Whatever Happened to the Class of 1841?

Alright folks, I wasn't gonna beat this dead horse into a fine paste, but my boy Paul Sholar pushed me right over the edge with his very speedy and pertinent comment regarding the political leanings of Rowland, Workman and Wilson.


Let's just say that their views would be considered way outta line by even the most conservative of today's standards and comparing any one of them to a rattlesnake would probably offend the snake. I'm guessin' they all shared a meal with Tomas Salazar at one time or another.


However, my investigation of the Michael White story is a work in progress – I don't actually know how this story is all gonna play out. We might have some unexpected heroes and some back-stabbin' hijinks comin' up. All I know right now is that Micheltorena should have listened when he was told he was lettin' in a pack of traitors. But we're comin' up on the Mexican-American war in a bit.


So getting back to where we left off…  Now notice that Michael White’s estimate of around 95 settlers got downgraded to 23 on the list. That is because women, children and Indians didn’t count, at least as far as the Mexican authorities were concerned. They also weren’t concerned with folks who were born Mexican, like Manuel Vaca and Lorenzo Trujillo, but foreigners and naturalized citizens had to be accounted for.


And so it got down to 23, of whom some got rich and famous. But what happened to everybody else? Certainly it seemed like being a member of the Rowland-Workman Expedition was the key to success as a California settler. But was it?


In 1893, Henry Lebbeus Oak compiled an opus “The Works Of Henry L. Oak  Vol. XI. Pioneer Register Literary Industries Miscellany” (In part from the Bancroft History and Native Races.) Many of the pioneers he listed were still alive or recently deceased and he tracked down all the men on the Rowland Lista de los que le acompañan en su llegada al Territorio tie Alto California manuscript. His documentation was unflinching. And Michael White was not the unluckiest guy on the expedition. Not by a long shot.


Check out these brief biographies:


Fred Bachelor:

  American Cooper (a barrel maker). Went East in 1842, then retired in California. Lived at Noon’s Rancho, died in 1876.


Frank Bedibey:

of the Workman-Rowland party from New Mexico did not remain in California.


James Doke:

a native of Tennessee, started to return to Santa Fe with Rowland in '43, and was drowned in the Green River.


Jacob Frankfort:

German tailor was listed at Los Angeles in '46; up and down the coast '47-8, making a trip to Honolulu and back on the Gen. Kearny and Eveline, and obtaining a lot at San Francisco.


William Gamble

: a young naturalist sent out from Philadelphia, by Nuttall to collect specimens; came from New Mexico in the Workman party. Being financially crippled, he was employed by Com. Jones in '42 as clerk on the Uyanc, and perhaps went away on that vessel; in '44 at Callao; said by Isaac Given to have retired to California about '49.


Isaac L. Given:

native of Ohio and civil engineer, who, on a visit to the Missouri River region in '40, heard of California and failing to reach Independence in time to join the Bartleson party, went to Santa Fe, and with four of his comrades joined the Workman-Rowland party, or in a sense originated that party.  His first work in California was to survey the Rowland rancho. [Remember that Rowland was a surveyor too, and doesn't this seem like a conflict of interest?] In '42 he came north to apply for land for himself; explored the Sacramento Valley with Captain Merritt and others; visited the Napa and Russian Rivers and retired to Monterey to get naturalization. Here he found letters from home which caused him to go east as clerk on the Dale. He came back in '49 by the Panama route, worked as a surveyor at Sacramento, and was later engaged for many years in mining operations. In '79-85 Major Given resided in Oakland, and his “Immigrant of '41” is a manuscript narrative of much value and interest.


William Gordon:

native of Ohio, who became a Mexican citizen in New Mexico where he married Maria Lucero, and came to California in the Rowland-Workman party. In '42 came north to Sonoma, and in '43 was grantee of Quesesosi rancho on Cache Creek becoming the pioneer settler of Yolo County. Here he lived till about '66, then moved to Cobb Valley, Lake County, where he died in '76, at the age of 75. 'Uncle Billy' had been a trapper in his early years, and continued to be fond of the hunt in California, a rough, uneducated, honest, and hospitable man. In '43-6 his place on Cache Creek was a general rendezvous for settlers and hunters, and is oftener mentioned than any other place except Sutter's Fort and Sonoma. It was in the vicinity of the modern town of Frémont.


