UNITED STATES V. SANDOVAL, 167 U. S. 278 (1897)

Subscribe to Cases that cite 167 U. S. 278

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Sandoval, 167 U.S. 278 (1897)

United States v. Sandoval

Nos. 205, 599

Argued March 9-10, 1897

Decided May 24, 1897

167 U.S. 278


Under the laws of the Indies, lands not actually allotted to settlers remained the property of the king, to be disposed of by him or by those on whom he might confer that power, and as at the date of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, neither the municipalities nor the settlers within them, whose rights are the subject of controversy in these suits, could have demanded the legal title of the former government, the Court of Private Land Claims was not empowered to pass the title to either, but it is for the political department of the government to deal with any equitable rights which may be involved.

United States v. Santa Fe, 165 U. S. 175, involved the same considerations in its disposition as those presented on this record, and its reasoning and conclusions are to be taken as decisive here.

Page 167 U. S. 279

This was a petition filed by Julian Sandoval and others in the Court of Private Land Claims for the confirmation under the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 854, c. 539, of what was known as the "San Miguel del Bado Grant," in the Territory of New Mexico, containing 315,300 acres. It was alleged that the grant was made November 25, 1794, by Governor Chacon to Lorenzo Marquez for himself, and in the name of fifty-one men accompanying him, and copies of the original application, of the decree of the governor thereon, of the report, November 26, 1794, of the alcalde Ortiz, and of the report of the alcalde Pino in 1803, hereinafter set forth, were attached to the petition as exhibits.

Petitioners averred that Ortiz gave juridical possession of the grant to Marquez and his associates, and that they soon after

"formed a settlement thereon as required by the terms and conditions of the said grant known as the 'Town of San Miguel del Bado,' on the present site of the Town of that name, within the limits of the said grant, the said settlement being formed, as your petitioners are informed and believe, as a villa, with a corporation council, mayor, aldermen, attorney, and secretary, and that the said settlement of San Miguel del Bado continued as a municipal corporation up to the time the Territory of New Mexico was ceded to the United States, the said Town of San Miguel del Bado embracing within its jurisdiction all of the land within the exterior boundaries of the said grant heretofore described, and the said grant, being, as your petitioners are informed and believe, given to the said settlement of San Miguel del Bado upon the condition that the said settlement should be formed, and that the said tract should be in common not only to the petitioners, but to all other settlers who might join them in the future."

That the grant has since been occupied by the original settlers, their descendants and assigns and others who have become part of that settlement, or moved upon the grant and formed other settlements within its exterior boundaries, or built isolated residences and settled thereon, and

"has always been recognized as being a concession made to the town or settlement of San Miguel del Bado and all other settlers who

Page 167 U. S. 280

might join them in the future, and from thence hitherto as being the property of all the settlers within the exterior boundaries of the said grant, to be held and used by them in common except as to such parts and portions as from time to time have been set apart in severalty to individual settlers thereon."

"That there is now no municipal corporation existing within the limits of the said grant of San Miguel del Bado, but all of the settlers upon the said grant, whether residing within the Town of San Miguel del Bado, or in other towns upon the said grant, or in isolated places thereon, as a community, have succeeded to all of the lands of the said grant which have not, by prescription and by assignment of alcaldes under the original concession, and subsequent alcaldes, become the property of private individuals and held in severalty, and that the said community, embracing all of said settlers, have managed and controlled the lands of said grant by and through committees appointed in popular assemblies held for that purpose, since their said municipal corporation, under the laws of Spain and Mexico, was abandoned. That the said individuals herein named as petitioners are the present duly authorized committee of the settlers on the said grant, and make this petition for and in behalf of themselves and all other settlers within the exterior boundaries of the said grant."

