History of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
Travel Down the Mission Trail
Scholars' Bookshelf
Missions Bibliography
Ysleta Bibliography
Roster of El Paso Area Tribal Leaders
Native American Water Use Chronology
Tigua Military History
Early Accounts & Bibliography
Tigua Participation at Texas State Fair
Travel Links & More
Ysleta Land Grant Chronology
Acknowledgments / Resources

1711            Testimony during the 1711 rebellion of Sumas, Manso, Janos and Jocomes, Tomás de la Cruz, Tigua governor of Ysleta, stated that the outbreak began on the day when he "had been out cleaning acequias with all his people at the time" (Hendricks 1996:16). This statement is evidence that by this early date (1711) the Tigua governor was in charge of acequia maintenance, which was performed with his people.

1713            1713, Oct. 15:King Philip V decree that directed Viceroy of New Spain to protect civil liberties of the Pueblo Indians with provision for "sufficient water, lands and timber entrances and exits; for cultivation be given to the settlements and towns (pueblos) of Indians which may be formed; and common of one league, where they can pasture their cattle, without their being mixed with those of the Spaniards" (Bowden 1971:137, fnt. #4; cited: House Executive Documents, 34th Cong., 3rd Sess., Document No. 1, 519-520).

                   "This plan for the establishment of the Pueblos became Law 8, Title 3, Book 6, of the Recopilación. The amount of land to be given to pueblos under this law is not clear, but it is generally interpreted to mean a league in each direction. After Mexico gained its independence, it adopted the Spanish Pueblo Plan" (Bowden 1971:137; fnt. 4).

1725            Tamarón remarked, that in 1725, the Rio Grande in the El Paso area "diminished and dried-up" (Adams 1954:37).

1726            Pedro de Rivers (Research note: check this it must be Rivera), inspecting northern frontier of New Spain, visited El Paso del Norte and described the irrigated lands which produced wheat, corn, beans, and all kinds of vegetables, as well as vineyards of superior quality:

"The natural fertility of the land is improved by the number of irrigation ditches which carry water from the said Rio del Norte, making the farms independent of droughts" (DoBkins 1959:104; cited from C.E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, 1519-1936, Vol. I, p. 276).

1740            Flood destroys Ysleta Mission and Pueblo (see Houser Settlement Study). Ysleta Mission and Pueblo were probably moved to a new site (Timmons 1983:113-117).

1751            It appears that the Ysleta Grant was made by Governor Tomás Vélez Cachupín. In 1751 he made Indian grants made in the El Paso area which recognized and protected land and water rights. For example, the Manso Indians of the pueblo of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe were presented a grant by Governor Cachupín who recognized a nominee "to govern the distribution of water and land" (Hendricks 1993b: 23). A large ditch was to serve as a boundary. The governor then declared: "The person knowledgeable about surveying, the alcalde mayor of water, and I examined this presentation and request. It was all good land under irrigation and found to be of sufficient size for the fields of the Indians of the nations that form this pueblo as well as those who may join them in the future" (Hendricks 1993a: 24).

                   Most important about this document is the statement concerning protection of Indian lands: "They are prohibited from selling, alienating, or loaning the land in any way to the citizens of the pueblo or its jurisdictions or any other person" (Hendricks 1993a: 24). This document was authorized on March 24, 1751.

1752            Earthquake of 1752. An account recorded by the German naturalist, Alexander Von Humboldt (Von Humboldt, Alexander, Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, Vol. 2, page 165, recorded from eyewitnesses during a visit to Paso del Norte in 1803-04. “The inhabitants of the Paso del Norte have preserved the recollection of a very extraordinary event, which took place in the year 1852.” “The whole bed on the Rio Grande river became dry all of a sudden for more than 30 leagues above and 20 leagues below El Paso. The water of the river precipitated itself into a newly formed chasm, and only made its reappearance near the Presidio of San Elizario.” “This loss of the Rio del Norte remained for a considerable time; the fine plains which surrounded El Paso and which are intersected with small canals of irrigation, remained without water; the inhabitants dug wells in the sand with which the bed of the river was filled.” “At length, after a lapse of several weeks, the water resumed its ancient course or flow note: This source must be in error because the San Elizario presidio did not exist until 1789. Check the date of this source).

1754-55        All Spaniards and Indians were assessed four reales for every hundred grapevines they had under cultivation to support construction of a dam in the El Paso area (Meyer 1984:67, fnt. 85: Manuel Antonio San Juan to Governor Velez Cachupin, July 17, 1754; Junta de los Vezinos e Indios de este Pueblo, Feb. 9, 1755, ALPC PE-51).