Frank Gwinn:

blacksmith from New Mexico in the Workman-Rowland party; went back the next year.


Wade Hampton:

American gunsmith in Workman-Rowland party from New Mexico; at Los Aug. '42; returned via Mazatlan in '43, and was mysteriously killed on the way, according to Isaac Given.


William Knight:

native of Indiana naturalized and married to a native in New Mexico who came with the Workman-Rowland party, returning in '42 to bring his family. He settled in '43 on the Sacramento River, at the place named for him, Knight's Landing, obtaining in '44 a renewal of his naturalization papers that had been lost.


He served Micheltorena in Gantt's company, was a signer of the San Jose call to foreigners; got a land-grant in '46; and took an active part in the Bear revolt, perhaps serving in the California Battallion.


After the discovery of gold, he established Knight's Ferry on the Stanislaus, where he died in '49.


He was a great hunter, and though said to have been educated as a physician, was a man of very rough ways, violent in temper, always ready to take offense; and to settle all differences by force. His title to lands, resting on Sutter's general title and a fraudulent grant from Pico, was not confirmed; and though reputed to be rich, his heirs are said to have received very little.


Here’s a little side note on that: On November 9 of 1849, William Knight was killed in the streets of the town he founded, gunned down by a man whose name is now lost to history. James G. Fair was in town the day it happened. He called it, “one of the most cold-blooded murders” he had ever witnessed. Knight was buried where he fell, in front of the Masonic Hall, on a low hill overlooking the plaza.


Thomas Lindsay:

called a 'mineralogist' in the Rowland list. In '44 he settled at what was later Stockton, building a tule hut. He went south as the entire population of Stockton with Sutter in the Micheltorena campaign and soon after his return, in the spring of '45, was killed by Indians, his body being burned with the hut.


L or JH Lyman

: physician from Massachusetts who came from New Mexico with the Workman-Rowland party. He returned East in '43, perhaps via Oregon as he had intended. Benjamin Wilson says he came back with his family and was in San Francisco in 1877; but Isaac Given thinks he never returned but is still in Mass., though Given could not find him in '83.


John McClure:

in '48 he went with Leese to Oregon, and was still there as late as 1860.


James D Mead:

native of Louisiana, Episcopal clergyman, and perhaps physician in the West Indies, who came from New Mexico in the Workman party, and in '42 went to the Sandwich Islands (Hawai’i) or China; said to have been a bishop later.


William C Moon:

native of Tennessee and overland immigrant of the Workman party. Named at Los Angeles in '42 and Monterey in  '44. In '45 he 'mined ' for grindstones in the Sacramento Valley, and in '48-9 for gold, having settled on a rancho in Tehama County, where he died in '78. He was a famous hunter, and a partner of Ezekiel Merritt.


John Rowland:

native of Pennsylvania and leader of the Workman-Rowland immigrant party from New Mexico, where he had lived 18 years, amassing considerable wealth and marrying a native wife. He was suspected of complicity in certain revolutionary or filibustering schemes in connection with the Texans, and this was a leading motive of his emigration; indeed, warnings were sent to California, but they did not prevent his getting in '42 a grant of La Puente rancho in company with Workman.


Then he went to New Mexico and brought his family, spending the rest of his life on his rancho. In '45 he joined the other southern foreigners in their opposition to Micheltorena, and was one of the Chino prisoners in '46, having a Cal. claim of about $1,500, but as a rule took no part in public affairs, being noted for his retiring disposition and fondness for home life. He died in '73 at the age of about 80. His son William Rowland was sheriff in '73 of Los Angeles County.


Daniel Sexton

: native of Louisiana. He worked as a carpenter in the Los Angeles region, and finally settled at San Bernardino; claimant to have raised the U.S. flag at his camp in '40 [which is pretty darned early – predates the expedition by a bit.] Served in the campaign against Micheltorena in '45. Carried a package from Stockton to Fremont in '47. Married an Indian woman; claimed for land in Los Angeles in '52; still living in '84.


Hiram Taylor:

American musician in the Workman party from New Mexico. At Los Angeles and on the Cosumnes River in '42; went to Oregon with Leese in '43, but came back in '48. He made money in the mines, and settled at Cloverdale, where he died at a date not given.



French Canadian gambler from New Mexico in the Workman party; died on the return trip in '42.


