The Second Grant to Rancho La Puente, 22 July 1845

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

As noted in several blog posts earlier this year, John Rowland petitioned Juan Bautista Alvarado, governor of the Mexican department of Alta California, for a grant to Rancho La Puente, making his request in January 1842, about two months after he, William Workman and family, and dozens of Americans, Europeans and New Mexicans came to greater Los Angeles from New Mexico.

It was not explained why the grant was only to Rowland and not to Workman, though the reason may have been that Workman’s political involvement in New Mexico, including an alleged participation of his in a plot to kill Governor Manuel Armijo, led him to keep a very low public profile in California.

The documents shown here relate to the 1845 regranting of Rancho La Puente to John Rowland and William Workman and come from copies of the originals in the land claims papers for the ranch held at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley for the National Archives.

On 9 March, Alvarado issued permanent title to Rowland for four square leagues, just under 18,000 acres, with the remainder of the ranch to be reserved for the future use of the departmental government.  About a month later, Rowland returned to New Mexico so that he could bring his family to California, while Workman and his wife, Nicolasa, and children Antonia Margarita and José settled on the rancho.  A temporary dwelling was built to the north of San José Creek, crops of corn and beans were planted, and cattle were obtained to graze on the property.

By mid-December, Rowland, his wife María Encarnación Martinez, and their several children arrived from New Mexico with a large group of travelers and settled on La Puente, building their adobe home about a mile east of the Workmans on the banks of San José Creek and engaging in farming and cattle ranching.

About three years after the grant to La Puente, the two men became part of one of many political upheaveals in Alta California, this one involving a challenge to the authority of Governor Manuel Micheltorena.  Micheltorena, an appointee of the central governement in Mexico City, was widely despised by many Alta Californians, partially because the latter were used to, by necessity or otherwise, used to self-government, but also because he was viewed as despotic (a group of soldiers he brought with him were also hated and labeled as “cholos.”)


By early 1845, Pío Pico, the head of the legislative assembly in California and briefly a governor about a dozen years prior during another conflict, was at the forefront of the challenge to Micheltorena, who gathered a small army and marched down to Los Angeles to confront his adversary.  Pico formed his own military contingent, naming Workman as captain of the volunteer force of extranjeros (foreigners, meaning Americans and Europeans) assisting Pico, while Rowland served as a lieutenant.

A future post will discuss what took place in late February at Cahuenga Pass, northwest of Los Angeles and near the present Universal Studios, but the two forces squared off amid a good deal of posturing and a minimum of actual gunfire.  A horse was killed, but little else of note took place, until Anglos on Pico’s side recognized others with Micheltorena and arranged a peaceful resolution that culminated in the governor’s leaving California for Mexico and Pico’s ascension to the position of authority in the department.


About five months later, a strange request was sent to Governor Pico by Rowland through a representative, Los Angeles rancher and official Ygnacio del Valle.  The undated document stated:

the subscriber having agreed with Don Julian Workman to solicit in the name of both the concession of a tract of land called La Puente which they now occupy, went in person in the beginning of the year 1842 to Monterey, where at that time the Superior Government of this Department was established, for the purpose of asking for said tract [of] La Puente, which he did shortly after his arrival at that place by means of a writing which he presented for himself and in his own name alone by mistake or through his involuntary fault not having included in the request his associate Don Julian Workman.

After noting that the grant was made to Rowland, this petition continued that

as by said documents the said Workman acquired no right to the land of La Puente, the subscriber appeals  . . . [to Pico that] the said title [is] to be revalidated, making it to appear there therein that the said concession is made to the petitioner and the said Workman . . . [and that Pico] will order the proper title to be submitted to the Honorable Assembly for approval.

This is, by any standard, a bizarre document, given that, while it stated that Rowland and Workman {known here by his baptismal name, Julián) agreed to pursue a grant to La Puente, Rowland somehow forgot to include his friend of many years in the petition to Alvarado, even though nearly two months elapsed until the grant was finalized.  Additionally, though Del Valle’s document claimed that Workman “acquired not right” to La Puente, the Homestead collection has a pair of documents from 1842 that appear to do exactly that, as a future post will discuss.