1754            "A poorly designed diversion from a major water source, such as the Rio Grande, could cause flooding not preordained by nature alone. The town and presidio of El Paso del Norte were subjected to repeated flooding by uncontrolled Rio Grande water in the irrigation network itself." referenced: Decreto del Sr. Govnr. dn Thomas Veliz Gachupin, 1754, ALPC, PE-51 (source: Meyer 1984:92, fnt. #75).

                   Re: no prejudice clause protects Indian water rights: "When water grants were made to Spaniards in Indian areas, the no-prejudice clause often singled the Indians out for protection. Thus, when Pedro Cano asked for a water grant in the Tarahumara region of Chihuahua in 1672, he specified that such a grant would not be in prejudice to the Indians, who lived quite a few leagues a ways, nor to any other third party who might have a better right. Similarly, when a water diversion project was planned for El Paso, the petition argued that the project would be implemented 'without prejudice to the Indians or any other third party". (Meyer 1984:153, fnt. #37: Testimonio de Diligencias...capitulo veintee, Año de 1754, ALPC PE-51).

Royal Ordinance (1754) ordered officials in New Spain to simplify the process and make it easier for the Indians to avail themselves of it [referring to, composición, the mechanism to clear title for land and water] (Meyer 1984:134: fnt #5, Real instrución de 15 de Octubre de 1754, cited in Galván Rivera, Ordenanzas de tierras y aguas, pp. 28-35).

1760            Bishop Tamarón's, Bishop of Durango, description of El Paso area includes an account of the irrigation systems (DoBkins 1959:104):

"That settlement [El Paso del Norte] suffers a great deal of trouble caused by the river. Every year the freshet carries away the conduit they make to drain off its water... The method of restoring the conduit ever year is to make some large round baskets of rather thick rods. When the freshets are over, they put them in the current, filling them with stones, and they act as dams and force the water to seek the mouth of the ditch" (Meyer 1984:42, Fnt.#60: Adams 9 ed).

Bishop Tamarón's Visitation, pp.35-36. Bishop Tamarón's visit and report of April 1760 described the extensive nature of irrigation at El Paso del Norte in the vicinity of the Manso Mission. Tamarón stated that in the El Paso region, half of the river is diverted by irrigation: “There is a large irrigation ditch with which they bleed the Río del Norte. It is large enough to receive half its waters. This ditch is subdivided into others which run through broad plains, irrigating them. By this means they maintain a large number of vineyards, from which they make generos [a typed of wine] wines even better than those from Parras, and also brandy, but not as much. They grow wheat, maize and other grains of the region, as well as fruit trees, apples, pears, peaches, figs.” -- The settlement suffers a great deal of trouble caused by the river. Every year the freshet carries away the conduit they make to drain off the waters. The flood season lasts three months, May, June, and July" (Adams 1954:36).

Bishop Tamarón reported on the river in the El Paso area: "That settlement suffers a great deal of trouble caused by the river. Every year the freshet carries away the conduit they make to drain off it waters. The flood season lasts three months, May, June, and July. They told me about this before I came, and I traveled with more speed, since I had to cross it before it was in flood. Three or four days after my arrival, I sent to see the river, a trip which requires an armed escort. It was already rising. It is at its peak on May 3. It was necessary for me to wait while supplies for the journey to the interior of New Mexico were made ready" (Adams 1954:35-36).

Bishop Tamarón described the annual repair or reconstruction of the irrigation conduits or small dams to divert water from the river: "The method of restoring the conduit every year is to make some large round baskets of rather thick rods. When the freshets are over, they put them in the current, filling them with stones, and they act as dams and force the water to seek the mouth of the ditch. This is not necessary when the river is in flood. Indeed, so much water flows that if the river is somewhat higher than usual, they are alarmed, fearing that they may be flooded and inundated with great damage" (Adams 1954:36).

Bishop Tamarón was impressed with the irrigation system within Ysleta, Senecú, San Lorenzo and Socorro area making the following comment about these pueblos: "They are as fertile and luxuriant as El Paso, with irrigation ditches which the river fills without need for a conduit" [unlike the Manso Mission].

1765 "Town of El Paso del Rio del norte and Town of San Lorenzo. Question as to right to use timber, etc." 1765 (Twitchell 1914: Spanish Archives of New Mexico: Page 189 Item 691, Vol. I).

