct heirship hearings. The Court essentially presented Whitehouse with two problems; first to determine if the list of original owners and incorporators submitted to the District Court in 1892 for purposes of incorporating the Town of Atrisco was correct, and second, to determine who the present heirs were, based on a corrected list of original incorporators and owners, many of whom had died.[45]


During the heirship proceedings, Whitehouse found that several incorporators had been listed two or three times, a circumstance facilitated somewhat by discrepancies between American and Spanish methods of determining surname. After making such initial corrections, Whitehouse compiled a long list of present heirs, including information on their respective fractional “shares.” In February 1936, he filed his report, which was subsequently approved by Judge Fred E. Wilson of the district court. Then, more heirship petitions surfaced, necessitating supplementary reports and amendments. The last such heirship petition in the Hubbell case came as late as 1952.[46]


Meanwhile, in June 1940, Antonio J. Carabajal and other heirs filed suit in district court against the Board of Trustees of the Town of Atrisco, charging mismanagement and violation of state law in the sale of grant lands. They demanded an accounting of all funds and removal of any trustees involved in illegal actions. Eventually, Judge George W. Hay held for the plaintiffs, ordering funds of the corporation impounded by the clerk of the court and prohibiting the trustees from any further financial dealings until a new board had been elected. He also stated that further judicial orders might be issued after the new board took office in January 1941. Meanwhile, a day before Judge Hay’s decision was made, the president and secretary‑treasurer of the incumbent board of trustees resigned their positions.[47]


In September 1941, District Judge Irwin S. Moise issued additional instructions in the Carabajal case. He informed the new board headed by David J. Armijo as president and Jake Armijo as secretary that the court would retain general supervisory jurisdiction over the dealings of the Town of Atrisco and would thereafter require that president of the board to post a surety bond of $1000 to assure proper fulfillment of his duties. The judge also outlined certain maintenance of “a proper set of books,” a complete recording of the minutes of all board meetings, and annual procurement and filing of an audit by a certified public accountant. Gilberto Espinosa, attorney and historian, was designated by the court to pursue the matter of illegal disbursements of misappropriations which originally elicited the Carabajal suit. Finally, the judge ordered that thereafter no common lands of the Town of Atrisco could be sold or alienated without prior approval of the court.[48]


The court kept the Carabajal case on the docket in order to accomodate any other petitions concerning actions of the Town of Atrisco officials. As a result, motions were filed in future years under the Carabajal rubric. In 1952, for example, the majority members of the Board of Trustees asked the court’s approval for the sale of 4,500 acres of Atrisco’s common lands to a Spanish-surnamed individual. The trustees set the sale price at $20,000. However, the minority board members also petitioned the court for disapproval of such sale and removal from office of those board members authorizing it. At a pretrial hearing of the adversaries with their attorneys before Judge R. F. Deacon Arledge, three real estate appraisers reported the grant land in question to be worth $236,500. Therefore, the judge disapproved the sale in open court and permanently enjoined the board from making it. He ruled the purchase price inadequate, indicating the sale would deplete the assets of the corporation and deprive the Atrisco heirs of “just compensation.” The judge then went on to reiterate the rules set by the court in supervising Town of Atrisco transactions.[49]


Among the most interesting and important cases involving Atrisco matters were those concerning land taxes. In 1946, a case was filed in district court which reached back to the 1920s and finally came to conclusive decision by judgment of the New Mexico Supreme Court in 1952. The pivotal case was the State of New Mexico, Ex. Rel., State Tax Commission of the State of New Mexico v. John A. Flaska. The preliminary action really began in December 1945, when the Bernalillo County Tax Assessor John A. Flaska wrote the attorney for the State Tax Commission refusing to assess the lands of the Town of Atrisco, since he felt he would be in contempt of court based on a permanent injunction issued on December 17, 1920, in the case of Board of Trustees of the Town of Atrisco v. Stephen E. Roehl. In January 1946, Flaska again wrote the attorney for the State Tax Commission restating his position on the matter and indicating the possibility of contempt of court proceedings if he did otherwise.[50]


