Armendaris Land Grant, New Mexico

In 1820 Peter Armendaris applied to the Spanish government for a grant of land lying on the west bank of the Rio Grande opposite his ranch of Val Verde. His application was granted, and certain lands, embracing the limits of Fort Craig reservation and the old and new towns of San Marcial, together with the mesa lands to the west, were allotted to him. Several years later Armendaris was driven from his ranch by Navajo Indians, and sought refuge in Chihuahua, Mexico. In 1849, after the cession of New Mexico to the United States, Armendaris, desiring to secure the services of Hugh N. Smith, an attorney, and Thomas Biggs, an old Santa Fe trader, in the perfection of his land claims and the colonization of the granted lands, deeded to them four thousand acres opposite the "ruins of Val Verde," covering the present town site of San Marcial.

December 6, 1858, Colonel Robert Stapleton bought Smith's share of the four thousand acres, lying along the west bank of the Rio Grande, immediately south of the north boundary of the Armendaris grant and including a part of the Fort Craig reservation. In 1866 a little town called La Mesa, on the east bank of the river, was submerged by a flood, and the people in their distress crossed the river and laid out a town which they called San Marcial. Colonel Stapleton received from one of the number a document which he understood to be a lease of his lands signed by all, but it eventually transpired that they acted as mere squatters, not recognizing the Smith and Biggs title.

The grant was confirmed by Congress in 1860, finally surveyed in 1877 and patented in 1878. The court held that the mere possession by the La Mesa squatters could not be set up against the grant and patent. The San Marcial Land & Improvement Company subsequently acquired the Stapleton title and that of the Biggs heirs, this action quieting all titles in the town site of San Marcial.

Present titles in San Marcial came through deed to Smith and Biggs. The courts of New Mexico decided in the case of the San Marcial Land & Improvement Company vs. Simon Leyser that the San Marcial Land & Improvement Company were the owners of the four thousand acre tract by purchase from Martin Zimmerman, who purchased one undivided half interest from Robert H. Stapleton, and the rest from the heirs of Thomas Biggs. It developed during the trial of this suit that all the heirs of Thomas Biggs were of age and able to convey, and that they all did convey to Martin Zimmerman. This four thousand acre tract was exempted from the deed made to William A. Bell on October 13, 1870.

Manuel Armendaris was a son of Don Pedro Armendaris, with power of attorney from his father. It is questionable if even deeds had to be recorded in New Mexico before January 1, 1888, and there were no laws demanding the recording of power of attorneys or deeds in New Mexico in 1858. The town of San Marcial is located near the center of this tract. Original grants to Armendaris (two) were four hundred and ninety thousand acres, ninety-two thousand acres of which were located on the west side of the river. Practically all property outside of land included in San Marcial town site is now owned by the Victoria Land & Cattle Company, having passed through three or four hands prior to their title.

Albuquerque Grant. The land embraced in the Albuquerque grant was occupied as early as 1680, and again in 1693, after the return of the Spaniards at the close of the pueblo insurrection and from that time on was constantly occupied. The title to the grant is easily traceable back to 1693. 


Source: History of New Mexico, Its Resources and People, Volume I, Pacific States Publishing Co., 1907.

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Created 1996 by Charles Barnum & 2016 by Judy White