Certain proceedings were set forth as having been had on March 18, 1857, before the surveyor general of the Territory of New Mexico on a petition

"made for and in the name of the inhabitants of the settlements of La Cuesta, San Miguel, Las Mulas, El Pueblo, Puerticita, San Jose, El Gusano, and Bernal, the said settlements existing at the date thereof within the limits of the said grant, and the inhabitants thereof comprising at that time all of the settlers upon the said grant; the said petition reciting that the inhabitants of said settlements claimed said grant as being the legal heirs and successors of Lorenzo Marquez and fifty-one other persons, and that they had been up to that date in continual possession of the said grant;"

also, a report made to Congress on November 13, 1879, and a survey made of the tract July 26, 1880, it

Page 167 U. S. 281

being stated that "no action has ever been taken by Congress in reference to the said San Miguel del Bado grant either looking to its confirmation or rejection."

The prayer of the petition was as follows:

"Your petitioners therefore claim the said San Miguel del Bado grant, as bounded, surveyed, and described as hereinbefore set forth, and pray that the validity of their claim may be inquired into and decided by this Court, and that the said grant may be confirmed to your petitioners and all of the present settlers and residents upon the said grant, as being made to the Town of San Miguel Del Bado for the use and benefit of all of said settlers, and for the benefit of the owners in severalty of the lots and parcels of land within its limits."

The United States answered that the petition of Lorenzo Marquez of November, 1794, was not for, nor intended to be for, the exclusive use, benefit, and behoof of said Lorenzo Marquez, or anyone else; that, if Ortiz put Marquez and his co-petitioners in possession of the property, it was not intended that said

"Marquez and his co-petitioners should have the exclusive possession of the whole of the property described in the boundaries set forth in his alleged petition, but that the same was for the use and benefit of said Marquez, his co-petitioners, and any and all citizens without lands who might thereafter settle upon the same, and further that the entrances and exits, waters and pastures, and the use of the land unappropriated by individuals in severalty, should be common."

The answer further averred that the alcalde Pino was directed by Governor Chacon in March, 1803, to ascertain whether the terms of the grant had been complied with, and that he reported March 12 that he

"found fifty-eight heads of families occupying the same; that in obedience to his said instructions he caused an amicable partition among them to be made, and assigned to each one the land he was so occupying and cultivating; that, upon the return of said report, the same was approved and confirmed by said Governor Chacon on the 30th day of March, 1803, to the residents

Page 167 U. S. 282

of the new Town of El Bado, known as 'San Miguel;' that thereafter, up to the occupation of this country by the American troops in 1846, under the terms and conditions of said grant, various parties have moved upon the same, have occupied and cultivated it, and are holding and occupying, were and have been recognized ever since, until now, there are a large number of settlements under said grant, consisting of several thousand people, and upon which several towns have grown up under the form and construction given to the grant by Governor Chacon in 1803, and under the terms of the conditions of the pretended possession designated by the alcalde Ortiz in 1794, which in point of fact was never executed as alleged and claimed, but was given by Pino in 1803."

"That the names of the settlements are 'La Cuesta,' 'San Miguel,' 'Las Mulas,' 'El Pueblo,' 'Puerticita,' 'San Jose,' 'El Gusano,' and 'Bernal.' The defendant is informed, and charges the fact to be, that all of these settlements and possessors were recognized by the Spanish government, and were continued without interruption or challenge by the Mexican government, and were in existence at the time the sovereignty of the United States was extended over it under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and that no title ever passed, or was intended to pass, either legal or equitable, against the Spanish or Mexican governments except as to that portion which might be occupied and settled by said Marquez and his fifty-one co-petitioners and those who might thereafter come in and settle and occupy the same, and that said claim is not entitled to confirmation for any more than was actually appropriated, occupied, and cultivated in severalty prior to 1846, and it therefore says that this plaintiff, if entitled to confirmation of anything, is entitled to confirmation only of that portion which he actually occupied and possessed under said grant, and that all the portion of said land which had not been subjected in 1846 to actual occupancy and cultivation is, and of right ought to be, public domain."

