The Fight over Taylor Ranch/La Sierra

Lying 5 miles east of San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, is a huge tract of land now known as “Cielo Vista Ranch.” This property was previously called “Taylor Ranch” or, by local people, “La Sierra.” It contained 77,500 acres of mountain and foothills land, including 14,047-foot Culebra Peak. The ranch offers good hunting and fishing as well as meadows for grazing animals and forest for gathering firewood. In 1960 the ranch was purchased by John Taylor, a timber baron, who closed it off to outsiders. San Luis residents were outraged, for in the land grant for that area from the Mexican government in 1844, local people were promised access to and use of the land in perpetuity. Under the leadership of Shirley Romero Otero, they organized the Land Rights Council of San Luis and began a long series of legal actions which continued to 2019 and perhaps beyond. This Primary Source Set includes documents and photos relevant to that struggle.

Highlights of Mountain Tract’s History


A list of dates and important events concerning Taylor Ranch and the legal battles over it. Starts with 1844 grant by officials in New Mexico, the part of Mexico, to Narcisco Beaubien and Stephen Luis Lee of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant, containing 1 million acres; the grant was confirmed to Beaubien in 1860 by the U.S. Congress. What became the Taylor Ranch was included in Beaubien’s grants. First page only displayed.

Court Document about Apolinar Rael et al. v Jack Taylor, 1981


The original court case was brought by 63 plaintiffs who submitted claim to Quiet Title of the 80,000-acre tract in Costilla County known as “La Sierra”. That case was filed with the District Court of the County of Costilla. Defendant Jack Taylor petitioned for removal of that action to the Colorado District Court, whereupon the plaintiffs petitioned for its removal to the state court. This order, dated July 31, 1981, grants the latter request. First Page only displayed.

Photo of descendants of Hispanic land grant holders at a gathering at Taylor Ranch, 1981


Pictured are land rights leaders Apolinae Rael (3rd from right), co-founder of the Land Rights Council of the San Luis and lead plaintiff in the earlier court cases, and Juan LaCombe (3rd from left). The gathering at the ranch was part of the decades-long battle between the land grant holders, who claimed rights to access and use the land at Taylor Ranch for water, hunting, grazing, and firewood.

Draft Report of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant Commission, 1993


This report was submitted by the Commission’s members, 18 groups said to be “broadly representative of parties interested in acquiring the Taylor Ranch.” It includes a discussion of the geography and historical background of the property, describes the benefits of public ownership, and presents plans for acquiring and managing the plan. Full report here.

Letter to the editor regarding Gov. Roy Romer’s proposal to acquire Taylor Ranch for the state, 1994


Letter to the editor of “The Chieftain” paper, published in Pueblo, from Robert Copeland of Colorado Springs objecting to Governor Romer’s proposal to acquire Taylor Ranch for public use, Feb, 27,1994.

Decision of the Colorado Supreme Court in Lobato v. Taylor, 2003


First page of the summary of the court’s decision in that case, listing all the San Luis Plaintiffs against Zachary Taylor, as executor of the estate of Jack Taylor. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and set up a process for establishing who counted as heirs of the original grantees. April 28, 2003; modified June 16,2003

Article about new owner having offered $300 to heirs if they would give up their claim; describes 2017, published 2018


“Cielo Vista: New landowner, old tricks”. Report that William Harrison, whose company purchased Cista Vista Ranch in Aug., 2017, sent out letters on Dec. 20, 2017, to the heirs who had gained access to the ranch through the 2003 legal decision, offering to buy back the land use rights if they weren’t being used. He offered $300 per heir. First page of article.

Article about new owner trying to overturn previous decision, 2018


“Decades-Long Battle About Historic Ranch Headed Back to Court.” Attorney for William B. Harrison, 4th owner since 2004, tries to persuade court to overturn 2003 decision of the Colorado Supreme Court giving heirs of land-grant awardees access to Taylor Ranch. First page of article.

Article about celebration at end of litigation, with description of the settlement agreed upon by owner of ranch and heirs, 2019


Description of the 2-day community celebration to be held in San Luis, organized by the Land Rights Council and the plaintiffs in the suits. This ends 59 years of struggle over Taylor Ranch and 37 years of legal action. The account lays out the conditions agreed upon in a recent settlement between William Harrison, the current owner of the ranch, and community members representing the 1,000 heirs of the original lant-grant recipients who gained access to the ranch in the 2003 settlement in their favor. First page only

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