Maxwell Land Grants, New Mexico

From the days when the historic Manor of Rensselaerwick flourished up to the closing years of the Mexican occupation and control of what is now the American Territory of New Mexico a period covering about two centuries, attempts at planting and, with a legal status, maintaining quasi-feudal estates were signalized by dismal failure. It remained for Lucien Benjamin Maxwell, a native of Kaskaskia, Illinois, and one of the most striking figures of the early mountain frontier, to found a second successful American barony. This was the famous "Maxwell Ranch," or "Maxwell Land Grant," as it is more commonly known in these days, a body of land which, under the shrewd manipulation of capitalists and politicians, has grown in half a century from a relatively insignificant thirty odd square miles, located principally on the plains bordering upon the Red River, in northern New Mexico, to an estate equal in extent to three states the size of Rhode Island.

January 8, 1841, Charles Hipolyte Trotier-Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda petitioned General Don Manuel Armijo, the civil and military governor of New Mexico, for a grant of land in that portion of the Territory which was included within the limits of the present county of Colfax. The petitioners asked for a tract "commencing below the junction of the Rayado and Red rivers, from thence in a direct line to the east to the first hills, from thence following the course of Red River in a northerly direction of Una de Gato with Red River, from whence following along said hills to the east of the Uña de Gato River to the summit of the tableland (mesa), from whence, turning northwest, following said summit to the summit of the mountain which separates the waters of the rivers which run towards the east from those which run to the west, from thence following the summit of said mountain in a southerly direction to the first hill east of the Rayado river ; from thence following along the brow of said hill to the place of beginning."

On January 11 following. Governor Armijo, "in conformity with the laws," granted the land to the petitioners, with the privilege of making such use of it as they saw proper. On February 22, 1843, they were placed in possession of the grant by Cornelio Vigil, a justice of the peace of the first precinct of Taos. On February 27, 1844. the grant was suspended by Mariano Chavez, acting governor, upon a complaint made by Antonio Jose Martinez, priest in charge of the Roman Catholic parish of Taos, and the chiefs of the pueblo of Taos, who charged that the land in question, commonly known as "el rincon del Rio Colorado," had previously been granted or assigned by these Indians to Charles Bent, afterward governor of New Mexico; that the land was recognized as commons, where the stock of the Indians was pastured ; that it was likewise the place where buffalo was limited (a palpable contradiction), and finally that the grantees, Beaubien and Miranda, were foreigners.

In the meantime Armijo had been reappointed to the office of governor. On April 18, 1844, he referred the matter to the department assembly, which reversed the order of Acting Governor Chavez and approved the grant made by Armijo. On the same day Beaubien and Miranda were reinstated and retained undisputed possession of the grant. In 1857 William Pelham, surveyor-general of New Mexico, to whom the matter of establishing title to the grant had been referred, reported to Congress that in his opinion it was "a good and valid grant, according to the laws and customs of the government of the Republic of Mexico and the decision of the supreme court of the United States."

The petition of Beaubien and Miranda to Governor Armijo is a document worthy of preservation as illustrating the mode of procedure and the grounds on which applications for private grants of land were made in those days. It reads as follows:

"Most Excellent Sir:

The undersigned, Mexican citizens and residents of this place in the most approved manner required by law, state, That of all the departments of the republic, with the exception of the Californias, New Mexico is one of the most backward in intelligence, industry, manufactures, etc., and surely few others present the natural advantages to be found therein, not only on account of its abundance of water, forests, wood and useful timber, but also on account of the fertility of the soil, containing within its bosom rich and precious metals, which up to this time are useless for the want of enterprising men who will convert to the advantage of other men all of which productions of nature are susceptible of being used for the benefit of society in the department, as well as in the entire republic, if they were in the hands of individuals who would work and improve them. An old and true adage says that "what is the business of all is the business of none' ; therefore, while the fertile lands in New Mexico, where, without contradiction, nature has proven herself more generous, are not reduced to private property, where it will be improved, it will be of no benefit to the department, which abounds in idle people, who, for the want of occupations, are a burden to the industrious portions of society, which with their labor they could contribute to its welfare and honestly comply with their obligations. Idleness, the mother of vice, is the cause of the increase of crimes which are daily being committed, notwithstanding the severity of the laws and their rigid execution. The towns are overrun with thieves and murderers, who by this means alone procure their subsistence. We think it a difficult task to reform the present generation, accustomed to idleness and hardened vice. But the rising one, receiving new impressions, will easily be guided by the principles of purer morality. The welfare of a nation consists in the possession of lands which produce all the necessaries of life without requiring those of other nations, and it cannot be denied that New Mexico possesses this great advantage, and only requires industrious hands to make it a happy residence. This is the age of progress and the march of intellect, and they are so rapid that we may expect, at a day not far distant, that they will reach even us. Under the above conviction we both request your excellency to be pleased to grant us a tract of land for the purpose of improving it, without injury to any third party, and raising sugar beets, which we believe will grow well and produce an abundant crop, and in time to establish manufactories of cotton and wool, and raising stock of every description. [Here follows a description of the tract sought, agreeing in its details with the description in the foregoing.] For the reasons above expressed, and being the heads of large families, we humbly pray your excellency to take our joint petition under consideration, and be pleased to grant us the land petitioned for, by doing which we will receive grace and justice. We swear it is not done in malice; we protest good faith, and whatever may be necessary, etc.