After the commencement of Sandoval's suit, two others were instituted, one by Levi P. Morton and the other by Marquez and others, claiming that Lorenzo Marquez took

Page 167 U. S. 283

the title to the entire grant, as the other fifty-one were not named in the grant, petition, or act of possession, and asking confirmation in their names alone as successors in interest to Lorenzo. These suits were consolidated with that of Sandoval, and the three heard as one case.

The Court of Private Land Claims held that the act of partition of 1803 rendered the grantees certain, and dismissed the petitions of Morton and Marquez, and confirmed the grant in the name of Lorenzo Marquez and his co-grantees, and all other persons who might have come in and settled on the grant up to December 30, 1848, Murray, J., dissenting. The United States and Morton appealed.

The papers referred to in Sandoval's petition, and constituting the expediente, were as follows:

"I, Lorenzo Marquez, resident of this Town of Santa Fe, for myself and in the name of fifty-one men accompanying me, appear before your excellency, and state that in consideration of having a very large family, as well myself as those accompanying me, though we have some land in this town, it is not sufficient for our support, on account of its smallness and the great scarcity of water, which, owing to the great number of people, we cannot all enjoy, wherefore we have entered a tract of land on the Rio Pecos, vacant and unsettled at the place commonly called 'El Vado,' and where there is room enough not only for us, the fifty-one who ask it, but also for everyone in the province not supplied. And its boundaries are: on the north, the Rio de la Vaca, from the place called the 'Rancheria' to the Agua Caliente; on the south, the Canyon Blanco; on the east, the Cuesta, with the little hills of Bernal, and on the west the place commonly called the 'Guzano' -- which tract we ask to be granted us in the name of our sovereign, whom may God preserve. And among these fifty-one men petitioning are thirteen Indians, and among them all are twenty-five firearms, and they are the same persons who appear in the subjoined list, which I present in due form, and we unanimously and harmoniously, as one person, do promise to enclose ourselves in a plaza well fortified with

Page 167 U. S. 284

bulwarks and towers, and to exert ourselves to supply all the firearms and ammunition that it may be possible for us to procure. And, as we trust in a compliance with our petition, we request and pray that your excellency be pleased to direct that we be placed in possession in the name of his royal majesty our sovereign, whom may God preserve. And we declare in full legal form that we do not act with dissimulation, etc."

"Lorenzo Marquez"

"For Himself and the Petitioners"

"[The list referred to does not appear.]"


"At the Town of Santa Fe, capital of this Kingdom of New Mexico, on the twenty-fifth day of the month of November, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, I, Lieutenant Colonel Ferando Chacon, Knight of the Order of Santiago, civil and military governor of said kingdom, subinspector of the regular troops therein, and inspector of the militia thereof, for his majesty (whom may God preserve), having seen the foregoing document and petition of Lorenzo Marquez for himself and in the name of fifty-one men, should and did direct the principal alcalde of this town, Antonio Jose Ortiz, to execute said grant as requested by the petitioners, so that they, their children and successors, may have, hold, and possess the same in the name of his majesty, observing at the same time the conditions and requisites required in such cases to be observed, and especially that relative to not injuring third parties. Thus I ordered, provided, and signed with the witnesses in my attendance, with whom I act for want of a royal or public notary, of which there is none in said kingdom, and upon this common paper, there being none of any seal, to which I certify."


"Attending: Fernando Lamelas."

"On the twenty-sixth day of the month of November, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, I, Antonio Jose Ortiz, captain of the militia and principal alcalde of the town

Page 167 U. S. 285

of Santa Fe, in pursuance of the order of Lieutenant Colonel Fernando Chacon, Knight of the Order of Santiago and civil and military governor of this kingdom, before proceeding to the site of El Vado, I, said principal alcalde, in company with two witnesses, who were Xavier Ortiz and Domingo Santiestevan, the fifty-two petitioners being present, caused them to comprehend the petition they had made, and informed them that to receive the grant, they would have to observe and fulfill in full form of law the following conditions:"

"First. That the tract aforesaid has to be in common not only in regard to themselves, but also to all the settlers who may join them in the future."