Albert G Toomes:

native of Missouri. In partnership with R. H. Thomes, he worked as carpenter and builder at San Francisco for a short time and at Monterey from '43. In '44 he was married to María Isabel Lorenzana, was naturalized, and obtained a grant of the Rio de los Molinos rancho in Tehama County. He visited the rancho to put cattle on it in '45 and again in '47, but did not settle there till '49, as the firm of T. & T. is mentioned at Monterey down to the end of '48. From '49 he lived on the place, becoming a rich and respected citizen, and dying in '73 at the age of 56. His widow, without children, died at Oakland in '78, leaving her large property to a neighbor who had been friendly during her illness. The will was contested by cousins of the Ortega family.


Michael White:

English or Irish [his mother was of Irish descent] sailor who came from Honolulu on the Dolly or Dhaulle; having touched on the Lower California coast in '17, and sailed, sometimes as mate and master, on Mexican and Hawaiian vessels from that date, according to his own statement. He settled at Santa Barbara, where he built a schooner in '30.


Except from his own testimony nothing is known of him till '36, when his name appears in a Los Angeles list as an Irishman, aged 30; though he may have been the White accused of smuggling at San Francisco in '33. He says he made a trip to Mazatlan in the schooner, Guadalupe, which he had built for the San Gabriel mission, returning in '32, marrying Maria del Rosario Guillen, daughter of the famous old woman Eulalia Perez, opening a little store at Los Nietos, and keeping aloof from politics.


In '38 he signed a petition against Carrillo, and in '39 went to New Mexico, but returned with the Workman party in '41. In '43 he was grantee of Muscupiabe rancho and a San Gabriel lot, served in the foreign company against Micheltorena '45, and was one of the Chino prisoners in '46.


In later years he continued to live at San Gabriel; was the successful claimant for his lands, which, however, in one way or another he finally lost; and occasionally indulged in a sea voyage.


In '77, at the age of 75, somewhat feeble in health and very poor, having a large family of children and grandchildren, Miguel Blanco gave me [Bancroft, from whom Oaks lifted a lot of his info] his interesting reminiscences of California All the Way Back to '28. His memory was good, and he seemed to be a truthful man. He died in or before '85.


Benjamin Davis Wilson:

known in California as Benito, native of Tennessee and immigrant of the Workman party from New Mexico, where he had resided for eight years as trapper and trader.


In '43 he purchased the Jurupa rancho, and from this frontier station in the following years engaged in several campaigns against hostile Indians. In '45 he was prominent among the southern foreigners who served against Micheltorena. In '46 he acted as juez for the district ranchos; commanded a company of citizen riflemen intended to resist Castro; was in command of the foreigners at the Chino fight; and after the U.S. occupation served as lieutenant in the California Battalion.


He was the first county clerk and first mayor of Los Angeles, Indian agent in '52, taking pride in having been the first to urge the settling of the Indians on reservations at the old missions; claimant for San José de Buenos Aires rancho, and was state senator for two terms. Don Benito was a prosperous ranchero and fruit-raiser, an influential and respected citizen.


In '77 he dictated for my use his Observations on early California events, a manuscript of considerable value; though on some points I have found Wilson's testimony less accurate than I had deemed it at first. I notice that a copy, left with the family at their request, has been consulted by some of the county history and newspaper men. Wilson died at his rancho of Lake Vineyard in '78, at the age of 67.


William Workman:

native of England, who came from New Mexico in command of an immigrant party with his family. He had long been a trader at Taos, and at the time of his coming to California was somewhat compromised in the eyes of the Mexican government by his supposed connection with Texan political or revolutionary schemes. He obtained, with John Roland, the Puente rancho, confirmed in '45, was a leader of the foreigners against Micheltorena in '45, took some part in '46-7 in the direction of preventing warfare, and was the purchaser of the San Gabriel mission.


In '52 he was claimant for the Cajon de los Negros and La Puente ranches. From about '68 he was a banker in company with Temple at Los Angeles, and in '76, on the failure of the bank, he committed suicide, at the age of 76.


Manuel Vaca and Lorenzo Trujillo weren’t on the list (they were Mexican citizens, not naturalized Mexican citizens), but they were also members of the party:


Manuel Vaca:

native of New Mexico, probably of the prominent New Mexico family of that name descended from Captain Vaca, one of the conquerors of 1600, and often absurdly connected with Cabeza de Vaca, who came with his family in the Workman party, settling in Solano Co., where with Pena he obtained a grant of the Putah rancho, where he spent the rest of his life, dying, I think, before '60.


