this seems to indicate that Treaty of Hidalgo or the Treaty of Guadalupe del Hidalgo was just a sham paper that allowed the USA to steal the land from all the Mexican citizens living in what is now Arizona and New Mexico and maybe a few other States

'Baron' Reavis behind state's biggest scam

Mar. 12, 2006 12:00 AM

Gather around, kiddies, it's time for story hour. And today's tale is about one of Arizona's biggest crooks, who once laid claim to almost 12 million acres of the state and persuaded some people to pay him rent for land they owned.

Good work, if you can get it, but the crook in question, James A. Reavis, ended up in prison.

"Baron" James Reavis was born in Missouri in 1843. He was a Civil War turncoat, a St. Louis streetcar conductor and crooked real estate seller. His greatest skill, however, was forgery. He was very good at it.

After a real estate crash in St. Louis, he landed in San Francisco, where he hatched his plot to lay claim to a huge swath of Arizona.

This is how it worked. Part of the Treaty of Hidalgo signed in 1848 between Mexico and the United States said the United States would honor the ownership of land that had been recognized by the Spanish or Mexican governments. In other words, if you owned land in territory ceded by the Mexican government to the United States, your claim was still good.

The catch was you had to prove it by going through the archives in Mexico City.

So Reavis traveled to Spain and Mexico, studying the land records and salting them with forgeries. And he married a young Mexican and convinced her she was of noble blood: a baroness.

It was a long, complicated plot, but eventually Reavis showed up at the Surveyor General's Office with stacks of forged or altered documents showing he and the missus were the rightful heirs to the vast Arizona holdings of one Don Miguel Nemecio Silva de Peralta y de la Cordoba.

Then he got down to some serious scamming. He managed to con the Southern Pacific railroad out of $50,000 and shook down the Silver King mine near Globe for $25,000. They figured it was cheaper to pay up then pay for a long court fight.

Reavis also posted notices from the Valley to New Mexico informing folks they were on his land and the rent was due.

The Baron of Arizona became fabulously wealthy, but the good guys eventually caught up with him and in 1893 he was sent to prison in Santa Fe. He died broke in Denver in 1914.

You can find a list of Web sites and books that go into much greater detail about the Reavis story at . Check it out. It's a pretty good yarn.

Reach Thompson at or (602) 444-8612.

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