Personal tools

United States and New Mexico

Land transfers between the Federal government and State of New Mexico.

United States and New MexicoMedallion tree near Mud Spring: Custer's Last Stand tree. GD ~1876. #130.

In 1871, the grantees applied for recognition of the grant by the United States government. The grant was officially recognized, but in the 1886 survey by Surveyor General George Julian, the northern boundary was set at the ruins of San Antonio Pueblo. This was far less than the 90,000 acres claimed by the grantees.  Pablo Crespin, representing all of the grant families, filed suit in the United States Court; in 1897, the Court formally recognized only 2000 acres, mostly canyon bottom land.  The disputed area, not in the recognized boundaries of the grant, included the land on which the Center now sits.  

The land surrounding and containing the Center property was subdivided in 1882 but remained uninhabited; it was surveyed in 1901 and patented to the federal government in 1903.  Available land brought more people and more hunting; by the 1900’s large mammals in the Sandias began to disappear, including, elk, gray wolf, and Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep, although elk are occasionally sighted as they pass through.  On June 20, 1910 the Center land was transferred to the then Territory of New Mexico under the jurisdiction of the state land office.  The lots were then available for sale or for lease as grazing allotments. An individual started the process to buy the property in 1930, but the sale was cancelled in 1934. No leases were sought or granted until the Albuquerque Public Schools requested a lease for educational purposes in 1950.

The area to the west of the present day center remained in federal hands and was established as the Manzano Forest Preserve in 1906; it was renamed the Manzano National Forest in 1907 and became part of the Cibola National Forest in 1931. After World War I, residents of San Antonio and other nearby villages became increasingly dependent on grazing sheep and goats for a living, gradually increasing the size of their herds. It was estimated that 6000 goats grazed in Las Huertas Canyon, north of the Center property.

 Concerns about overgrazing led to a ban on all high altitude grazing by the Forest Service in 1931, ending the use of the lush grass growing in the high meadows of the Sandias.  The locals turned more to other means of making a living. During prohibition, San Antonio was well known as a center of moonshine production. There were lime kilns, a gypsum mine and even a tiny coal mine in operation nearby.  Trees were felled with axes, drug out of the forest by horses and used for firewood and construction.  This continued at least until the 1960s. The weathered stumps of trees felled by hand axes can still be seen scatted around the property, especially on or near trails.

Continued Development

The area continued to be developed during the pre-war years.  In 1927 the Forest Service completed the road to Sandia Crest.  Between 1933 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps worked on projects throughout the east mountains. From a large camp at Sandia Park near today’s Tinkertown Museum, the CCC built roads and campgrounds, including Cienega, Sulphur and Doc Long picnic grounds.  They also did extensive work on water and erosion projects, building check dams and channeling streams. The CCC may have begun the placementof the “tree medallions”.  These mysterious medallions purport to date the trees on which they appear- the two near Mud Spring indicate “Custer’s Last Stand, 1876”  and “1st UNM Classes, 1892’; and are found on trees throughout the Sandias. Some of the medallions also show a tree core date of 1938-which suggests they were placed during the CCC tenure in the area.  

The CCC opened the Sandias to more recreational use- not just through the construction of picnic grounds, but also roads and trails, and in 1936 they cleared land for the first primitive ski area at the Tree Springs trailhead.  Others soon saw the recreation opportunity of mountains so close to Albuquerque.  The forties saw the return of one of the most popular species of wildlife at the center: the Abert Squirrel. It disappeared around the turn of the century, and was re-introduced from other New Mexico mountains in 1940 by Homer Pickens, former Director of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department.  Around this same time, 1939-1940, Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep were reintroduced to the Sandias; they flourished through the 1960s but their numbers declined after that, and the last Rocky Mountain Bighorn was sighted in 1992.