Flaska’s refusal to place Atrisco on the tax rolls led to an action in district court by the State Tax Commission asking for a writ of mandamus to force the assessor “to perform said duty.” The petition outlined the legal reasons for the action and charged discrimination against those taxpayers in the county who were assessed and compelled to pay taxes on property similar to that of the Town of Atrisco. In addition, the petition pointed to “many thousands of dollars” being lost to the county and state in tax revenue. District Judge Charles H. Fowler agreed with the representations of the tax commission and therefore issued an alternative writ of mandamus ordering Flaska to assess the Atrisco grant or show cause why he had not done so.[51]


On March 23, 1946, Flaska answered the court with a reference to the 1920 case again and stated that he was simply adhering to the judge’s injunction in that case. Thereupon, Judge Fowler ordered the writ of mandamus be made peremptory and called for the assessor to place Town of Atrisco lands on the tax rolls “for the year 1946 and subsequent years.”[52] Although this court action seemed to close the Atrisco tax matter, it did not, since the Town of Atrisco reinstituted proceedings several years later.


On March 2, 1950, the Town of Atrisco filed suit in Bernalillo County District Court against Edna Monahan and Daniel O’Bannon, the county’s treasurer and assessor respectively. Atrisco lawyers cited the Roehl case of 1920 as being res judicata and therefore contended that the Flaska decision of 1946 was void and “without force or effect” on the Town of Atrisco. They thus asked that the county treasurer and assessor be permanently enjoined from assessing and collecting taxes from the Town of Atrisco and that $560.06 collected by Edna Monahan for the first half of the 1946 tax assessment be returned to the plaintiff. District Judge Edwin L. Swope complied with the request to the extent that he ordered Monahan and O’Bannon to appear before the court to show cause for their actions. Meanwhile, the State Tax Commission intervened in the case supporting county officials against the Town of Atrisco. Then, in November 1950, judge Swope made his decision in favor of the defendants and against the Town of Atrisco but did allow appeal to the supreme court.[53]


On January 16, 1952, the New Mexico Supreme Court made its decision in the case of the Town of Atrisco v. Monahan, et al. The court went through a long narration of the history of Atrisco’s tax exemption based on the Roehl case of 1920. It also cited the district court decision of 1950 and upheld Judge Swope’s arguments and judgment against the original ruling of Judge M. E. Hickey in the 1920 Roehl case. The basic question was whether Judge Hickey could permanently restrain and enjoin future tax assessors from taxing Atrisco’s common lands and whether the Town of Atrisco could claim res judicata as a result. The Supreme Court answered both questions in the negative, because Judge Hickey’s decision, which the supreme court parenthetically qualified with the statement “if it can be dignified as such,” never included “any finding of fact” or any authoritative argument for his ruling. The court cited articles in the New Mexico Constitution relating to tax status, indicating no basis for Atrisco’s exemption. Furthermore, it pointed to State Supreme Court decisions in Board of Trustees v. Sedillo, 28 N.M. 53. and State V. Board of Trustees, 28 N.M. 237, made in 1922 that specifically held community land grants to be subject to taxation. Therefore, the court held Atrisco’s res judicata defense of its tax exemption status based on the Roehl decision, which was obsolete and erroneous, to be no defense at all and the cause for onerous inequities among other taxpayers “of the same class.”[54] This decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court in 1952 settled once and for all the question of the Atrisco grant’s tax status and stimulated a more determined search by Atrisqueños for more monetarily advantageous policies in using their common lands.


Albuquerque’s economic boom triggered by the development of the atomic bomb in 1945 gained increasing momentum in the later 1940s and the succeeding decade. Large numbers of migrants established homes in the Albuquerque area causing land development at a phenomenal rate on the east mesa. Heirs of the Atrisco grant, west of the city, became more and more anxious to capitalize on the burgeoning economic opportunity, especially as it affected land development. As a result, several actions were taken in the 1950s which were designed to benefit Atrisqueños.


