United States v. Baca
This was a petition to the court of private land claims by Margarito Baca for the confirmation to him, and to all other persons land in Valencia county, in New Mexico, known as the San Jose del Encinal tract, alleged to have been granted to Baltazar Baca and his two sons in 1768 by the Spanish governor and captain general of New Mexico.
The petition prayed the court to take and exercise jurisdiction of the petition; to hear and determine all questions relative to the tract, its extent, proper location, and boundaries, and whether, when properly located, it would in any manner conflict with any neighboring property to which there was superior title; to take cognizance of all other matters connected therewith fit and proper to be heard and determined; and by final decree to settle and determine the questions of the proper location of the tract, the validity of the title, and the boundaries thereof; to finally determine and forever set at rest all other questions properly arising between the petitioner and his co-owners and the United States; to confirm the title of the petitioner and his co-owners to them in fee simple; and for further relief.
The United States, by an amended answer filed by leave of court, alleged, among other things, that the tract demanded lay wholly within the lands granted and confirmed by Congress to the town of Cebolleta, reported as number 30, and to the pueblo of Laguna, reported as number 46, by the acts of June 21, 1860, chap. 167 (12 Stat. at L. 71), and March 3, 1869, chap. 152 (15 Stat. at L. 454), respectively; and that, the right to this tract having been thus lawfully acted upon and decided by Congress, the court of private land claims had no jurisdiction to allow the claim of the petitioner.
The court of private land claims, upon hearing and consideration, suspended proceedings until after the decision of this court in United States v. Conway, 175 U.S. 60, 44 L. ed. 72, 20 Sup. Ct. Rep. 13, and then entered the following decree:
'This cause having heretofore come on to be heard upon the pleadings and exhibits on file, and upon full and legal proofs introduced and taken in the cause, both written and oral, and upon the original and other documents regarding said claim from file number 104 in the office of the surveyor general of the territory of New Mexico and from other sources in said office; and the court having considered the same, and having heard counsel for all of the parties to the cause, and being fully advised in the premises, and on due consideration thereof, doth make the following findings of fact and law, that is to say:
'1. That in the year 1768 a valid and perfect title in fee simple to all of the land of the sitio de San Jose do Encinal, situated in what is now Valencia county, New Mexico, was by the proper officers of the Spanish government, the then sovereign power of what is now the territory of New Mexico, granted in equal shares unto Baltazar Baca and his two sons, and which said tract of land, situated in said county as aforesaid, was and is described as follows, that is to say: It is bounded on the east by a tableland; thence it extends westward 5,000 Castilian varas to a sharp-pointed black hill; on the north it is bounded by the Cebolleta mountain; on the south it is bounded by some white bluffs, at whose base runs the Zuni road,-all as the same is known and designated upon the maps, plats, and surveys in file number 104 in the office of the surveyor general of the territory of New Mexico.
'2. That such title so remained in said grantees and their successors from thence hitherto, and up to and including the time of the cession of the land now comprised in the territory of New Mexico to the United States, and has so continued from thence to the present time.
'3. That the said grantees and their successors have from the time of the making of said grant complied with all conditions necessary to the validity of the same.
'4. That such title in such grantees and their successors to said tract of land was and is complete, valid, and perfect, and so was at the date of the cession of the land now comprised in the territory of New Mexico to the United States by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; and the same was and is such a title as the United States is bound to recognize and confirm by virtue of said treaty and otherwise.
'5. That the claimant, Margarito Baca, is a lineal descendant of the said Baltazar Baca, one of the original grantees.
'6. But the court further finds, as a matter of fact, that the land comprised within the tract aforesaid is included within the outboundaries of the town of Cebolleta grant, reported number 46, and the Paguate purchase tract, reported number 30; the said Cebolleta grant having been confirmed to the claimants thereof by an act of Congress approved March 3, 1869, and thereupon duly patented to said claimants by the proper authorities of the United States; and the said Paguate purchase tract having been confirmed to the Indians of the pueblo of Laguna by an act of Congress approved June 21, 1860, and thereupon patented to said pueblo by the proper authorities of the United States.
'7. Wherefore it is considered and adjudged by the court that a complete, valid, and perfect title in and to the tract of land above described was and is vested in the said Baltazar Baca and his two sons and their successors in interest; but that, notwithstanding such fact, this court is without jurisdiction, because of the patents for the said land so as aforesaid issued by the United States, to decree and confirm the same unto them, or to order a survey thereof for such purpose, and for such reason no other or different relief than the pronouncing upon the character of the claimant's title as aforesaid is or will be granted by this court, and it is so ordered.'
The United States appealed to this court.
Mr. Matthew G. Reynolds and Solicitor General Richards for appellant.
Mr. B. S. Rodey for appellee.
Mr. Justice Gray, after stating the case as above, delivered the opinion of the court: