Lands of the Mexican Cession
DURING THE YEARS when Spain and her successor Mexico controlled the land in what became known as the Mexican Cession -- California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada -- three general categories of land grants had been made: to the missions, to the pueblos or towns, and to individuals. In California alone, twenty-one missions had been founded. Each controlled a large area in which it operated its Christianizing effort and taught the Indians agriculture and ranching as well as the domestic arts and handicrafts.
Missions were to operate as such for only about ten years; by that time, it was thought, the Indians would finish their apprenticeship, be ready to manage their own affairs, and become a part of the white man's social order. The mission would become a village; the mission church a parish church; and the land around the mission, which had been placed in cultivation by the labor of the Indians, would become the Indians' property. Unfortunately, the Franciscan order, which operated the missions, did not teach the Indians to be independent and economically responsible, but made all decisions for them. As a result, they never gained the ability to run their own affairs. In 1833, when the Mexican government took action to secularize the missions, the Franciscans stoutly opposed the move, and the Indians, loyal to their tutors, saw the move as another instance of white abuse of them and their protectors. In the confusion that followed, the Indians scattered, leaving the friars in the mission buildings and the title to the land in doubt, whereupon the whites rushed into this ownership vacuum and occupied the former mission lands. Between 1833 and 1846, that is, between secularization and the American occupation, more than five hundred grants of former mission holdings were made to individuals by the Mexican government.
The second class of original landholdings was made to Spanish citizens who received permission to found a town, live in it, and hold grants to the surrounding land for farming and ranching. In 1846 there were seven of