For example, Alfredo Armijo and other heirs brought suit in district court against the Town of Atrisco to determine whether they owned grant lands in fee simple as tenants in common or if the corporation held the lands in trust for them. If the latter interpretation were correct, the petitioners believed the lands should now be divided among the heirs. Judge Edwin L. Swope, however, ruled that the tracts had always been community grants as indicated in the historical documentation, that the Court of Private Land Claims and 1905 patent vested the lands in the Town of Atrisco, and that when the federal government used the words “in trust,” it had not proposed establishing “a trust as that term is ordinarily used but it was intended that the title to the land would vest in the Town, which was and is a quasi municipal corporation, and that the land would be administered by the Town for the benefit of its residents and as a part of its governmental machinery . . . .” The case went to the New Mexico Supreme Court on appeal, and on December 14, 1951, the court quoted the lower court’s reasoning, with which it concurred, and then added:


“The plaintiffs and those for whom they act have taken part in the election of the corporate directors or trustees for more than fifty years; the corporation has from time to time parted with title to more than forty thousand acres of the grant . . . . Intolerable mischief would follow a holding at this late date that the defendant corporation held title only as a trustee for the plaintiffs and those for whom they act.”[55]


The supreme court thus affirmed the decision of judge Swope and understandably prevented individual development of grant lands.


The search continued for some kind of mechanism to allow commercial development assuring equitable benefits to the heirs. In March 1953, John N. Brunacini, the attorney representing the Town of Atrisco, came before Judge Arledge asking authorization for the corporation to distribute about 10,000 acres of grant land to certain heirs. Brunacini declared that allotments had been made by previous boards of trustees to some heirs, causing an inequitable situation for those who had never been so favored. Therefore, the corporation proposed to allot ten‑acre plots to those who only had received five acres previously. Others who had obtained ten acres or more would be excluded from the distribution plan. In order to preclude favoritism in assigning choice land, the allotment would be made by lottery from the names of all eligible heirs, determined from lists established in the Hubbell case of 1935. Brunacini testified that proper notices had been sent to the people and to the lawyers of certain heirs and that about 2,000 persons had applied under the plan. There would be a $10 per acre charge on all allotments in order to pay costs of surveying and quieting titles. Brunacini then told the judge that “this is their land and unless cultivated, improved, and enjoyed, it is of no good‑no more than a pile of mountain or a pile or rocks."[56]


On March 30, 1953, Judge Arledge granted the petition of the Town of Atrisco and appointed Dale B. Walker, an attorney, to act as special master in working out details of the lottery and to report to the court periodically on the distribution. On August 3, 1953, Judge Arledge gave further instructions, focusing on details Of the lottery and the question of additional heirship cases. The distribution process therefore began.


On April 22, 1954, however, Jake Armijo and other heirs asked the District Court to vacate the court order approving the land distribution. When Judge Robert W. Reidy dismissed the suit in February 1956, the petitioners made an appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court. They also secured “a stay of proceedings” regarding the land distribution.


On May 29, 1957, the Supreme Court issued its decision reversing the judgments of the lower court. Justice Sadler, writing the court’s opinion, made three basic points; first, that the means used to distribute grant lands violated state law prohibiting lotteries, second, that the distribution amounted to dissipation of the assets of the corporation, also in violation of state law, and third, that the distribution plan “discloses a pronounced absence of primary and elemental concepts of due process and equal protection of the laws” under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Sadler expanded on the final point, stating that many heirs had not been brought before the court to be heard, mostly because of pending heirship cases and the dispersion of heirs throughout the Western states. He also drew attention to the inequitable winnings involved in the lottery:


As pointed out by appellants’ counsel, the lucky participant in the drawing, or lottery, for an outlay of $50 to $100, as the case might be, may draw a tract worth $1,000, whereas the unlucky participant, finding his tract largely occupied by an arroyo, or the victim of ruinous erosion, might secure land having a value not to exceed the amount of his deposit.


Sadler acknowledged that the problem of benefits to heirs presented “a tangled skein of legal imponderables well calculated to tax the wisdom and ingenuity of a Solomon for solution.” He believed, however, in the maxim of equity, that there is no right without a remedy, and he thought perhaps an appeal for legislative action was the answer.[57]  Unfortunately for the immediate heirs, such action was not taken for another decade.


Meanwhile, the corporation itself tried to take advantage of Albuquerque’s expansion. For example, in 1959, Hoffman Homes, Inc., bought about 4,000 acres of land at $312.50 per acre.[58] The District Court approved the sale, and as a result some of those thousands of migrants to Albuquerque found haven on the Atrisco Land Grant in the first extensive housing development on the west mesa. Most heirs, however, gained no direct benefit from the transaction.


