Much of what I knew about the Atrisco Land Grant over the years was limited to news accounts of heirs to the grant who fought amongst each other about the past and the future of the grant. More specifically, the news focused on the different corporations that managed the grant, which included thousands of acres of land to the southwest of Albuquerque. The question was whether and how that land would be developed. Perhaps just as important was whether the heirs to the land grand would be fairly compensated.
The centuries-old controversy surrounding the grant became more real to me as I discovered my own family connections to the land.
For starters, I descend on both my paternal and maternal sides to Pedro Duran y Chaves who was one of the original settlers of the land in the 1600s, along with his hacienda in Angostura to the north, which I’ve written about before. Don Pedro’s son, Don Fernando Duran y Chaves was the only member of the Chaves clan to return to New Mexico following the Pueblo Revolt. He asked for possession of the land in Atrisco and Angostura in 1692. According to an account of Atrisco Land Grant on the web site of the State Historian, Don Diego de Vargas granted the request, requiring that “his heirs, children and successors may possess them with the condition that when it shall be the will of the king our Master that this Kingdom shall be settled, the said Don Fernando Duran y Chaves shall be one of the settlers and if he does not do this then the grant shall be void…” The formal grant was awarded in 1703, three years before the Villa of Alburquerque was recognized. Don Fernando and his descendants mostly kept the land in Atrisco among the original 12 families for nearly century.
A 2nd land grant was granted in 1768 that expanded the land to about 85,000 acres -- from the Rio Grande on the east to the Rio Puerco on the west. Litigation in the late 1800s, would focus on whether the original land grant was intended solely for Fernando Duran y Chaves, or rather, a community land grant owned by all who would eventually inherit or purchase land there.
I recently attended a lecture about Atrisco that was part of a larger series of talks about the old Spanish villages along the middle Rio Grande. I was initially disappointed when I learned that the focus of the lecture would be on the history of the land grant, rather than the community and the people. But since the land grant was such a major part of the history, I would be open-minded.
Peter Sanchez, the CEO of the latest iteration of the land grant, the Atrisco Companies, explained that in the early years of the grant, settlers relied on farming to sustain them, growing corn, beans, chile, squash and wheat. They also raised livestock and did well trading along El Camino Real. The grasslands to the west allowed for grazing for livestock and sheep.
The original church in the early 1700s was La Capina de San Jose El Ranchos de Atrisco, which still exists as a morada on La Vega, S.W. It is reportedly the oldest existing structure in Bernalillo County, and legend has it that Don Pedro Duran y Chaves is among the original settlers buried in the church.
About 200 years after the first land grant was established – a period during which governance shifted from Spain to Mexico and finally to the United States – residents of Atrisco turned to American courts to incorporate the community. That legal step to incorporate the land grant was significant for many reasons. But for me, it represents another family connection to the Atrisco Land Grant.
|List of Atrisco Families|
After the lecture last month, I went to the offices of the Atrisco Companies to see what genealogy records they have. My third-Great Grandfather Onofre Duran spent most, if not, all of his life in Ranchos de Atrisco. I was curious if there were any records that mention him. Sure enough, I easily found him in a binder of Atrisco families. I also noticed his wife, Placida Sanchez, and children, including my Great-Great Grandmother, Telesfora Duran. But what caught my attention was the highlighted number 81 next to Onofre’s son, Jose Maximo Duran. An employee at the Atrisco Company explained to me that the number meant that Maximo Duran was one of the 225 residents, presumably an heir to one of the original families, who filed the incorporation records.
|Copy of 1905 U.S. Patent for Atrisco Land Grant|
|Patent Signed by President Theodore Roosevelt|
Interestingly, the reason I recently returned to my research of Onofre Duran was because I had heard from a cousin, Tina Rizkallah, who also descends from Onofre. Actually, she descends from Maximo, and I descend from Maximo’s sister, Telesfora – making us fourth cousins. I told Tina about the reference I found to Maximo as one of the Atrisco incorporators. She said her mother had records that also show him as the 81st person on the list of incorporators. She said the records also mention Telesfora Duran.
That information further convinces me that we are most likely one of the thousands of legal heirs to the Atrisco Land Grant, even though I have tried successfully to locate original records that list the incorporators. Like the history of the land grant itself, many of those records have disappeared or continue to be embroiled in controversy.
In any case, it’s nice to know that I have family ties to Atrisco and its rich, if controversial, history. I will always consider myself a native of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. That’s where I grew up, and I’m part of the North Valley. But I appreciate my roots in Ranchos de Atrisco.