The homestead record featured in this data lesson relates to a claim made by Pablo Hurtado in 1911 for 112.5 acres in Agua Corral Canyon, near present-day Villanueva, New Mexico.
The Forest Reserve Homestead Act of 1906 directed the U.S. Forest Service to survey and designate agricultural lands within the national forest boundaries and allow people to make a homestead claim of up to 160 acres. The claimant had to make improvements, establish a residence, and plant crops on the land. Forest rangers were responsible for documenting that a claimant met the requirements for a homestead, which they did through visits to the claims, filling out reports, and submitting letters to the Department of Agriculture. If a homestead claim was approved, the claimant would receive a patent document from the president of the United States granting them ownership of the land.
The NM EPSCoR data portal contains more than 1,800 files related to homestead claims in the Santa Fe National forest dating from the early 1900s to the 1930s. The files can be searched by location and by homesteader name. They preserve an important record of what life was like in northern New Mexico in the era of subsistence agriculture, the relationship between citizens and the U.S. Government, and the history of public lands in New Mexico.
Santa Fe National Forest
About the Researchers:
José A. Rivera is a professor of planning at the University of New Mexico and is a research scholar at the Center for Regional Studies. His research interests include water management institutions and the culture of water in comparative regions of the world. His publications include Acequia Culture: Water, Land, and Community in the Southwest, and a co-authored book, Rural Environmental Planning for Sustainable Communities. He has served as an expert witness in water rights transfer applications in the State of New Mexico centered on the social, cultural and ecological impacts of the proposed changes in point of diversion and purpose of use.