The early 1960s witnessed a gradual decline of the economic expansion and prosperity of the Albuquerque area. At the same time, various interests, including Atrisqueños, were at work attempting to pass legislation allowing a more modem and beneficial organization of land grant corporations. Their efforts succeeded in 1967 with the passage of a state law permitting corporations established under the 1891 act to organize anew under the general corporation law of New Mexico. The 1967 law allowed a change in legal status of a community land grant corporation to that of a domestic stock corporation, an action which would bring more rational development of land assets with eventual benefits to heirs by means of stock dividends. It would also provide flexibility in business transactions with non‑Atrisco commercial interests.[59]


Subsequently in July 1967, acting under authority and in accordance with the new law, the appropriate number of owners and heirs of the land grant organized the Westland Development Company and submitted the articles of incorporation, with bylaws, to a mass meeting of the heirs. The voting on the proposal went in favor of the new company by 583 to 528. However, the Board of Trustees of the Town of Atrisco refused to transfer title to grant lands or hand over books and records. Accordingly, the Westland Company asked for and received a writ of mandamus from the district court to acquire pertinent papers, an action which led to an appeal by the trustees.


On September 22, 1969, the Supreme Court of New Mexico made its decision in the case. The Court directed its opinions to the three basic arguments used by the trustees and found little substance in them. First, the trustees charged that the 1967 law violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and Article II, Section 18, of the New Mexico Constitution, since the legislature was allegedly divesting the Town of Atrisco of its rights without due process of law. The court responded by referring to the police power of a state enabling it to regulate corporations, including the power to amend or alter corporate charters. The court then cited as precedent one of the most famous cases in American Constitutional history, namely, the case of Dartmouth College v. Woodward of 1819. Second, the trustees claimed that due process was violated because Westland failed to require personal service or mailing of written notice of the meeting and failed to make arrangements for absentee voting. The court responded by stating there was no inherent right of a stockholder to vote by proxy and that reasonable notice and fair opportunity were provided for the heirs to attend the meeting considering new incorporation. Finally, the claimants argued that due process was denied because the legal procedure for divesting a right was not followed, especially since sale of common property required approval by two‑thirds of the owners. The court responded by saying that “no determination of rights of beneficial interest in the Grant is made here, nor is there any deprivation of a property right.” The issuance of stock did not diminish the equity of the heirs; in fact, the trustees could already “diminish equity” by selling and mortgaging grant land with majority approval of the heirs at a mass meeting. The court considered the new corporate structure and procedures far more likely to provide beneficial results for the heirs. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court.[60] 


In October 1969, District Judge Edwin L. Swope declared his previous orders and judgments final and conclusive. He declared the Westland Development Company to be the owner of the Atrisco land grant in fee simple and ordered the Board of Trustees of the Town of Atrisco to transfer all grant real estate to the new company, with all books, documents, and records relating to the land grant. On November 15, 1969, the trustees executed a quitclaim deed transferring grant land to the Westland Development Company. [61]


After 1969, the Westland Company became involved in clearing title to portions of the land grant and in establishing genealogies to identify all heirs.[62]  Ramón S. Herrera, president of the board of directors, was particularly responsible for establishing a coalition of the various factions to create an effective business enterprise. By the mid‑ 1970s a business park, a flood control project, a housing development, and other activities testified to the beginning of a new era for all the established heirs of the old seventeenth‑century land grant.[63] 


[1] See Frank D. Reeve, “Seventeenth Century Navaho‑Spanish Relations,” New Mexico Historical Review, 32 (January 1957): 36‑52; Jack D. Forbes, Apache, Navaho and Spaniard (Norman, Oklahoma, 1960), especially 156‑161; Edward H. Spicer, Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533‑1960 (Tucson, Arizona, 1962), pp. 546‑47; and Marc Simmons, The Little Lion of the Southwest: A Life of Manuel Antonio Chaves (Chicago, 1973), pp. 34‑35­.


[2] Charles W. Hackett, ed., Historical Documents Relating to New Mexico, Nueva Vizcaya, and Approaches Thereto, to 1773, 3 vols. (Wash­ington, D.C., 1937), 3:265.