"Guadalupe Miranda,
Carlos Beaubien.

"Santa Fe, January 8, 1841."

In their reply to the petition of Father Martinez and his associates the grantees urged that the land described by those who denied the validity of the grant was not the land asked for in the original petition, but that it "does not exceed fifteen of eighteen" leagues.

On securing possession of their grant, Beaubien and Miranda entered into a partnership for the operation of this grant, the former finally purchasing of Miranda his interest therein, holding the entire property until 1846. In the latter year he removed from Taos, which had been his home for twenty-three years, to the Cimarroncito, and found Maxwell located a short distance north of the famous Abreu ranch, where a company of United States soldiers were stationed for the protection of traffic over the Santa Fe Trail.

At this time Maxwell was herding sheep in a primitive way. About a hundred and fifty yards south of his rude adobe hut stood a house built by Kit Carson and then occupied by him. The two men, having much in common, both lovers of the free, adventurous life which the mountains offered, soon became fast friends and remained so until death separated them. Maxwell's sheep multiplied, and as the years rolled by his wealth increased so rapidly that, in spite of his profligacy, he could not rid himself of the burden it seemed to impose. He tried gambling, but, although it is said that he never "stacked the cards," his poker playing served only to add to his accumulation of treasure.

At this time the whole region between "El Pueblo," in Colorado, and Fernando de Taos, in New Mexico, was almost unknown, certainly unexplored, excepting those portions traversed by the few traders traveling between Santa Fe and the Missouri River. But every trader, every major domo, every teamster, every soldier who passed over this part of the trail knew Maxwell, and most of them were known to him by name.

Charles Beaubien died February 10, 1864, and Maxwell purchased the grant of the heirs, becoming its sole proprietor. All restrictions as to the grazing of sheep now being removed, his wealth increased at a still greater rate. He had built for himself a great house at Cimarron, and here he continued to entertain all comers in lavish style and there were many. During the height of his power and wealth he lived in barbaric splendor. He lived for pleasure alone, in utter disregard of the expense of the necessities and comforts of life. Under his indifferent direction thousands of acres of his grant were cultivated in a most primitive fashion by native Mexicans, who, though as completely enslaved as the thralls of the ancient Norsemen, were nevertheless kindly treated. They loved their master as a friend and kindly adviser, and never appealed to him for amelioration of their condition in vain, provided the lord of the domain did not shrewdly suspect them of misrepresentation.

Maxwell's home was as much of a palace as the day and the country afforded. Some of its apartments were most sumptuously furnished after the prevailing Mexican style, while others were devoid of all but table, chairs and cards for poker, or "old sledge." He was an inveterate gambler. On occasions when his winnings were heavy he would sometimes lend to the winner the next day two or three times as much as he had won for him. Though he played for amusement only, he always insisted upon a stake. Many men who were widely known throughout the southwest in those days were his guests, and most of them had cause to remember his prowess at the game of "draw." Kit Carson, ex-Governor Thomas Boggs, Richens (Uncle Dick) Wootton, Don Jesus Abreu, Colonel Ceran St. Vrain and other men whose names are well known in the pioneer history of the Santa Fe Trail, made his home a rendezvous for years. He was a great lover of horses and frequently made enormous wagers on the results of races. He owned some of the most finely bred and fleetest horses in the west, and reposed great confidence in their abilities to win.

The rooms devoted to the culinary department of Maxwell's great house, the kitchen and two dining rooms, one for the men and one for the women, were detached from the main residence. Men who visited him rarely saw women about the house. "Only the quick rustle of a skirt, a hurried view of a rebosa as its wearer, evanescent as the lightning, flashed for an instant before some window or half-opened door, told of their presence," wrote one of Maxwell's guests in later years. His table service was, for the most part, of solid silver. Covers were daily laid for over two dozen persons, and vacant chairs were rarely to be seen. In addition to his invited guests, many forced themselves upon him as the result of his widely-advertised hospitality to all comers; others came to him through necessity, as the result of the location of his home on the main line of travel into the Territory, at the point where the ascent of the mountain range to the west began. Coach-loads of passengers were frequently flood-bound at the ford m the Cimarron at that point and compelled to remain at his home until the subsiding waters permitted a continuance of the journey.

Maxwell always kept a large amount of money, from twenty-five to fifty thousand dollars, usually in gold and silver coin, in an old bureau standing in the main room of his home. The drawers were never locked and no precautions for its protection were ever taken. This money was the proceeds of the sale of his sheep, cattle and grain, principally to the army, at figures which would stagger a purchaser today. For years he made no effort to keep track of the number of his sheep or the amount of his wool clip.

