Affidavits of Contest


Homesteaders were always susceptible to challenges to their land. An Affidavit of Contest is the measure by which an individual could legally challenge the right of another individual to hold his or her homestead claim. The Docket Book of Land Entries Contested by Individuals 1905-1918 (Boxes 237 to 238) RG 49 Arizona State Land Records reveals only three actions impacting San Pedro valley homesteaders.

In Docket 489 Edward A. Bates vs. Antonio Lopez (8-5S-15E) an Affidavit of Contest was filed by Bates on February 11/1908. The archival record was incomplete, but it appears Bates prevailed because a homestead Cancellation and Relinquishment was entered on March 23, 1908.

In Docket 942 Juan V. Luna vs. Douglas Marley, Luna charged Marley with abandonment; hearing was held and Luna prevailed on lands at 17 -8S-17E & 18 8S-17E (Mammoth).

In Docket 1004 Bentura Garcia vs. Henry J. Bates, Garcia challenged and prevailed on lands at 17-5S-15E (Winkleman).

Claim jumping was a frontier occurrence and the question has been raised 1854-1941 - University of Arizona / Tucson 1989 P/71-72 with respect to "Mexicans" unjustly losing their land to Americans. Displayed below are archival statistics that may be helpful in assessing the question.

There were seventy (70) contests where the Contestants vs. Contestees were: American vs. Mexican, or Mexican vs. American

Composition Cases Prevailing Party
American vs. Mexican 17 American contestant prevailed
Mexican vs. American 14 Mexican contestant prevailed
Mexican vs. American 14 American contestee prevailed
American vs. Mexican 25 Mexican contestee prevailed

The pattern that emerges is that thirty nine (39) Mexicans successfully prevailed, contrasted with thirty one (31) Americans in the contested entries. These archival records do not suggest wholesale defrauding of Mexican homesteaders. Admittedly, archival files do not take into account the greed, deceit, and chicanery that may have occurred beyond the pale of archival records. A more detailed search of public records may hold a different answer, but that effort is left for historians capable of legal researcher.

Lastly, and also left for future legal researchers, is the question of Mexican surrogate homesteaders. Between 1875 and 1901 there were two hundred fifty nine (259) patents issued to "Mexican homesteaders" in the entire Territory of Arizona, Box 228/229 Register of Patents delivered including the San Pedro River valley.

Of this number, seventy (78) patents or 30 percent, were delivered to Non Mexicans recipients. Was it economics, debt, death, taxes, etc. that caused this transfer of title ? Or was it a case of the "Mexican homesteader" serving as a surrogate?

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