More than a hundred years after Peñalosa’s tenure as governor of New Mexico, Fray Francisco Domínguez identified Atrisco by the Nahuati name of Atlixco. See Eleanor B. Adams and Fray Angelico Chavez, eds., The Missions of New Mexico, 1776: A Description by Fray Francisco Atanasio Domínguez with Other Contemporary Documents (Albuquerque, 1956), p. 154. Since that publication by Adams and Chavez, historians of New Mexico have almost invariably repeated the Mexican Indian derivation of the name Atrisco; Espinosa, Greenleaf, and Simmons, for example, have referred to it. See also “Information given by Juan Candelaria of Albuquerque (1776),” New Mexico Historical Review, 4 (July 1929), 274‑97; and T. M. Pearce, ed., New Mexico Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary, (Albuquerque, 1965), pp. 11-12. Why the Peñalosa report, however, should have used Atrisco, instead of Atlixco, at such an early stage of development of the valley (1665) remains a mystery. Some present‑day Atrisqueños insist the name is of Portuguese derivation, related to the Durán y Chaves place of origin in Extremadura.


[3] See “Petition to Don Diego de Vargas,” Docket no. 45, Court of Private Land Claims (CPLC), in “Microfilm Relating to New Mexico Land Grants,” Reel 3, Coronado Room, the University of New Mexico.


[4] Charles W. Hackett, Revolt of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and Otermin’s Attempted Reconquest, 1680-1682, 2 vols. (Albuquerque, 1942), 2:258­.


[5] Fray Angelico Chavez, Origins of New Mexico Families in the Spanish Colonial Period (Albuquerque, 1973), pp. 19‑21­.


[6] Grant by Don Diego de Vargas, Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 3.


[7] There is evidence that Diego Montoya invested Don Fernando with the tract at Angostura, but none authenticating the Atrisco investiture. However, see “Information given by Juan Candelaria of Albuquerque (1776),” pp. 278‑79.


[8] Richard E. Greenleaf, “The Founding of Albuquerque, 1706: A Historical‑Legal Problem,” New Mexico Historical Review, 39 (January 1964): 6‑7.


[9] Adams and Chavez, The Missions of New Mexico, pp. 154, 207.


[10] Jerold G. Widdison, “Historical Geography of the Middle Rio Puerco Valley, New Mexico,” (M.A. thesis, University of Colorado, 1958), pp. 51‑56.


[11] Eleanor B. Adams, ed., Bishop Tamarón’s Visitation of New Mexico, 1760 (Albuquerque, 1954), p. 43­.


[12] Richard E. Greenleaf, “Atrisco and Las Ciruelas, 1722‑1769,” New Mexico Historical Review, 42 (January 1967): pp. 22‑23.


[13] Greenleaf, “Atrisco and Ciruelas,” pp.  4‑25.


[14] Alfred B. Thomas, The Plains Indians and New Mexico, 1751-1778 (Albuquerque, ‘940), pp. 142‑43­.


[15] “Petition to Governor Mendinueta,” Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 26.


[16] “Decree of Concession by Governor Mendinueta and Citations to Inhabitants of the Town of San Fernando,” Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 26.


[17]  “Report of Don Francisco Trebol Navarro,” Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 26.


[18] Widdison, “Historical Geography of the Middle Río Puerco Valley,” pp. 56‑58.


[19] See Letter of Pedro Fermín de Mendinueta to Don Antonio Bu­careli, Santa Fe, September 30, 1774, in Thomas, The Plains Indians and New Mexico, pp. 44,172‑73­.


[20] Sanford A. Mosk, “The Influence of Tradition in Agriculture in New Mexico,” Journal of Economic History, 2, Supplement (December 1942): 45.


[21] “Authorization to Oust Squatters, Ranchos de Atrisco, February 22, 1884,” files of Westland Development Company, Inc., Albuquerque. See also the testimony of José de la Luz Sánchez, Transcript of Trial, Town of Atrisco v. The United States of America and the City of Albuquerque, August 17, 1894, Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 37­.


[22] “Commission to Obtain Confirmation of the Atrisco Grant, December 14, 1885,” in the files of Westland Development Company, Inc., Albuquerque (Bernalillo County Abstract and Title Company).


