San Antonio de Bexar: A Guide and History Page: 47
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UPPER LABOR DITCH.
the Governor of the Province of Texas, Baron Juan Maria de Ripperda, a pro-
gressive and industrious man, directed his attention to it, and on January 10th,
1776, he issued a decree in order to avoid, as he says, in the future, all motives
of discord between settlers, ordering the Canary Island settlers or their actual
descendents to produce any document, if they have one, that might prove in
their favor, and present it to him within four days, their reply to be signed by
the heads of the said families. To this decree on January 15th, they reply that
they have no document, but think there are some decrees or schedules in their
favor, deposited in the Archives of this town, and they respectfully ask permission
to be allowed to examine the Archives to search for these. This request is
signed by eleven of the Canary Island settlers, or their descendents.
The next day, January 16th, 1776, a meeting of the Cabildo is called by
special order of the Governor, and in the presence of that corporation, it was
decided that all the documents bearing any relation with the town and the
Canary Island settlers should be examined, and it was there and then declared
that should any document be found in the Archives of the Captain-General, the
right should be reserved to make use of them at any future time. A memoran-
dum to this effect, besides being signed by the settlers, bears also the signature
of the President, Father and Friar of the Missions Pedro Ramirez.
Baron Ripperda next addresses a communication similar to the first-
mentioned to the President of the Missions, reiterating that there were only two
documents or superior decrees in existence in connection with the water rights
granted to the Missions and settlers of the town and maintaining that the
inhabitants of the place were free to use the water of the River for irrigating
purposes if they did not interfere with the supply to the Missions. Those
documents being decrees of the Viceroy the Marquis of Casa Fuerte dated
September 20th, 1731, and May 12th, 1733, therefore the Governor wishes to
know if the Missions under the President's charge have any claim emanating
from any superior decree. If they have, the Governor would like to be
informed of it as soon as practicable, " so that the public may be no longer de-
prived of such a great benefit" as the distribution of the water. To which
communication the President of the Missions replies, dating from the Mission of
San Juan, January 20th, 1776, that none of the five Missions possesses any
document in their favor in prejudice of the inhabitants, he sees clearly, however,
that the Missions being situated by Royal decree upon the banks of the River,
with the rights of permanent and sufficient water for the cultivation of their
lands, they have the prior right of possession and construction of channels, he
mentions this right in case the Missions may wish to exercise it at some future
time, but the President is not of the dog in the manger kind, and he says he is
of the opinion that there is such a profusion of water in the River that it affords
to all the same benefit, and the Missions will make no opposition under the one
understanding that the right of priority be reserved to them.
The Governor Ripperda having thus satisfied himself that he is trespassing
on no one's proper rights, he desires that the two documents be filed under the
understanding that any taking of the water must be effected without injuring
the supply to the Missions. He is also satisfied that it has been clearly shown
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Corner, William. San Antonio de Bexar: A Guide and History, book, 1890; San Antonio, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143549/m1/94/: accessed May 1, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.