Portrait Gallery: Thomas Rowland and Zenobia Yorba, 1880s

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

This entry in the “Portrait Gallery” series highlights a cabinet card photograph from the Homestead’s collection of Thomas Rowland and Zenobia Yorba, members of two prominent ranching families in greater Los Angeles.  The photo was taken by the Los Angeles studio of Ellis and Son and dates to the first half of the 1880s.

Thomas was born in December 1838 in Taos, New Mexico to John Rowland and María Encarnación Martinez.  John Rowland, profiled in a recent post here was born in northeastern Maryland and lived in Ohio before migrating to New Mexico in the early 1820s.  By 1825, he married María Encarnación Martinez, who hailed from a large and well-known family in Taos.

Thomas Rowland Zenobia Yorba de Rowland 2015.384.1.3
An early 1880s cabinet card photograph from the museum’s holdings by Lemuel Ellis, Sr. and Jr., of Los Angeles, depicting Thomas Rowland (1838-1900) and Zenobia Yorba (1845-1892).

At the time of Thomas’ birth, his father ran a grist mill in Taos and was a partner of William Workman in distilling liquor.  While Rowland and Workman were quite successful in their enterprises, political problems in New Mexico emanating from a plan of the Republic of Texas to seize most of the former led the two men to leave for California.  In 1841, the so-called Rowland and Workman Expedition, consisting of about 65 persons, used the Old Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles.

In spring 1842, Rowland secured a grant to Rancho La Puente and Workman settled with his family on the property.  In April, Rowland returned to New Mexico to retrieve his family and returned to California at the end of the year, when Thomas was just a few days shy of his fourth birthday.

Thomas Rowland 1870 census
The 1870 federal census listing for Thomas and Zenobia and three sons on Rancho La Puente.

Thomas was raised on the ranch and eventually was given about 3,000 acres by his father and farmed and raised livestock on that parcel.  In January 1861, he married Zenobia, daughter of Bernardo Yorba and Felipa Dominguez.  Bernardo was the grantee in 1834, as the secularization of the California missions freed up former mission land for private grants, of the Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana in Santa Ana Canyon, where the city of Yorba Linda and the Anaheim neighborhood of Anaheim Hills are located.  His adobe house was known for its immense size and stood in what is now part of Yorba Linda.

Thomas and Zenobia had twelve children, with all but one surviving into adulthood and nine of those being sons.  One of these was Samuel Prudencio, born in 1866, and who has been mentioned here in a few posts.  Samuel, in 1889, married Margarita A. Temple, daughter of Antonia Margarita Workman and F.P.F. Temple, and, after a career as a pharmacist, Samuel turned to real estate and was involved in the development of the Cross Land Company Tract, west of the Homestead, from 1911 to his death five years later.

Thomas Rowland’s tombstone at Mission San Gabriel Cemetery.

Zenobia died in February 1892 at the age of 45 and her passing occurred just after the deaths of William Workman’s widow, Nicolasa Urioste, their daugther, Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple and her eldest child, Thomas W. Temple.  The latter three died during a flu epidemic and it may be that Zenobia Rowland was also a victim of the same epidemic.  Thomas lived eight years later, dying in August 1900.  The couple are interred at the Mission San Gabriel Cemetery.

Zenobia Rowland tombstone
Zenobia Rowland’s grave marker at the same cemetery.

While Thomas spent decades quietly involved in his farming and stockraising activities on the land on Rancho La Puente that he received from his father, he was involved in local education, serving as a trustee of the Rowland School District.  An 1889 biographical sketch simply noted that “he is a thorough, practical man, a kind father, a good neighbor.  He is respected as a citizen, and fully alive to the interests of his neighborhood and county.”  The same, undoubtedly, could be said of Zenobia, as well.

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