TOME — Historic documents more than a century old have been preserved, digitized and replicated to ensure they aren’t lost to the ravages of time and simultaneously can be seen and appreciated by generations to come.

The map and patent confirming the town of Tomé Land Grant in 1860 has been in the possession of members of the land grant and their descendants, kept safe in the original metal tube they were delivered in 161 years ago.

“When the U.S. government took over (New Mexico), it was supposed to honor the land grant agreements according to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, what the Spanish and Mexican governments deemed our land,” said Andrea Padilla, president of the town of Tomé Land Grant. “The patent indicated the map and boundaries of said property.”

Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico
The map of the Tomé Claim was confirmed by the U.S. Surveyor General’s Office, Santa Fe, Oct. 31, 1860.

The documents were issued in 1860 and the patent signed by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant in July 1871. They were registered in Valencia County that same year and again in 1913.

The town of Tomé Land Grant was issued by the king of Spain in 1739 to a group of Spanish settlers from Albuquerque to establish a farming and ranching community in the heart of Valencia County.

While the documents were kept safe in the metal tube, passed down through the generations, they became more and more fragile and harder to read as the years passed, Padilla said.

“We have been wanting to do something with them but we didn’t know who to reach out to,” she said. “U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury was down for a tour and her office recommended the Center for Southwest Research with (The University of New Mexico.)”

Padilla reached out to the center and the staff was enthusiastic about the project. She took the documents to the center on a Friday in mid December and by Wednesday of the next week, the project was done.

“I was nervous at first but when we saw how overjoyed they were we knew they were going to take care of it,” she said.

In a post on UNM’s university libraries website, Nancy Brown-Martinez wrote about the center’s efforts to restore and digitize the historic documents.

The CSWR’s conservation technician, Jennifer Dawn Eggleston, took on the challenge and within a week had carefully flattened and encapsulated both the aging map and the documentation.

“This was truly a collaborative CSWR effort, as so much of our work is,” Brown-Martinez wrote.

In addition to Eggleston’s conservation work, the center’s student Jeanette Alvarez, was the scanning tech, while head archivist and Valencia County native Samuel Sisneros, enhanced the document coloration.

Archivist Chris Geherin uploaded the images to the New Mexico Digital Collection for full access by all students and scholars.

“It is satisfying when everyone lends their skills to a project,” Martinez-Brown wrote.

Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico
The cover sheet of the patent, which describes the boundaries of the land grant.

The original documents are now back in Tomé at the town of Tomé Land Grant Museum and Library. The map has been flattened and will be kept in a dark storage area, Padilla said.

“Any light damages it. We are considering, in the future, maybe framing it, if it will be good for it,” she said. “We will display copies and the original documents will continue to be preserved.

“This is like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. It’s as valuable as they are.”

Copies will be put on display in the coming weeks at the museum, 2933 N.M. 47, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday.

Padilla added the CSWR was allowed to make copies of the documents.

“Jennifer did a fantastic job getting it flattened out. We are very pleased with the work,” she said. “These are invaluable documents a lot of land grants didn’t save. For us to have them is phenomenal. We are lucky previous boards kept and preserved them, and then donated them to the museum. The previous secretary, Joty Baca, was instrumental in keeping them all these years. He was the one who donated them to the land grant when it was reconstituted.”

The map is an Oct. 31, 1860, plat of the Tomé Claim confirmed by the U.S. Surveyor General’s Office, Santa Fe, for 121,594 acres. Featured on the map are the west and east land grant boundaries at the Rio Grande and the Manzano Mountains, and the sections within it.

Also shown on the map are the corner stones and many mounds of earth marking the northern Thomé Dominguez line, the plains first settled by Thomé Dominguez in 1659 and on the south to a stopping place with three cottonwood trees — the Belen Grant line.

The Tomé Land Grant originally contained about 300,000 acres. Some sections were given to the neighboring Casa Colorada Grant, and the U.S. Forest Service received others in inaccurate surveys. Some sections went to pay taxes, and in 1968 the remaining 47,000 acres were sold to a real estate developer.

In 2001, the U.S. Government Accountability Office land grant report to Congress recognized the Tomé Grant as a community grant, with the acres noted in 1871. The grant was reconstituted in that year, and is dedicated to cultural preservation. It continues to identify former acreage belonging to the grant.

Copies of the Tomé documents can also be viewed in person at the CSWR, New Mexico History Collection MSS 349 BC, or online on the New Mexico Digital Collection.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.