In any case, it seems likely that, having provided invaluable assistance to Pico in his efforts to unseat Micheltorena and having been in greater Los Angeles long enough to shed his low profile, Workman felt it was time to take his place officially as co-owner of La Puente and induced Rowland to have Del Valle formally ask Governor Pico for a “revalidated” grant.

Consequently, on this date in 1845, Pico issued his response, starting off by stating:

it being public and notorious that the Citizen Julian Workman has been and is the associate and partner of the applicant in the occupation of the land of La Puente, and in consideration of the cost and expenses incurred in the settlement and cultivation, let a title of property of said land be issues to the citizens John Roland and Julian Workman . . . [and] let the title be recalled from the former which he obtained for said land for himself alone.

In a separate document, Pico, who was referred to as “interim” governor because the government in Mexico City had not formally recognized him as the head of the department of Alta California,  observed that La Puente, “which they have possessed during the time of three years,” was bounded by the ranchos of San José (northeast in the Pomona area), Los Nogales (east in Walnut and Diamond Bar), Los Coyotes (south in what became Orange County), and the San Gabriel River (west to what became the Rio Hondo after flooding in the winter of 1867-68 caused a new channel.)


As required by law, Rowland and Workman were to recognize existing public “crossings, roads, and servitudes,” and maintain “a house, cultivation and stock.”  As to the domain, Pico noted that it was that reflected on the map (diseño) in the expediente (grant file) and that “the proper Judge shall give them juridical possession by virtue of this title and shall mark the boundaries.”  This latter meant that the local Judge of the First Instance, or an appointed representative of that official, would walk the property with the grantees to formally establish the extent of the ranch.

Pico then ordered the expediente or grant file as so amended to be forwarded to the assembly for its approval.  On 4 August, Pico, through his secretary Agustín Olvera (future namesake of the famous street in the Los Angeles Plaza,) issued the order to have the legislature’s commision of vacant lands, handle the request, as required by Mexican land law.

On 30 September, that body, composed of assembly members Francisco de la Guerra of Santa Barbara and Narciso Botello of Los Angeles, reported that the updated expediente was “conducted in the strictest regard to the laws on the subject and that they were sufficient” to allow for regranting of La Puente “within the limits of the Mission of San Gabriel” to Rowland and Workman.


Yet, de la Guerra and Botello aded that the regranting was to be “in extent four leagues” as was the amount of land given in 1842 and “by title issued the 22nd of July of this year.”  Pico’s above grant of that date, however, made no mention of the size of the new grant.  Still, on 3 October, Pico, through Olvera, issued a statement that the assembly approved the report of the two-man commission and that the expediente was to be returned to the governor “for the purposes which might be convenient,” presumably meaning his finalizing of the grant.

The confusion over the size of the ranch was worsened by another document of 3 October, issued by Pico through a secretary, José María Covarrubias, which specifically noted

the concession in property . . . of the place known by the name of La Puente within the limits of the Mission of San Gabriel and in extent four leagues by title issued the 22nd of July of this year . . .

The basic problem is that the map, drawn by Isaac Given, who came to the area with Rowland and Workman in late 1841, shows La Puente between the other specified ranchos surrounding it, but does not lay out specific acreage amounts.  The 1842 and 1845 grants reiterate La Puente as being within the former lands of Mission San Gabriel and between those ranches, but state, in different places, the size of four square leagues.  Again, the rest of the land within La Puente was reserved to the Alta California government by the decree of the 1842 grant.


This question of the actual size of La Puente as granted by Pico to Rowland and Workman in 1845 became a central question in the legal proceedings involved in what is generally known as the “California Land Claims” process, which came about after the seizure of California by the United States during the Mexican-American War; the striking of Article X in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that would have protected land grants made under Spain and Mexico; and the resulting act of Congress, dated 3 March 1851, that dealt with certifying land grants through a land commission and automatic appeals to federal courts.

We’ll cover the La Puente land claim in a series of posts later, so check back for those next year!



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