HistoryBuff.com April 2011 Newsletter
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Arizona a Kingdom?

On March 28, 1883 a man named James Addison Reavis walked into the office of the Surveyor General of the United States in Tucson, Arizona. The clerk asked Reavis what he wanted. Reavis laid his flat leather carrying case on the counter and declared that he was there to claim the Peralta Grant.

"The Peralta Grant?" asked the clerk.

Reavis answered "The Peralta Grant, to which I hold title, was conferred in 1758 to Miguel de Peralta by King Ferdinand of Spain." He then opened the case and laid out before the clerk documents to support his claim and advised that the originals of documents before him were in the archives of the churches of Seville, Madrid and Cadiz in old Spain and Guadalajara and Mexico City. The documents detailed that the Peralta Grant was comprised of ten million acres that is located in Arizona and parts of New Mexico.

Astonished, the clerk related that he was only able to register deeds of up to 160 acres and that only Mr. Joseph Robins could handle a claim as large as requested.

Robins examined the documents and all looked authentic. Now he was in a quandary of what to do. It appeared that in fact Mr. Reavis DID, in fact, own millions of acres in Arizona and New Mexico! However, Robins was not about to just hand over the title that easy. An extensive investigation was launched. An envoy was sent to the churches in Seville, Madrid and Cadiz in old Spain and Guadalajara and Mexico City. Upon examination, the documents that supported Reavisí claim WERE in these institutions! It appeared that in fact Reavis DID have rightful claim to the ten million acres after all!

From time to time, many of us have read about or heard on the news of how someone secreted documents out of an institutionís archives and then selling them. Reavis did just the opposite - he secreted forged documents INTO various institutions that would help support his claim. His plan was well thought out. He created documents of a family he "invented" including birth, marriage, and death certificates for a mother, father, children, grandchildren, and their descendents over the generations. The family was not just your "ordinary" family, but rather from royalty. He also created a land grant for ten million acres in what would later become Arizona and New Mexico. His forgeries were excellent and he even thought to obtain actual paper, but blank, from the various eras that the documents were to have originated. Using original documents to compare, he then created forgeries for his "royal" family.

After completing all the necessary documents, Reavis then headed for Spain and later Mexico City. Representing himself as a newspaper reporter, he gained access to the various archives. He presented an image of being a scholarly gentleman and quickly gained the trust from the monks who were assigned to guard the archives. Often, Reavis was left alone for hours to do his crafty work.

Once Reavis had filed his claim, he placed large advertisements in various Arizona and New Mexico newspapers. In the ads, he introduced himself, told about the Peralta Grant, and announced that he had no intention to place hardships on the people of Arizona and New Mexico. He offered to file quitclaims from land owners for a small fee. Word had spread of how ironclad his ownership of the Peralta Gant so landowners flocked to his office set up in Phoenix. For a typical farm or ranch, he sold them a quitclaim for only $50. Larger landowners hired legal teams to fight the claim. However, even the lawyers were fooled by the documents and advised their clients to settle as quickly as possible. In addition, the Southern Pacific Railroad paid him a right-of-way fee for $50,000 for the rails to cross his land. The Silver King Mine entered into a contract with Reavis for $25,000 a year for royalties for the silver they were mining from his mine. Extending the reach of his fraud, he often went to San Francisco and sold shares in his Peralta Grant. It has been estimated that Reavis received at least $300,000 annually from this fraud.

In 1887, Joseph Robins died and Royal Johnson was promoted to fill his position. Johnson never did believe the authenticity of the Peralta Grant. He hired experts to make the trip to Spain and Mexico City and examine the documents. In 1889 the experts filed their reports. The claim was false! Reavis was arrested and placed on trial for fraud and found guilty. He was sentenced to two years in prison. Upon his release from prison, he settled in a rooming house in Denver and lived in poverty. In 1899 he moved back to Phoenix, Arizona, the scene of the crime. Residents regarded him as a "harmless nut."


Will Rogers Quotes on Politics

Will Rogers was a famous humorist during the depression of the 1930s. Here are some of his quotes concerning politics and government.

"In America we have the best politicians money can buy."

"I could never understand why a man would spend $50,000 to get elected to an office when the job only pays $3000 a year!"

"The taxpayers are sending congressmen on expensive trips abroad. It might be worth it except they keep coming back!"

"Why don't they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as well as prohibition did, in five years Americans would be the smartest race of people on Earth."

"You can't say civilization isn't advancing; in every war they kill you in a new way."

"I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."

"There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you."

"Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what's going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House?."

"On account of being a democracy and run by the people, we are the only nation in the world that has to keep a government four years, no matter what it does."

"Elections are a good deal like marriages. There's no accounting for anyone's taste. Every time we see a bridegroom we wonder why she ever picked him, and it's the same with public officials."

"The Democrats and Republicans are equally corrupt -- it's only in the amount where the Republicans excel."

"I can remember way back when a liberal was generous with his own money."

"A fool and his money are soon elected."

"We always want the best man to win an election. Unfortunately, he never runs."

"You've got to be an optimist to be a Democrat, and you've got to be a humorist to stay one."

"Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for."

"I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat."

HistoryBuff.com Update

  • Saturday, April 16 I will be in Wheaton, Illinois with my traveling Abraham Lincoln Assassination Museum set up at the National Civil War Show held at the DuPage Fairgrounds. Admission to my museum is free.

  • Monday, April 18 I will be giving a presentation to the staff of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.

  • Part of my Lincoln assassination archive will be on temporary loan to the Michigan State University Historical Museum for a special exhibit from April 30 through October 2.

  • May 22 I will be giving a presentation in the Michigan State University auditorium to those with an interest in Lincoln and the Civil War.

  • My Annotated Index of Newspaper Editions Known to Have Been Reprinted is now available in three formats. For more information or to order either the hard copy or E-Book format, go to: http://www.historybuff.com/newspapers/assassination/. To purchase the Kindle version, go to: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004TZ1RIQ.


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    March Contest

    CONTEST ONE QUESTION: Who was the first United States President elected on the Republican Party ticket?

    ANSWER: Abraham Lincoln.

    CONTEST TWO QUESTION: Who was the only United States President to be given the oath of office on an airplane?

    ANSWER: Lyndon B. Johnson.

    One-hundred-forty-four people entered the contests. Most had the correct answers. Thirty-eight entries were disqualified due to an incorrect subject heading or failure to select a prize if they won.

    The March Contest Winners Were:
    • Mel Wilson - Arkansas
    • Rosemary Espinosa - Virginia
    • Robert Ayres - Florida
    • Andy Etman - Pennsylvania
    • Stuart Welter - Missouri

    This Issue's Questions:

    To enter Contest One, answer the question: Only one President had two Vice-presidents die in office. Which one?

    To enter Contest Two, answer the question: Four Presidents received the Nobel Peace Prize. Which ones?

    Contest Rules

    • Contest entry deadline is Thursday, April 21, 2011. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 72 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

    • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historybuff.com

    • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

    • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

    • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

    • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

    • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

    • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

    • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, SEVEN will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

    • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
    April Contest One Prize List
    (Select ONE of the two prizes below if enterering Contest One)

    34 Episodes - 25 Hours

    Amazing War Machines
    10-Hour, complete documentary series
    April Contest Two Prize List

    (Select ONE of the prizes below if enterering Contest Two)

    National Gazette historic newspaper from 1823

    The Globe (Washington City) historic newspaper from 1839

    Manchester American & Messenger (New Hampshire) historic newspaper from 1853

    Original Coldwater Republican (Michigan) historic newspaper from 1877
    That's it for this issue.

    Rick Brown

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