"Second. That, with respect to the dangers of the place, they shall have to keep themselves equipped with firearms and bows and arrows, in which they shall be inspected as well at the time of settling as at any time the alcalde in office may deem proper: provided that, after two years' settlement, all the arms they have must be firearms, under the penalty that all who do not comply with this requirement shall be sent out of the settlement."

"Third. That the plaza they may construct shall be according as expressed in their petition, and in the meantime they shall reside in the pueblo of Pecos, where there are sufficient accommodations for the aforesaid fifty-two families."

"Fourth. That to the alcalde in office in said pueblo they shall set apart a small separate piece of these lands for him to cultivate for himself at his will, without their children or the successors making any objection thereto, and the same for his successor in office."

"Fifth. That the construction of their plaza, as well as the opening of acequies, and all other work that may be deemed proper for the common welfare, shall be performed by the community with that union which in their government they must preserve."

"And when this was heard and understood by each and all of the aforesaid persons, they accordingly unanimously responded that they understood and heeded what was communicated to them. "

Page 167 U. S. 286

"Wherefore I took them by the hand, and announced in clear and intelligible words that in the name of his majesty (God preserve him), and without prejudice to the royal interest, or that of any third party, I led them over said lands, and they plucked up grass, cast stones, and shouted, 'Long live the King,' taking possession of said land quietly and peaceably, without any objection; pointing out to them the boundaries, which are, on the north, the Rio de la Vaca, from the place called the 'Rancheria' to the Agua Caliente; on the south, the canyon Blanco; on the east, the Cuesta, with the little hills of Bernal, and on the west, the place commonly called the 'Guzano' -- notifying them that the pastures and watering places are in common. And that in all time it may so appear, I, acting by appointment, for want of a notary, there being none in this jurisdiction, signed this with my attending witnesses, with whom I act. To which I certify."

"Antonio Jose Ortiz"


"Jose Campo Redondo"

"Ant'o Jose Ortiz"

"This copy agrees with its original on file among the archives of this town, and is faithfully and legally made, compared, and corrected. In testimony whereof I make my customary sign manual, in this Town of Santa Fe, on the eighth day of the month of November, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four."

"[Signed] Antonio Jose Ortiz."

"[Seal] Fourth rial"

"Fourth seal, fourth rial, years one thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight and ninety-nine"


"At this place, San Miguel del Bado del Rio de Pecos, jurisdiction of the capital Town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the twelfth day of March in the present year, one thousand eight hundred and three, I, Pedro Baptista Pino, justice of second vote of the Town of Santa Fe and its jurisdiction, by verbal order of Colonel Fernando Chacon, governor of this

Page 167 U. S. 287

province, have proceeded to this said settlement for the purpose of distributing the lands which are under cultivation to all the individuals who occupy said settlement, and having examined the aforesaid cultivated land, I measured the whole of it from north to south, and then proceeded to lay off and provide the several portions, with the concurrence of all parties interested, until the matter was placed in order according to the means myself and the parties interested deemed the best adapted to the purpose, in order that all should be satisfied with their possessions, although said land is very much broken on account of the many bends in the river. And, after the portions were equally divided in the best manner possible, I caused them to draw lots, and each individual drew his portion, and the number of varas contained in each one portion was set down, as will appear from the accompanying list, which contains the number of the individuals who reside in this precinct, amounting to number of fifty-eight families, between whom all the land was divided, excepting only the portion appertaining to the justice of this precinct, as appears by the possession given by the said governor, and another small surplus portion, which by the consent of all is set aside for the benefit of the blessed souls in purgatory, on condition that the products are to be applied annually to the payment of three masses, the certificates for which are to be delivered to the alcalde in office of said jurisdiction. And, after having made the distribution, I proceeded to mark out the boundaries of said tract from north to south, being on the north a hill situated at the edge of the river above the mouth of the ditch which irrigates said lands, and on the south the point of the hill of pueblo and the valley called 'Temporales,' a large portion of land remaining to the south, which is very necessary for the inhabitants of this town who may require more land to cultivate, which shall be done by the consent of the justice of said town who is charged with the care and trust of this matter, giving to each one of those contained in the list the amount he may require and can cultivate; and, after having completed all the foregoing, I caused them all to be collected together, and notified them that they

