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8.8.5 Plat of the Rancho La Purisima Concepcion, finally confirmed to Juana Briones : [Santa Clara Co., Calif.] / As located by the U.S. Surveyor General
On verso: Filed January 29, 1863. On label attached to map: Attached to Decree approving survey of Rancho La Purisima Concepcion, filed Feb. 2, 1863. Includes table of boundaries and notes. From: U.S. District Court. California, Northern District. Land case 130 ND, page 173. Juana Briones, claimant. Pen-and-ink and watercolor on tracing cloth. Relief shown by hachures. Land Case Map E-281.
This map, created by a US official in California, was used to define the boundaries of Juana Briones’s land. Briones was unusual in that she retained her land. More commonly, owners of these Mexican land grants ended up losing much if not all of their property during the American era. These landowners had to prove in US courts their rights to thousands of acres of land that was very much in demand by the many Anglo settlers who arrived during and after the Gold Rush. Mexican land grant owners hired lawyers to represent them in court; more often than not, the long process (sometimes lasting up to 20 years) ended up leaving many landowners bankrupt. As a result, these landowners would have to sell parts or even all of their land to pay legal fees. How do these common experiences square with what the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo promised?
The California Land Act of 1851 decreed that owners of land grants in California had to prove their ownership in US courts. Juana Briones hired a lawyer, and together they successfully defended her land rights. Through the 20-year process, Briones managed to persist in securing title to her lands, despite not being able to read or write in Spanish or in English. By the 1880s, almost half of those who had held title to Mexican ranchos had sold or lost considerable amounts of their land in the American era. Briones was one of the 22 women out of 66 who was able to retain rights to her land. However, losses came not only from the 1851 Land Act but also from laws protecting squatters’ rights, theft, intimidation, and dishonest business deals. Most Mexicans were not involved in the land cases, as most did not own large ranches. The breakup of the ranches, anti-Mexican violence, and laws such as the “Greaser Act” left many with few rights to protect themselves and few opportunities to get ahead in the new economy.
Plat of the Rancho La Purisima Concepcion, finally confirmed to Juana Briones / As located by the U.S. Surveyor General
from field notes of Survey on record in the survey General's Office, and in accordance with the decree rendered by the honorable OGDEN HOFFMAN U.S.DISTRICT
December 13th 1862.
Containing 4438 94/100 Acres