[23] The first petition for approval of any Atrisco lands had been submitted in 1881 to Henry M. Atkinson, then the U.S. Surveyor General for the Territory of New Mexico. Atkinson, however, never took action on the matter. See Letter to Hon. Henry M. Atkinson, March 19, 1881, Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 26.


[24] “Supplemental Petition,” Letter to Hon. George W. Julian, December 31, 1885, docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 26.


[25] See George W. Julian, “Land‑Stealing in New Mexico,” North American Review, 145 (July 1887): 17‑31.


[26] “Brief on behalf of Atrisco Claimants, January 11, ,886,” and “Opinion of George W. Julian, U.S. Surveyor General for the Territory of New Mexico,” January 28, 1886, Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 26.


[27] Letter from Department of Interior to George W. Julian, Surveyor General, May 24, 1887, Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 26.


[28] For the best source on the special court, see Richard Wells Brad­fute, The Court of Private Land Claims: The Adjudication of Spanish and Mexican Land Grant Titles, 1891‑1904 (Albuquerque, 1975)­.


[29] “An Act Relating to Community Land Grants, and for Other Purposes,” February 26, 1891, ch. 86, 29th Legislative Assembly, Territory of New Mexico. Also see “An Act Relating to Corporations Organized Under Chapter 86 of the Laws of 1891, or Chapter 54 of the Laws of 1897, for the Management and Control of Community Land Grants,” February 16, 1917, Ch., Third State Legislature.


[30] Half of the signatories wrote out their names, with the other half making X marks. See Petition for Incorporation of the Atrisco Grant, January 15, 1892, in files of the Westland Development Company, Inc.


[31] Order of Appointment by District Court,” March 2, 1892, files of Westland Development Co., Inc.


[32] “Decree Approving Incorporation by District Court,” April 11, 1892, files of Westland Development Co., Inc.


[33] Atrisco Petition submitted by Warren, Fergusson, and Bruner, November 1892, Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 37­.


[34] Briefs filed by E. W. Dobson for the City of Albuquerque, November 14 and 18, 1892, Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 37. See also Report of Matthew G. Reynolds, U.S. Attorney for the Court of Private Land Claims, October 18, 1892, in Annual Report of the Attorney General, 1892, p.7.


[35] Annual Report of the Attorney General, 1894, pp. 3‑5­.


[36] “Supplemental Answer of the U.S. Attorney,” Matthew G. Reynolds, August 1894, 111 Docket no. 45,CPLC, Reel 37­.


[37] “Opinion of Associate Justice Henry C. Sluss,” September 1, 1894, Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 37­.


[38] “Decree of the Court of Private Land Claims,” September 4, 1894, Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 26.


[39] See Telegram to U.S. Surveyor General, Santa Fe, from S. W. Lamoreux, Commissioner of General Land Office, Washington, D.C., May 22, 1896; “Notice of Survey by U.S. Surveyor General’s Office, Santa Fe,” February 27, 1897; and “Order Approving Survey,” Court of Private Land Claims, October 12, 1897, in Docket no. 45, CPLC, Reel 26.


[40] “Trust Deed of the Town of Atrisco,” December 3, 1898, in files of the Westland Development Co., Inc.

[41] “Patent issued by the United States of America to the Town of Atrisco,” May 5, 1905, in files of the Westland Development Co., Inc.


[42] Widdison, “Historical Geography of the Middle Río Puerco Valley,” Pp. 65, 82, 95‑97; Carlson, “New Mexico’s Sheep Industry, 1850-1900, Its Role in the History of the Territory,” New Mexico Historical Review, 44 (January 1969): 28‑29, 37‑39. Mosk, “The Influence of Tradition on Agriculture in New Mexico,” pp. 50‑51.


[43] Interview with Alberto Candelaria, Vice President and Director of Operations, Westland Development Co., Inc., Albuquerque, October 14, 1976. The author’s deceased father, David Metzgar, Jr., born in 1898, was among the last Atrisqueños to work as a shepherd out on the open range of Atrisco’s common lands.


[44] David J. Metzgar, the author’s grandfather, was the son of William H. H. Metzgar of Pennsylvania and Luz Barela of Albuquerque. He married Lucia Sanchez who was a direct heir to the grant through her parents, Tomás Sánchez and Gabrielita Sánchez. David J. Metzgar, however, was not an heir in his own right.