Page 167 U. S. 288

must each immediately erect mounds of stone on the boundaries of their lands, so as to avoid disputes, and I also notified them that no one was privileged to sell or dispose of their land until the expiration of ten years from this date, as directed by said governor, who, if he be so pleased, will certify his proper approval at the foot of this document, of which a copy shall remain in this town, and the original be deposited in the archives where it properly belongs. Done in the aforesaid town on the day, month, and year above mentioned. Signed with my hand, with two attending witnesses, with whom I act in the absence of a public or royal notary, there being none of any description in this kingdom. I certify."

"[Signed] Pedro Baptista Pino"

"Attending: Jose Miguel Tafoya."

Here followed the list of fifty-eight individuals, with the number of varas each one received, running from 49 varas in one instance to 230 in another, 65 varas being allotted in thirty-eight instances.

"There are contained in this list fifty-eight families."

"San Miguel del Bado, March twelfth, one thousand eight hundred and three."

"Pedro Bapta. Pino"

"Given gratis, together with twenty-odd leagues travel."

"[Pino's Rubric.]"

"By virtue of what has been done by Pedro Pino, senior justice of second vote of this capital Town of Santa Fe concerning the distribution of lands made in the name of his majesty to the residents of the new Town of El Bado, known as 'San Miguel,' I declare the aforesaid residents of El Bado the lawful owners thereof, approving and confirming the possession given by said Senior Justice Pedro Pino; and, in order that it may so appear in all time, I signed this at Santa Fe, New Mexico, on the 30th day of March, 1803."

"Fernando Chacon."

It appeared in evidence that the alcalde Pino, two days after making the distribution at San Miguel, made another

Page 167 U. S. 289

at the place of San Jose, within the same grant, which was approved by Governor Chancon, March 30, 1803, the same day that he approved the allotment of land at San Miguel; that allotments were made from time to time within this grant at various other places until at least 1846; that a town was formed, known as the "Town of San Miguel del Bado," an ayuntamiento or town council being elected, and also an alcalde; that the town continued until the American occupation; that jurisdiction was exercised by the town council not only over the municipality and those living therein, but over the adjoining country and settlements, which were too small to be entitled to an ayuntamiento, and that at present there are living within the outboundaries of the grant at least four or five thousand people, who have collected themselves principally within four or five settlements. Testimony was further introduced disclosing the manner in which the lands included within the outboundaries had been administered, and also the administration of property rights in adjoining settlements. This tended to show that the people cultivated the portions of land that were partitioned to them according to the number in the family; that they obtained the land from the ayuntamiento, but the alcalde was the person who, under the direction of the board, made the partition to those who came in from time to time to settle, from lands which had not been partitioned before; that the unassigned lands were common pasture grounds for everybody, and the water and watering places were free to all, and for the benefit of all families, but none of them were considered the owners of the common pasture grounds, and they had no right to sell anything except the tracts upon which they had houses and farms.

In brief, the evidence is correctly summed up by counsel for the United States as showing that, subsequent to the allotment and partition of 1803, and up to the date of the American occupation, the lands within the boundaries of this grant, and a large amount of outlying lands, were administered by the government of New Mexico through the ayuntamiento of San Miguel del Bado; that persons coming subsequent to

Page 167 U. S. 290

the allotment of 1803 applied to the ayuntamiento for land, and, if the petition or application were favorably received and considered, the alcalde was instructed to make them allotments of land for agricultural purposes, and to put them into possession of the same, but always subject to the territorial deputation.

ChanRobles Legal Resources:

ChanRobles On-Line Bar Review

ChanRobles Internet Bar Review :

ChanRobles MCLE On-line

ChanRobles Lawnet Inc. - ChanRobles MCLE On-line :