When this American feudal lord was not at home entertaining his friends he was visiting others. He loved to travel in state. He owned almost every conceivable style of vehicle, but on his longer journeys, as when going to Taos, Santa Fe or Las Vegas, he usually traveled in a great thorough brace Concord coach, drawn by six or eight horses. Men who are living today and who accompanied him on some of these journeys say that he made it a rule to take small arroyos and irrigating ditches at a gallop, regardless of consequences to his equipage.

One instance will serve to illustrate Maxwell's nerve. On July 4, 1867, he caused to be hauled from its place under the cottonwood trees that fringed his home an ancient howitzer, which had lain there since the day the valiant General Don Manuel Armijo learned of the approach of Kearny's band of "ragamuffins." With the assistance of a captain in the regular army, stationed at the barracks nearby, he loaded this gun two-thirds of the way to the muzzle and prepared for a grand salute in honor of the nation's birthday. A premature discharge occurred, blowing off the captain's arm, destroying his eye and shattering Maxwell's thumb.

A soldier was at once ordered to Fort Union, nearly sixty miles distant, which he covered in four hours, his horse, one of the fleetest in Maxwell's stables, dropping dead as the rider alighted at the fort. The surgeon arrived at Cimarron in time to save the captain's life and dressed Maxwell's thumb. A few days later the latter, accompanied by Kit Carson, traveled to the fort to ask the surgeon to amputate the thumb, which was causing Maxwell great suffering. Declining anesthetics in any form, he maintained an apparently stolid indifference to the great pain resulting from the operation; then, just after the ligatures had been tied, as Carson placed a glass of whisky to his lips, he fainted.

A few weeks after this disastrous celebration gold was discovered on the Maxwell grant at what is known at Elizabethtown. The announcement was naturally followed by a great influx of adventurers from all parts of the country and scientific prospecting by representatives of capital. The discovery of the precious metal in easily worked placer fields marked the beginning of the end of Maxwell's baronial reign. Feeling secure in his possession of the grant, a region of vaster extent than some of the kingdoms of Europe, and anticipating untold wealth from the development of the mining properties at the base of Mount Baldy, he spent a fortune in the construction of a ditch forty miles long, extending from the source of the Red river to the new placer diggings. But this undertaking was a stupendous failure, the water entering the ditch at its head being lost by evaporation and seepage before it reached the proposed field of operations. Realizing the fact that his title to this addition to his grant could find no status in the law, however valid his original grant might be. Maxwell endeavored to keep the news of the discovery of gold from, obtaining too wide a circulation, but in this he was unsuccessful. Litigation to determine titles to the squatters' claims followed, and in order to save what he might from his now decaying fortune he sold his title to the grant to an English syndicate for a million and a quarter dollars, through the agency of Wilson Waddingham, David H. Moffatt and J. B. Chaffee. These men retained six hundred thousand dollars for their services, turning over the remainder to Maxwell.

The deposed "monarch of all he surveyed," whose right there had been none to dispute until 1867, was in a state of perplexity as to what he should do with his money. But he soon found plenty of advisers, and at the behest of men in whom he appeared to have confidence he invested something like a quarter of a million in the bonds of the Texas Pacific railroad, which proved a complete loss. In 1870 other advisers suggested to him that it would be profitable to establish a bank in Santa Fe, inasmuch as there was at that time no banking house in either New Mexico or Arizona. The idea appealed to him, and he applied for a charter, with a capital of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, furnishing all the money himself and dividing ten shares among a sufficient number of his friends to constitute the directory required by law. Thus was the First National Bank of Santa Fe founded in December, 1870. The original stock certificates of this bank were unique in one respect, bearing a vignette of Maxwell with a cigar in his mouth. So great was his confidence in his friends that he signed in blank more than a hundred of these stock certificates, in order that his absence at his home might not interfere with their anticipated sale.

Maxwell was a man of unbounded generosity and possessed unlimited confidence in those in whom he trusted at all. His charities must have amounted to a considerable fortune. John Burroughs has aptly described certain frontier characters as "wild civilized men." The description fits Maxwell. He was one of the best representatives of the undefiled frontier, before the days of the "bad man," a type which passed with the extinction of the frontier in its original purity. He was eccentric, improvident in the extreme, liberal to a degree that was widely remarked, even in those days of extreme liberality and good fellowship, a man who was a marvel among his fellows. Those who knew him best, Carson, St. Vrain, Beaubien, the Abreus, Pley and a multitude of American traders and native Mexicans, found him the object of undying affection. The solitude of the mountains and the remoteness from scenes of civilization infatuated him. His love for the wild was unconquerable. Though rough in manner and quick to resent the slightest interference with what he considered as his sovereign rights, there was nothing of the desperado about him.

Maxwell's wife was Luz Beaubien, a daughter of one of the original proprietors of his grant. Three of their nine children are living. The last years of his life were spent at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, where he died in comparative poverty, July 25, 1875. Strange as it may seem, there is in existence no monument to the memory of this most striking figure of the mountain frontier period, nor to the memory of his chief friend and companion, Kit Carson.

