Outsiders Buy Maxwell Land Grant

May 9 illustration.Maxwell Land Grant 1870In May 1870, the newly-incorporated Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Corporation, with a capital stock of $5 million, began the process of taking possession of what had been the Beaubien/Miranda Land Grant, and what formed the majority of New Mexico’s Colfax County. A $1.35 million contract to purchase the grant from Lucien Bonaparte Maxwell and Maria de la Luz Beaubien Maxwell had been signed in late April. However, there’d been a small glitch in the process because the investors purchasing were English. Only Americans were allowed to hold property in New Mexico Territory. So a corporation board of Americans was assembled. Even then, most of the men on the board would have been considered “outsiders” by anyone who’d been born and raised in New Mexico. Only one of them was originally from New Mexico and only two of them would die here.

The most prominent member of the board was William A. Pile, New Mexico Territorial Governor. Pile hailed from Indiana and would go on to represent the U.S. in Venezuela—and Venezuela in the U.S.—before his death in California in 1889.

Dr. Thomas Rush Spencer, Territorial Surveyor General, was originally from Ontario County, New York. Besides his participation in the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Corporation board, Spencer also owned a 20 percent interest in the Mora Land grant. He died in Santa Fe two years after the board incorporated.

John S. Watts, former New Mexico Chief Justice and Territorial delegate to Congress, had been in New Mexico almost twenty years. Originally from Indiana, he would return there within the next few years and be buried there in 1876.

General William Jackson Palmer, Pennsylvania-born Colorado real estate magnate and railroad builder, seems to have never actually lived in New Mexico, although he was prominent in Colorado Territory, co-founding the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and founding Colorado Springs, where he passed away in 1909.

May 9 illustration.Miguel Antonio Otero I.from Twitchell Leading Facts
Source: Ralph Emerson Twitchell, The Leading Facts of New New Mexican History

The only “native” member of the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Corporation board was Miguel Antonio Otero, the father of future Territorial Governor Miguel Otero (1897-1906). The elder Otero was born in Valencia County in 1829 and educated in the eastern United States as a lawyer. He returned home to serve as the Territorial Delegate to Congress from 1855 to 1861 and to participate in various mercantile, banking, and railroad ventures, including the Maxwell Land Grant & Railway Corporation. He died in Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1882.

Sources: The Government of New Mexico by Thomas C. Donnelly, UNM Press, 1953; Lucien Maxwell, Villain or Visionary, Harriet Freiberger, Sunstone Press, SF, 1999; Roadside History of Colorado, Candy Moulton, Mountain Press, Missoula, 2006; The Leading Facts of New Mexican History, Ralph Emerson Twitchell Vol. II, Sunstone Press, 2007; Telling New Mexico, Marta Weigle, Ed., Museum of NM Press, Santa Fe, 2009; The Public Domain in New Mexico, 1854-1891, Victor Westphall, U of NM Press, Albuquerque, 1965; Thomas Benton Catron and His Era, Victor Westphall, U of AZ Press, Tucson, AZ, 1973;  http://newmexicohistory.org/people/william-a-pile accessed 3/27/17;  http://www.findagrave.com/thomas rush spencer accessed 3/27/17; http://cozine.com/2011-june/william-jackson-palmer-1836-1909.