The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 380
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
rights. The attorneys reminded the court that the Mexican grants of
land dating to the secularization process of 1824 had specifically provid-
ed the original grantees with dulas of irrigation water and the accompa-
nying land for cultivation; water for this purpose was to be taken from
the San Juan Acequia and the Rio de San Antonio. To illustrate how
land and dulas of water were interconnected the attorneys cited lan-
guage in a typical Mexican grant of February 5, 1824, to Francisco
Maynes by the departmental executive, Jos6 Antonio Saucedo: "I have
decided to grant him and I do hereby grant him in the name of the
Mexican Nation, two dulas of irrigation water with the accompanying
land for cultivation; the water to be taken from the irrigation conduit of
the Mission San Juan Capistrano."29
In the end the landowners did not prevail. When the presiding judge
in the case, John F. Onion Jr., issued the district court's decision in
September 1959, he acknowledged that the irrigators possessed vested
water rights as claimed, but he ruled that the property had been granted
subject to the inherent power of the state "to protect the public health,
safety, and welfare without making compensation for damage." Agreeing
with the plaintiff, Judge Onion noted that the SARA could continue to
comply with the rights of the landowners by pumping water from the
San Antonio River over the intervening lands it controlled between the
relocated channel and the mouth of the San Juan Acequia.S0Judge
Onion concluded that the bed of the San Antonio River and the old San
Juan Dam, which had lain in the original channel, belonged not to the
irrigators but to the sovereign. As to the claimed damages, Judge Onion
also agreed with the river authority that no disputed issues of fact exist-
ed in the case, and the court should therefore grant the plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment: "it is accordingly . . . declared that the
loss of gravity flow of water from the San Antonio River into the San
Juan Irrigation Ditch is damnum absque injuria, and that Plaintiff is not
required to respond to Defendants ... in damages for such loss.""
The San Juan Acequia irrigators took an appeal of the district court's
judgment to the Court of Civil Appeals of the Fourth Supreme Judicial
District in San Antonio, styled as G. Garrett Lewis et al. v. San Antonio River
Authority. On a split vote of 2 to 1 on November 23, 196o, this higher
court reversed the district court. Chief Justice W. O. Murray dissented,
but the majority of the Court of Civil Appeals agreed with the irrigators.
" Grant to Francisco Maynes by the Mexican government in 1824, cited in Memorandum of
Authorities in Support or Reply of Defendants to Motion of Plaintiff for Summary Judgment,
SARA v. Dillon, in the 131stJudicial District of Bexar County, no. F-1i 15, 976.
90 Summary Declaratory Judgment of John F. Onion Jr., presiding judge, SARA v. Dillon, Sept.
25, 1959, in the 131stJudicial District of Bexar County, no. F-115, 976.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/448/: accessed January 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.