Under the act of June 21, 1860, the commissioner of the general land office at Washington, on June 28, 1869, authorized T. Rush Spencer, then surveyor general of New Mexico, to proceed with the work of surveying the Beaubien and Miranda grant under the practical direction of William W. Griffin, deputy surveyor, after the secretary of the interior had passed upon the matter. "I have to draw your special attention," wrote the commissioner, "to the question as to the true locus of the proposed survey. The exterior boundaries referred to in the papers forming the basis of action by the surveyor general in 1857 being vague, we are unable to identify on the maps in this office with certainty, yet as near as we can form from them an idea they would include a much larger area than the maximum of eleven square leagues which Mexican governors were empowered to grant, as has been repeatedly ruled by the United States Supreme Court."

On December 31, 1869, I. D. Coxe, secretary of the interior, in a letter to the commissioner of the general land office, taking up the matter of the appeal of Lucien B. Maxwell from the decision of the commissioner as to the survey, states that the only evidence in his office as to the extent of the tract "is contained in a statement to the Mexican authorities made by Beaubien, one of the original grantees, that the whole quantity claimed by them did not exceed fifteen or eighteen square leagues. By the statement of the counsel for the parties in interest, as well as from the other evidence you have adduced, it appears that under this grant a tract of land is now claimed containing upwards of four hundred and fifty square leagues, or over two millions of acres." The report of the Senate committee of private land claims, made May 19, 1860, which was accepted and carried out by Congress, the secretary continued, "fixed, in the case of the claim of Scolly and others, the interpretation of the Spanish measurement by leagues, towit, that the phrase "cinco leguas cuadradas' must be interpreted to mean five square leagues, and not five leagues square, and so in like cases. In the case of the claim of Vigil and St. Vrain, they also declare that 'under the Mexican colonization law of 1824 and regulations of 1828 the extreme quantity allowed to be granted by the governor to any colonist was eleven square leagues. As these rides for the interpretation of a grant which would otherwise be vague are contained in the very report under which the grant in question was confirmed, there can be no hesitation in applying them to this grant, and to determine that it was the purpose and intent of Congress to confirm the grant to Beaubien and Miranda to an extent not greater than eleven square leagues to each claimant.  Where a Mexican colonization grant is confirmed without measurements of boundaries or of distinct specification of the quantity confirmed,  no greater quantity than eleven square leagues to each claimant shall be surveyed and set off to them,  in this case two such tracts of eleven square leagues are held to be covered by the grant, and may be surveyed accordingly.  I feel the less hesitation in coming to this conclusion because I find in the original papers accompanying the report of the congressional committee, that prior to the cession of New Mexico to the United States the right of the claimants to this tract had been disputed upon the ground (among others) that a much larger tract was claimed by them than had been intended to be conveyed by the Mexican government; that it was in reply to this objection that Beaubien had declared that their grant did not exceed fifteen or eighteen leagues, and referred to judicial certificates accompanying his statement for proof of such limitation of his claim. After obtaining a grant upon so explicit a statement of the amount claimed, it would be, in my judgment, a gross fraud upon the government to allow it to be extended to the enormous quantity of four hundred and fifty leagues or upwards, and, in view of the fact that in Mr. Benjamin's report it was declared that a pretense of an application for a grant of one hundred square leagues in the Scolly case would have been 'too extravagant for belief,' it cannot be presumed that Congress intended to confirm a grant of the enormous character now claimed, unless the description of the tract itself and the measure of the boundaries were so given as to show definitely and explicitly the quantity intended to be conveyed."

In view of this decision, Maxwell withdrew his application for the survey of the grant, all his rights in which he had assigned to the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company. Secretary Delano of the interior department refused to reverse the decision of his predecessor, leaving the parties to congressional or such other relief as they might be able to obtain. On March 16, 1876, the commissioner of the land office directed Henry M. Atkinson, then surveyor general, to notify the claimants "to select the twenty-two square leagues of land, by legal subdivisions, in satisfaction of their claim, as reduced by the decision of the honorable secretary of the interior, dated December 31, 1869."

In 1877 and 1878 a number of men who had settled upon land lying outside of the boundaries of the original grant sent to the surveyor general written protests against the extension of the boundaries to the extent that their lands would be included within the boundaries of the grant. When the last private survey was made under Maxwell's directions, the surveyor general of the New Mexico reported to the commissioner of the general land office that "the claimants under Beaubien and Miranda have surveyed inside the grant some thirty townships and subdivided them." By this survey the area of the grant was increased from the original claim of not to exceed eighteen leagues to something in excess of one thousand square miles.

When the matter was referred to George H. Williams, attorney general of the United States, for his opinion, in 1872, the latter wrote: "It makes no difference what were the powers or proceedings of the Mexican authorities; if Congress knew that there were more than twenty-two leagues in the tract, or, if avowing their ignorance and indifference, they made the grant by metes and bounds, there is an end of controversy as to the title of the land within said metes and bounds. It is only 'in the absence of any other guide' that the restriction to 'eleven square leagues' was applied."'  Plain, practical and sensible men in reading the act of Congress making this grant would have no doubt that it surveyed the land within the plainly specified metes and bounds."

