Homesteading in Northern New Mexico


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.


José A. Rivera, Center for Regional Studies and School of Architecture and Planning, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

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.


Reading the Graph

1. What can you learn from studying historic documents? Print out copies of the 1916 and 1917 Crop and Residence Reports and a data sheet, one per pair or group of students.

2. Was Pablo Hurtado's homestead application approved? Project or print out copies of the Hurtado Patent, one per pair or group of students, and have students do an analysis of the document.

Making Inferences

3. What would life have been like for the Pablo Hurtado family in 1917? Use elements from the Crop and Resident Reports to support your claim. Consider the nature of the land, the crops they grew, the number of stock (animals) they owned, and Hurtado’s outside employment.

Digging Deeper

4. Assign groups of students to find the location of the Pablo Hurtado homestead using on-line tools like Google maps, Google Earth, NM State Land Office, United States Geological Service.

5. Have students read the letter written by Bernard S. Rodey to the U.S. Commissioner of the General Land Office and published in the August 13, 1902 edition of the Albuquerque Daily Citizen, regarding the establishment of the Lincoln Forest Reserve in Mescalero County, which is present-day Otero County. What is Rodey’s opinion of the establishment of the Lincoln Forest Reserve? Is he in favor of or against the forest reserve? What are his reasons? In what ways does his letter relate to the rights of states (or territories) versus the rights of the federal government?

click here to view the answers.