Don Manuel was a hospitable man of good repute, whose name is borne by the valley and by the town of Vacaville. 


Lorenzo Trujillo:

His story is a little more complicated, because he actually came out to California in 1838, he gets short shrift in Oak’s pioneer directory, but in “Agua Mansa: An Outpost of San Gabriel, 1842-1850,” by R. Bruce Harley Archivist of the Diocese of San Bernardino:


A small group of men accompanied the annual caravan from Abiquiu, New Mexico. The leaders of this advance party were Lorenzo Trujillo and Hipólito Espinosa. They initiated talks with Lugo who had just acquired Rancho San Bernardino, and Juan Bandini, owner of another former San Gabriel grant, Rancho Jurupa, located just south of Lugo's holding…


One of the group, Santiago Martinez, decided to settle immediately on a farmstead near the boundary between today's San Bernardino and Colton, California. He was the only emigrant at the time who had his family with him. This family had increased by one since leaving New Mexico. His wife, Manuelita Renaga, had borne a son, Apolinario, probably at Resting Springs where the trail crossed from Nevada to California. The other men wintered at the rancho and helped the return caravan from California the next spring with its horses and mules. Espinosa was the next to decide to make the move and did so in the fall of 1840. He established his family near the Martinez family – The pueblo became known as Politana, a name derived from Espinosa's given name.


A year later, Trujillo traveled with his family and the Rowland-Workman Party to Politana. They arrived in late 1841. This leader completed arrangements with Lugo. Trujillo and his four sons set about building adobe houses in anticipation that three dozen of his neighbors in Abiquiu eventually would become settlers. A dozen homes were well on the way to completion when Trujillo and Espinosa joined the return caravan to New Mexico in the spring of 1842.


Upon their arrival, they found about half of the prospective families ready to go that year. The others would accompany the trade caravans in 1843 and 1844. The 1842 group consisted of the leaders and a dozen families totaling about forty individuals. None had previously been on the Old Spanish Trail. The group that left Abiquiu in August 1842 traveling on pack mules. They arrived without any major mishap on November 8. The people quickly moved into their new homes and easily survived what they considered a mild winter. They subsisted on the crops grown by the Trujillo family and other food occasionally transported from Los Angeles.


Lorenzo Trujillo was a dedicated church member. He already had contacted Fr. Tomás Esténaga at Mission San Gabriel about serving the developing colony as an outpost. The padre agreed to the necessity and helped arrange for services to be held at Politana and not at the ranch headquarters. The colonists did not want to use the chapel at the abandoned estancia. The priest was not in favor of going there either because in 1834 he had been attacked there by Indians and kidnapped.


Soon after the arrival of the second contingent of colonists in 1843, the villagers had a falling out with the Lugos. Careless horsemen had been breaking down fences and trampling crops and irrigation ditches. Trujillo then negotiated with Juan Bandini, owner of Rancho Jurupa. Instead of a community land grant still owned by the ranchero, each family received their own plot of ground along the Santa Ana River, similar to the custom in New Mexico. In exchange, the people performed the duties of protecting the area from sundry marauders. About half of the colonists moved to the north bank of the river some four miles downstream from the Lugo ranch. They chose the name Agua Mansa, a name which also came to be used in a general way with the other half of the colonists on the south bank. The name was used interchangeably with the new parish that was soon to be formed: San Salvador de Jurupa.


More specifically, the south bank people called their settlement La Placita de los Trujillo, honoring their best known family. Trujillo quickly arranged for the entire community to worship near his home at an enramada constructed in the small plaza which featured a square piece of cleared ground for the worshipers and a wooden altar covered with brush when not in use. The Mission San Gabriel priests continued their ministry until 1842. Within a few years the inspirational leadership of Lorenzo Trujillo resulted in the establishment of a school, a parish, a church and rectory for the first pastor, Fr. Amable Petithonune, who was transferred from Mission San Fernando. A church cemetery was opened just a year before Trujillo's death in 1855.


And there you've got it. Some of them made it, some of them died early and horribly, and some of them didn't. As is true today, the greatest single indicator of financial success was coming in with money, the second, marrying a Mexican girl with family connections. We'll be revisiting a few of these guys in just a bit…


~ by ravenjake on January 15, 2010.

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