A somewhat surprising feature of the papers on file in the office of the surveyor general of New Mexico is the fact that the paper alleging to be a certificate of James K. Proudfit, surveyor general from 1872 to 1786, to the effect that the printed copy of the report of Surveyor General Pelham is "a true and correct copy and transcript as taken from the original archives, records and files in my office of the original grant of land made by the Mexican government to Charles Beaubien and Guadalupe Miranda, as also of the sworn transaction thereof now in file in my office," and the accompanying attestation as to the genuineness of Proudfit's signature, made by the secretary of the Territory, were not signed by either of these officials, but attached to the papers in question in blank.

September 12, 1859, Alfred Bent, Estefina Hicklin and Teresina Bent, children of Charles Bent, first governor of New Mexico, and Alexander Hicklin, husband of Estefina Hicklin, instituted in Taos County a bill in equity against Guadalupe Miranda, Charles Beaubien, Lucien B. Maxwell and Joseph Pley, part owners of the property then known as the Beaubien and Miranda, or Maxwell, land grant, alleging that Charles Bent was, in his lifetime, by virtue of a certain parol agreement with Beaubien and Miranda, entitled to the undivided one-third of this grant. Upon Governor Bent's death in 1847, the three mentioned, his sole heirs, brought action to recover their alleged rights. Pending this suit, Beaubien died, and his heirs were made a party to the suit. Teresina Bent in the meantime married Aloys Scheurich, who also became a party thereto. June 3, 1865, the court declared these three heirs of Governor Bent to be absolutely entitled to the undivided one-fourth part of the grant and confirmed their title to this portion of the grant. Before the partition of the land had been effected Alfred Bent died intestate, leaving three minor children, Charles, Juliano and Alberto Silas Bent. Soon afterward a compromise was effected between the Bent heirs and the other parties to the action, by which Maxwell agreed to pay to the Bent heirs the sum of eighteen thousand dollars, and the original decree was set aside.

In May, 1866, Aloys Scheurich and his wife and Alexander Hicklin and his wife conveyed their holdings (an undivided two-twelfths) to Maxwell, and Guadalupe Bent, widow of Alfred Bent, did the same. In a suit brought in 1884 it was alleged that Guadalupe Bent could not read, write or speak English and was ignorant of the business of law courts, of boundaries of land, or confirmation of said grant by Congress; also charged numerous false representations on the part of Maxwell to secure her consent to the sale: also charged she never received any portion of the money (six thousand dollars), nor did any of her heirs.

In July, 1870, Maxwell had sold to the Maxwell Land Grant & Railway Company most of the lands in the original grant. By 1875 the Maxwell Land Grant Company was bankrupt. All its personal property had been sold by the sheriff to satisfy judgment creditors, and all of the company's land in New Mexico was sold for unpaid taxes. At this time Stephen B. Elkins was president of the company, W. R. Morley was vice-president, Harry Whigham was secretary, and the directors included Thomas B. Catron, Dr. R. H. Longwill and H. M. Porter. No meeting of the directors of the company was held after 1875, as provided by law, and in 1878 the property went into the hands of W. T. Thornton as receiver. Mr. Thornton retained possession of the property until 1880, when the property was sold under foreclosure in behalf of the first mortgage bondholders.

Stephen B. Elkins, more than any other individual, was responsible for the successful consummation of the schemes of the land company to defraud the American government and the people of New Mexico. Elkins, having graduated from the University of Missouri in 1860 and been admitted to the bar in 1863, came to New Mexico, and, by interesting himself in politics, was appointed to the federal office of district attorney. The Mexican system of peonage, slavery for debt, was in full operation then, and Elkins laid the foundations of his fortune by wholesale prosecutions, each of which netted him a good sum of money, whether there was conviction or compromise. With the capital thus gained lawfully, the young lawyer and politician went into the business of grabbing public land, keeping firm grip on his political power, and getting successively the invaluable offices of attorney general of the Territory and territorial representative in Congress. As a citizen of New Mexico, a "captain of industry" and a "developer of resources" he was compactly described by the distinguished George W. Julian, one time surveyor general of New Mexico and a careful, honest man, in a speech at Indianapolis, on September 14, 1892. Said Julian:

"Elkins' dealings were mainly in Spanish grants, which he bought for a very small price. Elkins became a member of the land ring of the Territory, and largely through his influence the survey of these grants was made to contain hundreds of thousands of acres that did not belong to them. He thus became a great land holder, for through the manipulation of committees in Congress grants thus illegally surveyed were confirmed with their fictitious boundaries.

"He made himself particularly conspicuous as the hero of the famous Maxwell grant, which, as Secretary Cox decided in 1869, contained only about ninety-six thousand acres, but which, under the manipulation of Elkins, was surveyed and patented for 1,714,764 acres, or nearly 2,680 square miles. Congress, through the action of its committees, was beguiled into the confirmation of the grant, and thus the Supreme Court was compelled to recognize this astounding robbery as valid. By such methods as these more than 10,000.000 acres of the public domain in New Mexico became the spoil of the land grabbers; and the ringleader in this game of spoliation was Stephen B. Elkins, the confederate of Stephen W. Dorsey, and the master spirit of the movement. I do not speak at random, but from official documents and ascertained facts with which I became familiar during my public service of four years in that Territory."

