What is the Socorro Land Grant?
In 1815 or 1816, the Spanish government of New Mexico gave 70 families from Belen and other places in New Mexico a land grant in Socorro. These families staked their claims on parcels of land and started new lives in their new home. Within a few years, they petitioned the governor of New Mexico for title on the land. If title was given, it disappeared or was destroyed soon afterwards.
In 1846, the U.S. invaded New Mexico. With the end of the war and the Treaty of Guadalupe, New Mexico became a territory of the United States. Decades later, Socorro residents fought the U.S. government over the Socorro Grant in three separate court cases. Originally, the residents claimed over 1.6 million acres of land. The U.S. government surveyed the land grant and found that it was closer to 800,000 acres. However, the government accused Socorro residents of committing fraud and authorized only 17,000 acres, or four Spanish square leagues for the Socorro Grant.