University of Arizona

Records Relating to Cases Decided by the Court of Private Land Claims, Arizona District

The Court of Private Land Claims was established by the United States in 1891. Its purpose was to adjudicate title and ownership of Spanish and Mexican land grants in territories ceded by Mexico to the United States by the treaties of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 1848, and the Gadsen Purchase, 1853. Under treaty provisions, Congress assumed an obligation to recognize earlier valid land grants. The court consisted of five justices who were appointed by the President.

A court term was established at Tucson, Arizona beginning on February 21, 1893 to consider all Arizona claims. Most of the difficulties with Arizona claims resulted from the Mexican independence in 1821 and resulting changes in Mexican government and constitution. The Court's actions are summarized in The Court of Private Land Claims: The Adjudication of Spanish and Mexican Land Grant Titles, 1891-1904, by Richard Wells Bradfute, University of New Mexico Press, 1975.

This collection consists of 27 reels of microfilm of selected papers from the National Archives, Washington, D.C. The papers relate to Arizona land grant claims tried before the Court of Private Land Claims from 1891 to 1904. Each claim is supported with various papers beginning as early as 1800, including documents issued by the Spanish and Mexican governments.

The collection includes both papers submitted in support of claims and papers produced while the cases were tried. These include correspondence, reports, decrees, surveys, field notes, petitions, sketch maps, land documents, trial transcripts, and related court records. Also present are photographs depicting land monuments and survey maps prepared for the Court.