JOAQUIN DE HINOJOSA LAND GRANT
JOAQUÍN DE HINOJOSA LAND GRANT. The oldest and largest land grant in Texas was made by the king of Spain to Fray Joaquín de Hinojosa in May of 1692. Hinojosa, a Franciscan friar, worked with the Tigua Indians, who lived in the El Paso area. During an inspection by Governor Diego de Vargas, Hinojosa requested autos of possession of the missions at El Paso, San Lorenzo, Senecú, Ysleta, and Socorro. The friar also requested additional land to sustain each mission. Hinojosa not only sought control of church property but also responsibility for the Indians who lived on or near each mission. Though Vargas was willing to grant civil control of church lands to Hinojosa, he was reluctant to give the missionary authority over the Indians. After inspecting each of the missions, Vargas recommended that a grant, totaling 177,136 acres, be issued to Hinojosa. The viceroy followed through with Vargas's suggestion and, in a somewhat unusual move, granted the deed to Hinojosa as both a private individual and a representative of the church. This dual ownership later led to confusion and court battles over title to a strip of land that runs along the Rio Grande in El Paso and Hudspeth counties (see CHAMIZAL DISPUTE).
A century later, a descendent of Hinojosa's, Capt. Juan José Hinojosa Ballí II, petitioned the chief justice of Reynosa to confirm in his name the grant left by his great uncle, Fray Joaquín de Hinojosa. The petition alleged that since Fray Hinojosa had actually lived and worked on the forty leagues of land in question, it should go to his heirs and not to the church. After a resurvey of the land, Viceroy Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca y Branciforte issued a decree confirming the grant as one made to an individual and cited Captain Ballí as the legal heir. Ballí died in 1804 in Altamira prison in San Carlos awaiting trial on smuggling charges. He left no children, and the title to the land fell into the hands of the Ballí family. In 1911 Ignacio Ballí acquired a warranty deed that consolidated the interests of thirty descendents of the original grantee. Ignacio Ballí then transferred the deed to Elizabeth C. Hendrix of Chicago. When Mrs. Hendrix recorded her deed in March 1915 at the El Paso county clerk's office, controversy flared among landowners in the El Paso valley. Hendrix published a public notice stating that she would issue deeds free of charge to persons already occupying land within the grant. She hoped to sell the unoccupied land, but promised to donate half of all profits to a fund for establishing local private schools for Mexican Americans. Mrs. Hendrix's claim was immediately questioned by those landowners who held title from the state of Texas. When one of them, Daisy Hoffman, sued Hendrix in 1918, the Texas Supreme Court decided that Hendrix and Ballí's deeds were not valid since they were backed by a copy of the original grant rather than the original. After a disappointing search of Mexican archives for the original, Mrs. Hendrix withdrew her claim in 1922. Since the 1920s there have been no further attempts from the Hinojosa-Ballí family to reestablish their claim.
J. J. Bowden, Spanish and Mexican Land Grants in the Chihuahuan Acquisition (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1971). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Florence J. Scott, Historical Heritage of the Lower Rio Grande (San Antonio: Naylor, 1937; rev. ed., Waco: Texian, 1966; rpt., Rio Grande City, Texas: La Retama Press, 1970). Florence J. Scott, Royal Land Grants North of the Rio Grande, 1777–1821 (Waco: Texian Press, 1969). Vina Walz, History of the El Paso Area, 1680–1692 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of New Mexico, 1951).