Sebastian Martin Grant

by J. J. Bowden

Sometime prior to 1703 a tract of land located northeast of the Pueblo of San Juan was granted to Joseph Garcia Jurado, Sebastian de Vargas, and. Sebastian de
Polonia. However, when they failed to occupy the grant within the time prescribed by law, Sebastian Martin and his brother, Antonio Martin, appeared before the Governor of New Mexico, Diego de Vargas, and requested him to forfeit the former concession and to grant the lands covered thereby to them. In response to this request, Vargas, in 1703, found the former grantees, in fact had abandoned the grant and were without any rights. Therefore, he re‑granted the lands to the petitioners and ordered the former owners never to lay claim to the premises. In 1705 Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdes ordered Sergeant Major Juan de Ulibarri, the Alcalde of Santa Cruz, to place the new grantees in royal possession of the grant. In compliance with the governor’s order, Lieutenant General Juan Páez Hurtado went to the grant and designated the following natural objects as boundaries to the grant:

On the north, a cross which was erected on the Canon which ran to El Embudo; on the east, the river which ran between Chimayo and the Pueblo of Picuris; on the south, the north line of the Pueblo of San Juan Grant and on the west, the table lands on the west side of the Rio Grande.

Following the completion of his survey, Ulibarri delivered possession of the premises to the grantees.[1]


Sebastian and Antonio Martin, together with three of their brothers, moved to the grant and immediately started improving and developing the property. A number of fields were opened for cultivation, an irrigation system was constructed, and a large four room house with two strong towers was built to protect its inhabitants from the hostile Indians.


Meanwhile, Sebastian Martin acquired his brother’s interest in the grant but lost the testimonio and deed evidencing his title to the grant. Therefore, in 1712, he petitioned Governor Jose Chacon Medina Salazar y Villaseñor requesting the confirmation of his title. On May 23, 1712, Chacon investigated the application and concluded that Martin should be protected since he had persistently occupied the promises since 1703, notwithstanding the imminent risk he had taken of losing his life at the hands of the Indians. The governor, therefore, confirmed the grant, declared all other instruments null and void upon which an adverse claim could possibly be established against him and directed the Secretary of the Province, Cristobal de Góngora, to assign to the grant the boundaries which had been requested and to redeliver legal possession thereof to its proprietor.[2]


In order to insure the formation of a new settlement just east of the grant, Sebastian Martin, on July 1, 1751, deeded a strip of land one thousand six hundred and forty varas wide, off the east side of the grant to the twelve colonists who had proposed the establishment of the Town of Las Trampas. The town was created fifteen days later and received from the governor a grant covering sufficient additional lands to guarantee its success.[3]


Except for the portion of the grant conveyed to the founders of the Town of Las Trampas, Sebastian Martin and his heirs claimed and possessed all of the lands from the date of the delivery of possession down to and including the year 1859. Mariano Sanchez, the sole heir of Sebastian Martin, and owner of the grant, petitioned[4] Surveyor General William Pelham for the confirmation of the grant on June 16, 1859. After he had completed his investigation of the claim, surveyor General Pelham issued a report[5] on July 25, 1859. In this report, Pelham found the grant papers which had been filed by Sanchez to be genuine and the grant to be good and perfect. He also found that the claimant and his predecessors had enjoyed uninterrupted possession of the grant “beyond the point whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.” Therefore, he recommended the confirmation of the grant to the legal representatives of Sebastian Martin, deceased, to the full extent of the boundaries set forth in the testimonio except for the portion previously donated to the Town of Las Trampas. The grant was confirmed by Act approved on June 21, 1860.[6]


The lands were surveyed in June, 1876, by Deputy Surveyors Sawyer & McBroom. The survey showed that the grant contained 51,387.20 acres. A patent for that amount of land was finally issued on February 10, 1893.[7]


[1] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 14, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 134‑135 (1860).

[2] Ibid. 135‑136.

[3] Ibid., 137

[4] The Sebastian Martin Grant, No. 28 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

[5] H. R. Exec. Doc. No. 14, 36th Cong., 1st Sess., 137 (1860).

[6] An act to confirm certain private land claims in the Territory of New Mexico, Chap. 167, 12 Stat., 71 (1860).

[7] The Sebastian Martin Grant, No. 28 (Mss., Records of the S.G.N.M.).

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