In the fall of 1883 testimony in suit in equity of the United States government against the Maxwell Land Grant Company, the Denver & Rio Grande Railway Company, the Pueblo & Arkansas Valley Railroad Company and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company was taken at Trinidad, Colorado, before E. J. Hubbard. J. A. Bentley and E. B. Wiegand appeared for the government and Frank Springer for the defendants.

A vast amount of evidence was introduced in behalf of the government to show that the original grant to Beaubien and Miranda contemplated investing in them title to a relatively small tract of land, situated on the rincon of the Red river. It was shown that in 1860 L. B. Maxwell, then owner of the grant, had said to a prospective settler in the neighborhood that he claimed as belonging to his grant all the lands drained by waters flowing into the Vermejo or the Red River, and the lands drained by waters flowing into the Purgatoire belonged to the St. Vrain grant.

As has been seen, serious trouble between the proprietors of the Maxwell land grant and squatters upon portions of the tract of land claimed by the company began with the discovery of gold in the neighborhood of Mount Baldy soon after the close of the Civil war. These misunderstandings reached an acute stage in 1887 and 1888, when the company, in order to effect an amicable adjustment of the difficulties, announced that it was prepared to buy the rights of all settlers, the improvements they had made to the property on which they had located, and their livestock. Those who would not return to the company a quit claim deed in return for the moneys at which the company appraised the various disputed properties were sued.

In the winter of 1887-8 officers and representatives of the company visited Stonewall, Colorado, to serve papers in a suit against one or more of these squatters, when a fight occurred between the officers and some of the "anti-granters" there, the latter attempting to force the company's agents to leave the neighborhood. In the melee that followed a man named Russell was killed and several were injured. A couple of years before this event the company had instituted ejectment proceedings against O. P. McMains. McMains was one of the leaders in the fight against the grant authorities, and when an attempt was made to serve execution papers upon his stock, his friends rallied about him and defied the constituted authorities. For a time their tactics were successful. At this time one Cook, a deputy sheriff, and a man named Russell were in the employ of the grant as special officers. Soon after the failure to attach McMains' stock. Cook was waylaid and shot, though not fatally. He then swore out a warrant in blank in the hopes of securing his assailant, and attempted to arrest an old Indian living on Poñil creek, whom he suspected. The Indian resisted arrest and Cook killed him. A short time afterward, while Cook and Russell were traveling down Vermejo creek, they were intercepted by a number of Mexicans, who killed Russell and wounded Cook's horse.

The anti-grant element, consisting of practically all the settlers upon the tract claimed by the company, fully believing that efforts were being made by the company to deprive them of their rights without a show of justice, about this period effected an organization whose aim was to protect the titles of all concerned. The best men living upon the land claimed by the company, whose homes in some cases were remote from the tract included within the original boundaries of the grant as it had been defined by Maxwell himself, were parties to this historic contest, and led the fight against what they firmly believed to be an attempt to rob them. These troubles continued, with an occasional killing on one side or the other, until after the adjustment of the long-mooted question by the United States Land Court in the early nineties.

The Maxwell Land Grant Company brought an ejectment suit in 1892 against John B. Dawson to recover possession of a tract of about twenty-five thousand acres located within the limits of the Beaubien and Miranda (or Maxwell) grant, the grant at the time being one million seven hundred and fourteen thousand acres. Fifteen thousand acres had been conveyed by Maxwell prior to May 26. 1869 (really January 7, 1869), when he sold his grant, and Dawson occupied this, which the Maxwell Land Grant Company did not dispute, and some additional land (coal land), which they claimed. The Supreme Court sustained Dawson in his possession.

After Maxwell sold to Abreu the property occupied for many years by the latter, a tract bounded on the north by the center of the mesa of the Urracca and the divide to Canyon Bonita, Maxwell sold to Peter Joseph, father of Antonio Joseph, of Ojo Caliente, all of the land north of the Abreu tract from the Chicora to the Cimarroncita, west of the road from Rayado to Cimarron. The boundaries were well defined at the time. The heirs of Joseph afterward sold their property to Francis Glutton, a son-in-law of M. P. Pells, then general manager of the Maxwell Land Grant Company. When Glutton surveyed the land, he recognized the boundaries. Glutton soon afterward sold his interest to McCormick, who has brought suit to quiet title to a large portion of the grant south of the present north boundary of the Abreu tract, comprising several thousand acres, which formed a part of the original Abreu purchase, and still occupied by the Abreu family. This tract has been occupied by Mrs. Petra B. Abreu since 1857. Aside from this occupation. Judge Beaubien, Mrs. Abreu's father, one of the original grantees, made a will, and the heirs sold their respective interests inherited from their father to L. B. Maxwell. But Beaubien's wife never sold her interest, nor signed the papers transferring her husband's interest in the land, and consequently it is now maintained that the living heirs of Judge Beaubien have legal rights in the property as heirs of his wife.

