File No. 312.41/369.
Consul Letcher to the Secretary of State.
Chihuahua, March 25, 1915.
Sir: Referring to the Department’s No. 298 of September 1, 1914,88 I have the honor to report that certain portions of the ranch of the estate of the late W. S. Benton still continue to be occupied by inhabitants of the villages of Santa Maria de Cuevas and Santa Rosalia under the terms of General Villa’s order of April 20, 1914,89 and that it has been impossible to secure from the state authorities any satisfactory settlement for the occupation of the property during the past year. Following receipt of the instructions just indicated, I addressed a request to General Villa through the office of the Governor, Villa then being in the midst of a campaign, calling attention to the fact that the Los Remedios property had not been abandoned, as suggested to me in his letter of July 28, but had been continuously in charge of Mr. John Harvie as resident manager. In reply, in view of General Villa’s preoccupation with military affairs, Governor Avila assumed responsibility for a proper settlement with Mrs. Benton for the use of her lands for the year 1914. After repeated subsequent correspondence with the Governor relative to the matter and after a purported investigation and report by the municipal president of Santa Maria de Cuevas to the Governor had been made, the latter offered payment to Mrs. Benton in the sum of 300 pesos, worth in U. S. currency at the present time about $30. This offer Avas communicated to Mr. Harvie, who refused it as ridiculous and absurd, stating that in excess of 2,000 acres had been occupied under Villa’s order, in the cultivation of which 192 teams of oxen and horses had been used, and that, considering damages to fences, pasturing of cattle, free use of wood, etc., 5,000 pesos would even be an inadequate compensation. The Governor now states that he cannot consider any adjustment of the matter beyond the offer of 300 pesos, [Page 1031]and that if a different settlement is desired, General Villa must be addressed in the matter.
Mr. Harvie has now addressed me a letter in which he states that the people of the near-by villages are again preparing to cultivate the lands of the Benton ranch and he asks that the aid of the Department be requested to the end that the rights of Mrs. Benton may be respected.
I have [etc.]