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Let’s jump forward again, to 1819, when Don Bartolomé Baca petitioned the governor of the Province of New Mexico, Don Facundo Melgárez, for a tract of land. Baca was a captain of the cavalry stationed at Tomé. He told the governor he had sheep, cattle, and horses and did not have a place to graze them. He described a huge piece of the Estancia Valley as a suitable place.
Governor Melgárez sent his commissioner of justice, Don José García de la Mora, to inspect the property with Captain Baca. García reported that the land was uninhabited and unclaimed. Citing the “great services” Baca had rendered for the king, he related: “I have given him possession in the name of His Majesty, the King of Spain, and taking him by the hand we went over the place, acclaiming, pulling out grass and throwing rocks in the name of the King, saying, ‘Long live our Beloved Monarch Don Fernando Septime! May God save him!’ with all my might and on hearing the echoes I wept.”
The boundaries of the grant were established as Pedernal Peak to the east, Buffalo Springs (between Chililí and Moriarty) to the north, and the ridge of the Manzano Mountains to the west. The southern boundary was marked by two springs whose location I do not know, but probably followed about the same route as present-day US-60.
This was an enormous piece of land, somewhere around 1.2 million acres. Sheepherders for Captain Baca probably had a camp at every spring, and dwellings of some sort were constructed. Estancia was the headquarters, perhaps from the beginning, but there were quite a few other residences around the valley.
Only three years later, in 1821, over three centuries of Spanish domination in North America ended when Mexico declared independence. “New Spain” became “New Mexico.” It probably had little effect on the sheepherders of the Estancia Valley.