The Territory was greatly wrought up in 1883, 1884 and 1885 over the extensive fraudulent operations in land in New Mexico. The matter was investigated under direction of Congress, and the report of the special agents who performed the work showed that the register of the land office had entered into collusion with a ring of capitalists to get possession of vast areas of public land in the Territory by fraudulent means. The report recommended the dismissal of the register of the land office and his punishment by the courts. It gives an interesting history of how some of the large cattle raisers were able to obtain large ranches upon the payment of merely nominal sums. Nineteen fraudulent homestead entries were found in Colfax County alone, and patents for fourteen of them had been procured by the register for one Pedro Sanchez. All the entries were made to fictitious names or names of people who knew nothing about them.' It was also officially declared that the register worked in collusion with the surveyor general, Atkinson. The American Valley Cattle Company, a large corporation, was one of the combinations which was prominent in securing large tracts of land through fraudulent entries and conveyances.

The history of this corporation's occupation of the public lands is a long story of the most diaphanous fraud. One glaring instance of their reckless plundering was shown by their entering a homestead in the name of "Hank" Andrews, an Indian desperado, who had been hanged by a mob some time before. A great tract of coal land was also appropriated by a ring of speculators. Evidence was given that one thousand dollars was paid to one of the minor land officials for a favorable decision on the application. The accused officials were permitted to resign, and through the influences that prevailed in the United States Senate no steps were taken to cancel patents issued.

Charles Hipolyte Trotier-Beaubien, by reason of his ownership of what might be regarded as an empire in itself, became a most conspicuous figure in pioneer history of the west. He was born in Canada, probably at Three Rivers, and was descended from a long line of noble ancestors. The family became well represented in America, and several of its members have become prominent in affairs in this country and in Canada. The first representative of the name in Canada was Jules Trotier, who was born in 1590 at St. Malod 'lye au Perche, France, and there married Catherine Loyseau. His son, Antoine, Sieur des Ruisseaux, married Catherine Lefebone, by whom he had a son, Michael, Sieur de Beaubien, the first of the family to be called Beaubien, Seigneur de la Riviere du Loup. The latter married Agnes Godfroy de Linctot, and after her death he married Therese Mouet de Moras. Louis Trotier, Sieur de Beaubien, son of the second marriage, married Marie Louise Robida Manseaux. They had a son, Paul Trotier, Sieur de Beaubien, who on October 3, 1795, married Louise Charlotte Adelaide Durocher, daughter of J. B. Durocher and Marguerite Boucher-Denoix.

Charles Hipolyte Trotier, Sieur de Beaubien, was the first child of this marriage. Upon leaving Canada for the United States he used the name of Beaubien, by which he was thereafter known. Arriving in New Mexico in 1823, in company with a number of other French Canadians who desired to investigate the resources of the wonderful northern province of Mexico, he went directly to Taos, where, in 1827, he married Paula Lobato, daughter of one of the prominent Spanish citizens of that historic town. To them were born the following children: Narciso, who was killed during the uprising of 1847, commonly known as the Taos revolution; Luz, who became the wife of Lucien B. Maxwell; Leonar, who married V. Trujillo: Juanita, who married L. D. J. Clouthier; Teodora, who married Frederick Müller: Petrita, who married Jesus G. Abreu, and Pablo, who married Rebecca Abreu.

About 1846 Mr. Beaubien traveled from Taos down to the Cimarroncita, where he found Lucien B. Maxwell located just north of the present site of the Abreu ranch. A company of United States regulars were also occupying the military post which had been established there by the government. The house on the ranch had been erected a short time before by Lieutenant Wilson of the army. About the same time Kit Carson erected a home about three hundred yards from the ranch house in a southerly direction, the ruins of which are still standing.

Guadalupe Miranda, a citizen of Mexico, had asked the Mexican government for a grant of land in that section of the province, and this grant was conferred upon Beaubien and Miranda, who had previously agreed to the partnership. Soon afterward Beaubien purchased Miranda's interest and became sole owner of this great grant, the history of which will be found elsewhere in this volume. The final payment to Miranda was not made by Beaubien until 1857, when Pablo Miranda, son of Guadalupe Miranda, visited Taos to receive the money due. Miranda never resided upon any portion of the grant, but retained his residence near Juarez, Mexico. His descendants still reside there. After the death of Beaubien, February 10, 1864, his heirs sold the grant to Lucien B. Maxwell, who in the same year sold a portion of it to Jesus Gil Abreu.

During all these transactions Beaubien continued to reside in Taos, where his death occurred and where he was buried. He took an active interest in all public affairs. He was one of the first district judges in New Mexico, having been appointed by General Kearny to the bench in the third district, consisting of the counties of Rio Arriba and Taos. To the native inhabitants he was known as "Don Carlos'' Beaubien. Kit Carson, who was known to the natives as "Don Cristobal" Carson, Colonel Ceran St. Vrain, Governor Charles Bent, Richens Wootten and Lucien B. Maxwell were his contemporaries, and their influence among the native inhabitants was paramount, excepting during the troublous times commonly referred to as the Taos revolution.