1766 José de Urrutia Map of El Paso del Norte documents extensive irrigation system in the El Paso District a lateral canal for the Indians called La Acequia de los Indios (which probably served the Mansos Indians; the location of canals for the Tigua and Piro of Ysleta, Socorro and Senecú is not defined on this map but probably was not part of the irrigation system for the Mansos as evidence in Tamarón's statement above that Ysleta, Socorro and Senecú were served by a conduit as were the Manso Indians) (Gerald 1966:38-40; Meyer 1984:58, 59, Fig. #3.1).

1773 "In the same district follows the mission of La Isleta, abundant in everything, with its separate irrigation ditch and a large number of laborious, civilized, and industrious Indians" (Hackett 1937:506-507).

1774 Flooding in the El Paso area heavily damaged irrigation systems at Ysleta, Socorro, and Los Tiburcios and many fields were washed away (Hendricks 1993a: 28). Ysleta Mission & Pueblo destroyed which resulted in relocating to the present day site of the Ysleta Mission (Houser Research reports).

1779 May 14, 1779 complaint by Indians of Ysleta, Socorro and the real of San Lorenzo against José Horcasitas who was charged to oversee the flood control works on the river (Hendricks March 31, 1992:166).

1786 An 1786 document, concerning building an acequia to capture run-off from El Paso and Senecú that would also benefit of Ysleta, was approved and signed by José María Duran [grandfather of the Tigua leader by the same name in the 1860's & 1890's] and Domingo Espinosa (Hendricks, March 31, 1992:167).

1789 Governor Fernando de Chacon called for community labor to cut and haul timber from the Sabinal (Organ Mts.) for the bridge at El Paso (New Mexico Archives, letter of November 16, 1789).

1791 Reiteration of the Recopilación de la Leyes de Los Reynos de las Indias, which protects Indian lands and their rivers and waters and can in no case be sold or alienated (Recopilación Lib. IV, Title 12, Ley 17, II 44; from: Batcho & Kauffman 1989:appendix A, Spanish Period Chronology, p. 3).

1793 The following reference concerns dam construction in the San Elizario area (April 3, 1793): "Vidal de Lorca informs Uranga that the thirty wagons to be used to transport wood from Junta de los Rios will be there on the next day. The wood is needed for the dam, which must be worked on before the flood to ensure water for irrigation" (Hendricks March 31, 1992:175).

1797 Bernal, Francisco Xavier. acting Teniente de Governador. El Paso del Norte, June 20, 1797. To Comandante-General Pedro de Nava: Reporting misfortunes and mistreatment of a party sent from El Paso to bring wood to construct a bridge across the Rio Grande, owing to a delay in delivering the wood, and to Alférez Abrego's mismanagement (Twitchell 1914:II: 382, item 1383).

1798 Chacón, Fernando de. Santa Fe. Nov. 18, 1798. To Teniente de Gobernador, Miguel de Cañuelas, El Paso del Norte: Answering Aug. 18. 1798, reporting induction into office, July 20; on payment for timber from Sabinal for the El Paso bridge; etc (Twitchell 1914:II: 393, item 1430a).

Nov. 6, 1798 and July 9 and Aug. 10 "on construction of the bridge at El Paso, and the payment for timber from Sabinal promised by Bernal" (Twitchell 1914:II: 391, item 1492).

February, 1798, decree issued by Pedro de Nava, in February 19, 1798, which prescribed the role of the El Paso pueblos concerning acequia construction: "Nava transmits decree of superior government's advisor made in response to request for more water and land by the citizens of San Elceario. Advisor states that in time of drought, the pueblos of the jurisdiction of El Paso are obligated to perform annual work on the Río Grande dam at El Paso should take turns using the water in its tank, beginning with the nearest pueblo. For better distribution, each pueblo can build acequias within its limits as it sees fit or outside of them after with the agreement of other pueblos, either individually or together, can build their own dams" (Hendricks, March 31, 1992:195).

In September 1798, the citizens of San Elizario informed José María de la Riva that the Pueblo of Ysleta is constructing an acequia to trap the remnants of water from El Paso (Hendricks, March 31, 1992:194).

1798 Arrangements to send a party to the Sierra de la Soledad to cut wood for repair of the bridge over the Rio Grande (Twitchell 1914:III: 481, item 1893, part 3.; Research note: check this statement with photocopies in research file because there is no recorded date). Apparently, it is dated 1798.

1799 Governor Chacon reports: "...each pueblo has one league of land assigned though at some pueblos more is cultivated" (Batcho & Kauffman 1989:appendix A, page 3).