Ex-Mission of Santa Catarina Legal File, 1856 - 1916 (MSS 124)

Extent: 0.4 Linear feet (3 volumes in 1 archives box)

View OnlineThis collection has been digitized.

Correspondence, legal documents, expense statements, and sales agreements compiled to demonstrate rightful ownership of the lands deriving from the Ex-Mission of Santa Catarina, a large tract of land in northern Baja California originally the possession of the Catholic Church.

The lands of the Ex-Mission of Santa Catarina are located in northern Baja California, about 70 miles south of San Diego. The lands comprise ca. 1.5 million acres. Prior to the Mexican Revolution, the lands belonged to the Catholic Church and were used for religious purposes. After the Revolution, the lands were appropriated by the Mexican government.

In 1855, the Mexican government granted ownership of the lands of the ex-mission of Santa Catarina to General Ricardo Palacio for his services to the Government during the Revolution. The grant was made with three conditions. The first condition was that he was to take possession of the land and have it surveyed within three years of the grant. The second condition was that six houses were to be constructed on the property. The last condition was that the land was to be passed on only to a native or naturalized Mexican citizen.

Beginning in 1861 or 1862, Gen. Palacio passed title of some portion of the land to Manuel Castro, who then sold it to William Denton. Denton, in turn, sold the land to Robert McKay, and McKay sold it to William McCrindle. Meanwhile, the Mexican government claimed to have annulled the original grant to Gen. Palacio because "of lack of compliance with condition of grant and also because the original survey was not filed but only what purported to be a copy. Also because the grant was for 341 leagues, this being contrary to law of 18th August,1824; also because Palacio had sold part of land to Morner who was a foreigner not naturalized, and further because Palacio had not surveyed and settled land by the 20th of June, 1865" (Vol. 3, p. 6). In 1898, the Mexican government reasserted the nullity of the Palacio grant, and it was suggested by one of the investigating attorneys, Y. Sepulveda, "it would be futile to attempt to obtain...benefit from the Palacio Grant" (Vol. 3, p. 6-7). As of 1916, ownership of the land was still being contested, the claim having passed to Antonio Milatovich.

Three bound volumes containing legal documents, correspondence, and other materials pertaining to the dispute of ownership to the lands of the Ex-Mission of Santa Catarina, a large tract of land in northern Baja California originally the possession of the Catholic Church.

Letter of Ricardo Palacio to General Blancarte, 1856. MSS 255. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

Antonio Milatovich. Documents relating to land transactions in Baja California, 1841-1886. The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

This collection was digitized in 2016 for inclusion in the Adam Matthew subscription database Frontier Life: borderlands, settlement & colonial encounters.

Container List


Box 1 Folder 1

138 leaves bound. Carbon copies of transcriptions of official documents. Most of the transcriptions were done in 1875 and some in 1887; their fidelity to the originals is sworn to by the San Francisco Notary Public.

Box 1 Folder 2

325 leaves bound. The bulk of the materials date from 1874-1978. Some of them are in Spanish, but most are in English. The volume was compiled by Antonio Milatovich. A holograph map, in pencil, of the northern part of Baja California appears after the title page to the volume. Major correspondents include Adolfo Palacio, William McCrindle, William Denton, and Robert McKay.