Don Jesus Gil Abreu, one of the most conspicuous of the native inhabitants of northern New Mexico, was a representative of a family distinguished in the early history of the province of New Mexico. Don Santiago Abreu, his father, brought to Santa Fe the first printing press ever used in this Territory, purchasing it in Chihuahua, Mexico. After his death his widow sold it to Fr. Martinez, of Taos, who employed it in printing the first newspaper published in the Territory. During the Indian insurrection of 1837 he was appointed an officer on the personal staff of Governor Albino Perez, and was killed about the same time the governor met his death, near the site of the present town of Thornton, close to the pueblo of Santo Domingo. At this time Don Santiago was judge of the district court at Taos, a patriotic spirit and therefore a vigilant defender of the Spanish and Mexican inhabitants and a foe to the enemies of the established government. It appears that he was as greatly feared by the insurrectionists as was Governor Perez. Two of his brothers were killed at the same time.

Don Jesus Gil Abreu was born in Santa Fe, September 1, 1823. After the death of his father he continued to reside in Santa Fe until the early 40's, probably about 1842, when he started overland for Independence and Westport, Missouri, in company with a man who had gathered a herd of Mexican mules in Sonora and intended to market them in the east. From Missouri he went to Kentucky for a short time. Returning to Independence, he became a clerk in the mercantile house of Lee & McCoy, and while in their employ was sent to eastern cities with the Perea brothers of Bernalillo, New Mexico, in the capacity of interpreter. He was also employed by a Mr. Bernard in Westport. When the American troops came to New Mexico in 1845 he accompanied them, and was engaged by a sutler with the army as interpreter in Chihuahua. When peace was declared the duty of taking the news from Chihuahua to Santa Fe fell to him.

That portion of the American army then in Chihuahua was ordered to proceed to New Mexico when peace was declared, and Mr. Abreu's employers desired to send word ahead to Colonel Ceran St. Vrain to buy up all sutlers' goods before the army reached Santa Fe to enable it to enjoy the monopoly of the trade. He made the journey in seven days, passing through a region infested with tribes of savage Indians without interference or delay. In Santa Fe he was employed in the store of Colonel St. Vrain and at the same time acted as interpreter for the government. In the winter of 1848-49 he carried the United States mail between Santa Fe and Leavenworth, when, owing to the deep snows and cold weather, the trip consumed forty days. This was the second mail carried between these points, the first having been carried by Thomas Boggs.

In 1850 or 1851 Mr. Abreu went to California, traveling over much of that state. After his return to New Mexico he entered the employ of Joseph Pley, a partner of Maxwell in the latter's commercial enterprises, first as a clerk in the store at Mora, and after 1857 in the store at Rayado. At the latter place he established a general store and supplied stores and provisions to the army post located nearby. In 1862 he purchased a ranch of several thousand acres of Maxwell, located in the extreme southern part of the Maxwell grant, where he spent the remainder of his life. His death occurred there June 30, 1900.

On the 26th of November, 1859, Mr Abreu was united in marriage to Petrita Beaubien, daughter of Charles Beaubien. She was born in Taos, June 29, 1844. They became the parents of the following children: Charles Frederick; Josefa, who married D. A. Clouthier, of Springer; Jesus Librado; Santiago Pedro; Adaline, the wife of Emilio Valdez; Sofia; Victoriana; Narciso McCoy: and Ramon Eduardo. Mrs. Abreu still occupies the historic ranch at Rayado, surrounded by several of her children. The ranch house is one of the most picturesque and attractive in New Mexico and is the scene of a most generous hospitality. The Rayado ranch consists of over twenty thousand acres of mountain and plain, and is considered by many to be one of the most valuable properties in the southwest. Surrounding the residence are the ruins of a number of historic buildings, including the old homes of Kit Carson, L. B. Maxwell and others. On the estate is a private chapel, erected for the use of the family and their retainers. It is one of the few remaining baronial estates in America, and to the visitors from other sections of the country one of the mast fascinating spots in the southwest.

Don Santiago Abreu, a brother of Don Jesus, received his education in an eastern university. During the late '50's he was employed as a clerk in Westport, Missouri. Upon his return to New Mexico he conducted a general mercantile establishment at Nora and Penasco and became widely known throughout the Territory. For some time he served as a member of the board of county commissioners of Taos county and represented Taos county in the council in the nineteenth legislative assembly (1869), in the house in the twentieth legislative assembly (1871) and in the twenty-third assembly (1878). His death occurred in 1904.

Charles F. Abreu, son of Don Jesus Abreu, was born at Taos in 1860 and was reared on the famous ranch at Rayado. He was educated in St. Michael's College and the Christian Brothers' Academy at Santa Fe and in St. Mary's College, Kansas, completing his course in the latter institution in 1880. Until March, 1906, Mr. Abreu remained on the home ranch, superintending its operations. Since March of the latter year he has been engaged in the real estate and stock brokerage business in Santa Fe as the senior member of the firm of Abreu & Sena. In politics a stanch Democrat, he took an active interest in public affairs while a resident of Colfax County, serving as superintendent of the county schools and as county assessor. It is a noteworthy fact that in his veins runs the blood of the first Spanish explorer of what is now New Mexico, Cabeza de Vaca, and of the ancient families of Ortiz, Alarid, Pino and Delgado. 


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

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