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An Atlas of Historic New Mexico Maps, 15501941

Unit Three: The Business of Homesteading 1897

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War, promised that New Mexicans' property would be protected, notably the many lands grants that New Mexican governors had made over the centuries, to pueblos, heads of households, and groups of families. The community land grants often included communal lands, often used for grazing, but American land laws did not recognize these lands as being "owned," and about 30% of the land claims were denied, which has caused conflict to this day.

With scientific precision, survey crews under George Montague Wheeler measured and mapped the length and breadth of the state, and produced a massive series of maps, under which every square acre of New Mexico could be accounted for and disposed of through the General Land Office. The maps and accompanying reports, describing New Mexico's mineral, water, and timber resources among other things, were widely used by promoters in representing the potential charms of New Mexico to potential homesteaders.

Abraham Lincoln had passed the Homestead Act in 1862, but few homesteaders came to New Mexico during the difficult decades of the Civil War and the Indian wars. But the forts were built and manned, the railroads pushed through, Geronimo surrendered, and by the end of the 19th century, New Mexico governors were getting anxious for the industrious Yankees to come "make the land bloom." Governor Lew Wallace established the Bureau of Immigration in 1880, and Bureau Secretary William Gillet Ritch began to frame the charms of New Mexico, not just for the adventurous individual, but for business interests. This map was created as part of a "Business Atlas," purportedly offering business owners the information they need to establish operations.


In completion of this lesson, students will:

Compare historic maps to analyze development and population growth in New Mexico at the turn of the 20th century.

Collaborate with other students to research a New Mexico land grant using a variety of sources, and present their findings.

Read oral histories to learn about the experiences of homesteading during this period.

Interview an older person about the history of the community.

Students may

Use geographic technologies and hypertext to create a media-rich marker exploring a place of interest in their community.

Activity I: Looking at the map

Read the section on About This Map (text below the map).

To look at this map, close the info window for American Homesteaders, click the "reset" button to center the map, and turn the markers off (click "All Off" button).

Ask students to use the map analysis worksheet to look at the map, and have them compare results as a class.

Each student or group of students look at areas of new development in the state; they can compare platted areas (looks like a grid of squares-these are sections) and mineral resource districts with areas shown on older maps. A helpful technique, if using computers instead of handouts, is to open a new browser window, resize both windows to be side by side, and then display one map in one window and the other map in the other. Students should also read the text below the map (About this Map), and be familiar with the events in the timeline.

Questions for discussion:

Why did development bloom in the areas indicated on the map?

What technology made it possible to homestead southern and eastern New Mexico? You can make a list on the board of the following categories: transportation, agriculture, military, water management, communications, cartography.

Rand, McNally & Co.'s business atlas map of New Mexico: 1897

More about the Wheeler Survey

Activity II: Land Grants & Land Patents

Looking at the 1897 map, students should:

Turn the markers back on, and click the reset button to recenter the map.

Click on one of the markers for land grants: La Joya, Belen, Bell Ranch, Pedro Mendaris, or Ojo Caliente.

Click on the star marker by the land grants legend in the lower right hand corner of the map, labeled "New Mexico Land Grants." Click on the links tab.

Students should work in groups to research a single land grant.

Group assignments could include: Editor/writer (writes final report), tech (surfs websites, uses maps), presenter (makes a visual presentation of documents, shares with class).

The links offer good information on the legislative history of each grant. Students should find out:

The name of the grant/ any other names the grant has had

What kind of grant, to whom it was granted

Location of the grant, size of the grant

Is it shown on the 1897 map?

Is the information on this map correct regarding this grant?

What decisions were made about this grant?

Did it stay the same size?

Is it still owned by the land grant heirs?

Are there other controversies about this grant?

Groups should write a 1-3 paragraphs about their chosen area.

In the American system, when a homesteader met the requirements for acquiring title to the land, the General Land Office awarded them a patent. When land grants were cleared, the grantees were also awarded a patent.

These records are available online (link below) at the Government Land Office website.Click "search land patents".

If student groups have chosen an individual land grant, they can use the Basic Search to find the grant patent under the individual's name (assuming the grant was confirmed). If students have chosen a community grant, or one that was not confirmed, they can use Standard Search to search by Land Description. These students should first go to the geocommunicator site (below)

Once students have found the record they want, they should click on the tab for the document image. They can click the large GIF or the PDF to get a copy of the patent. They should save this document. Ask them to click on the tab for the legal description, and then to find the legal description in the patent.

Students should open up a new browser window or tab, and in this new window, navigate to the Geocommunicator website (link below).

Click the link Download PLSS to open the interactive map (you don't have to download the data)

This map shows the township, section, and range for all lands in New Mexico. This is the grid that the Wheeler surveys established, and it is still in use. Compare the PLSS map to the 1897 map.