[45] See case of James M. Hubbell v. Town of Atrisco, October 2, 1935, files of Westland Development Co., Inc.


[46] Original Report of J. G. Whitehouse, February 7, 1936, and Supplemental Reports to District Court, files of Westland Development Co., Inc., Albuquerque. In the case of Jake Armijo, et al., v. Town of Atrisco, 62 N.M. 440 (1957) quoted proceedings from the District Court indicated the Hubbell list of heirs had been stolen or lost many times.


[47] Antonio Jose Carabajal, et al., v. Magdeleno Candelaria, et al., New Mexico District Court, County of Bernalillo, Case No. 27432, files of Westland Development Co., Inc., Albuquerque. See also “Court Im­pounds Atrisco’s Funds,” Albuquerque Journal, November 1, 1940, p. 5­


[48] Carabajal v. Candelaria, September 17, 1941, files of Westland Development Co., Inc., also interview with Gilberto Espinosa, October 1, 1976, Albuquerque.


[49] Carabajal v. Candelaria, April 11, 1952, in files of Westland Development Co., Inc., Albuquerque.


[50] Letter to Mr. Harry L. Bigbee, Special Tax Attorney, New Mexico State Tax Commission, Santa Fe, from John A. Flaska, County Assessor, Bernalillo County, December 1, 1945; and Letter to Mr. E. P. Ripley, Attorney, State Tax Commission, Santa Fe, from John A. Flaska, January 10, 1946, Microfilm Records of Bernalillo County District Court, Albuquerque.


[51] “Petition for Writ of Mandamus,” New Mexico State Tax Commission, Bernalillo County District Court, February 1946; and “Alternative Write of Mandamus,” issued by District Judge Charles H. Fowler, February 28, 1946, Microfilm Records of Bernalillo County District Court, Albuquerque.


[52] District Court Order by Judge Charles H. Fowler, March 29, 1946, Microfilm Records of District Court, Albuquerque.


[53] Town of Atrisco v. Monahan, et al., March 2, 1950, Case No. 43786, files of Westland Development Co., Inc.


[54] Town of Atrisco v. Monahan, County Treasurer of Bernalillo County, et al., 56 N.M. 70 (1952).


[55] Armijo et al. v. Town of Atrisco, 56 N.M. 2 (1950­).


[56] Jake Armijo et al. v. Town of Atrisco, 62 N.M.


[57] Jake Armijo et al. v. Town of Atrisco, 62 N.M. 440


[58] Agreement between Hoffman Homes, Inc., and the Board of Trustees of the Atrisco Land Grant approved by District Judge Robert W. Reidy, May 12, 1959, files of Westland Development Co., Inc.


[59] See “An Act Providing for Conversion of Corporations Organized under Laws 1891, Chapter 86, into Corporations Organized under General Corporation Laws,” New Mexico Statutes, 1967, ch. 43.


[60] Westland Development Co., Inc. v. Ambrosio Saavedra et al., 80 N.M. 615 (1969).


[61] “Judgment on Supreme Court Mandate in The Town of Atrisco. The United Heirs, Ramon S. Herrerci et al.,” Case No. 79652, Bernalillo County District Court, October 24, 1969; and “Quitclaim Deed of the Board of Trustees of the Town of Atrisco to the Westland Development Co., inc.,” recorded in Bernalillo County District Court, November 18, 1969.


[62] For example, just before the conversion of the land grant company to a domestic stock company, the Town of Atrisco Board of Trustees issued an unspecific number of quitclaim deeds, intending to distribute a divided 1/1832 interest in and to the common lands of the grant to various heirs in violation of District Court orders under the Carabajal case. Eventually, the new company went to court to void all the quitclaim deeds in the case of Westland Development Co., Inc. v. Tomasita Abeyta, et al., Case No. 4‑76‑0 in Bernalillo County District Court. The lawsuit was successfully completed and the deeds cancelled in July 1976.


[63] The Westland Development Company consists of 3,737 heirs or stockholders and controls approximately 48,000 acres of grant land.


Related Materials:

Translation of Original Grant Documents

Translation of Archival Grant Documents

Original Grant Documents

Atrisco Grant-Court Documents

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