It's hard to believe one man held sway over all this land | History | Smithsonian
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It's hard to believe one man held sway over all this land

But it's true. In the mid-1800s Lucien Maxwell, a dauntless former mountain man, ruled a huge chunk of New Mexico and lower Colorado

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The Maxwell Land Grant encompassed a staggeringly beautiful piece of real estate more than twice the size of Rhode Island, every one of its 2680 square miles owned by a single man--and yet it's a place that few people have ever heard of. A trail-hardened sidekick of Kit Carson, Lucien Maxwell obtained the land from his father-in-law, who had obtained it as a grant form Mexico when that country still controlled the Southwest. Grown wealthy as a rancher, Maxwell ruled his empire like a feudal lord and "lived in a sort of barbaric splendor" in a mansion with velvet drapes, four pianos and walls hung with paintings. In Maxwell's later years and after his death, ownership of the land became the subject of disputes settled as often with six-guns as with lawsuits.

Today the grant has been divided into a state park, a national forest and wildlife refuges, and a number of huge ranches, but it remains an unspoiled and beautiful land abounding with wildlife and resonant with history.

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