If looking for a community grant or unconfirmed grant, zoom into that area of the map.

Students can click the button for "search township" (looks like a black grid) to search for a parcel by the legal description. Once the system has returned a listing for that parcel, click the magnifying glass to zoom to that location on the map. Below the map, click "SMA" to see the land status (ownership or management). Students can click on the PDF button to make a map of their area.

Hint: unclick the options for data download availability (you will not need to download data)

Groups should share their findings with the class.

New Mexico Office of the State Historian

GAO report: Community Land Grant Definitions and Lists 2001

GAO report: Community Land Grand Findings and Proposed Actions 2004

Center for Land Grant Studies

Government Land Office; click search land patents

Geocommunicator: Public Lands Survey System

Activity III: Oral Histories

Ask students to go back to the 1897 map. They should click to turn on the markers and click to reset. Open the White Oaks icon, read it, then click the "next" button to read through the oral histories and other recollections from American homesteaders.

Students should take notes to answer the following:

What kinds of businesses do the homesteaders describe? How do they make a living?

How do their neighbors make a living?

What kinds of difficulties do they describe?

What pleasures do they enjoy?

Ask students to share their findings with the class.

Explain: Many of these accounts were compiled and transcribed by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940.

Other oral histories are available in the "Other Voices" tabs of the maps, on any marker for a tribe or pueblo, and many areas important to native history, such as Bosque Redondo, Fort Wingate, etc.. These histories were collected by students at the University of New Mexico.

Oral histories are valuable because they offer us a very individual view of history. What was your community like fifty or sixty years ago? What changes have there been as far as development, industry, diversity, opportunity?

Students should find someone to interview about life in their community during the 20th century. Record this interview as a video or audio file, or transcribe it to a text file. For more about media hosting and establishing common media libraries, refer to the Adding Your Own Maps section (link from the Lesson Plans Page).

More about Oral Histories

Oral History Toolkit

Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress Administration

Activity IV: Google Earth Extension: Making a web page for more information

Students should create a marker with a 2-paragraph description that answers the following questions:

Why is this place interesting?

How did it get its name?

Who were the people who lived here?

What role does this place have in events of regional or statewide importance?

Was this place always in New Mexico?

Include citations and at least two links for more information.

For example**:

Manzano Mountains

The Manzano Mountains were named by Spanish colonists. In the first century after the Spanish entrada, Franciscan priests built three missions to serve the large pueblos who regulated traffic to the salinas, or salt lakes. The fathers planted large apple orchards, which survived the missions by some centuries. After the Pueblo Revolt, the Manzanos signaled the eastern limit of settlement for another hundred and fifty years, when the Spanish slowly resettled the villages on the eastern side.

Lieutenant Abert describes the orchards, as does Bandelier, who made more of an effort to date them. He writes:

"There stands at Manzano a grove of tall apple trees. The trees are manifestly very old. It is probably that they were planted by some of the missionaries during the seventeenth century, which would give them quote a venerable age. There does not seem to have been a mission at Manzano, and I could not find out whether traces of an old chapel have been noticed; still the name of the place "El Manzano" is derived from these apple trees. Consequently, they stood there when the settlement was made in the first quarter of the present century, unless, what is hardly probable, some of the settlers planted them before the municipal grant was issued in 1829. Probably the apple orchard of Manzano dates from prior to 1676. After that date, and until the foundation of the village of today, the Salines were a very dangerous region. An occasional hunter or large armed parties ventured into the valley, and beyond, at rare intervals; but nobody dared to establish himself permanently, for the Apaches held undisputed sway. I inquired diligently in 1882 about the apple orchard, but not even the oldest inhabitants of Manzano, Torreon, or Abo were able to give me any other reply than that it was much older than the recollections of their fathers and grandfathers." (from quoted in Twitchell, Leading Facts of New Mexico History, vol IV, p 487

Manzano Mountains State Park

Have students save these markers to their folder as described in Adding Your Own Maps.

**to see this marker, click on Student Maps 2009

Historic Districts of New Mexico

Historic Places of New Mexico

Adding Your Own Maps


Did the student:

Accurately interpret geographical tools and symbols, and historical documents, to develop a chronology and infer causal relationships?

Collaborate productively with others?

Research land grants using available tools and resources, and accurately interpret and present the information?

Read the oral histories using appropriate grade-level analytical skills?

Conduct an interview, record, summarize, and present it using appropriate grade-level skills?

Present research findings geographically, using internet technologies.


Key Ideas and Details:


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

Craft and Structure:/b>


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.


Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.


Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:/b>


Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.


Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author's claims.


Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:/b>


By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

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