Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Taos, New Mexico
September 3, 1842
[To whom it may concern:]
I, Don Antonio José Martinez, the parish priest and pastor of Taos, Department of New Mexico, hereby certify in the fullest way fixed by law that Don Juan Rowland, a foreigner from the United States of North America, is married to Doña María de la Encarnación Martinez, a Mexican. He is [therefore] naturalized in this Republic, and hence a Mexican Citizen as is his wife. He is [also] a Catholic as is his wife and all their family as shown in the parish record books of this parish of which I am in charge.
He is accustomed to receive Holy Communion regularly, and he contributes to the support of the Church. He faithfully and religiously obeys the laws, and enforces them when holding a position of authority. Moreover, he does so with such a degree of charity that each day has been a greater credit to him. It is also known to me that in his social life he is held in the highest regard as an honored citizen. He is faithful to the state and to the government, and respects its laws. He is quiet and peaceful in all his acts, complying with his duties and responsibilities. In the same manner, this is also his attitude toward the Church. He strictly complies with his promises and contracts when dealing with others. He is well regarded by the inhabitants of this region, and is highly esteemed by its authorities. He has never been accused or even suspected of violating the laws, since he has never given any cause or reason for that. In short, he has always been a man of fine behavior as his qualities as set forth above testify.
Therefore in witness of this, I issue the present certificate from this parish jurisdiction of Taos on the third day of the month of September of this year one thousand eight hundred and forty two.
(Signed) Antonio Jose Martinez, Cura de Taos
[Ms. Lillian Dibble, a granddaughter of John Rowland, owned the original letter published in Leonore Rowland’s ROMANCE OF LA PUENTE, pp. 13-14, Pasadena City Library. Ms. Dibble’s lawyer fashioned an English translation that I amended into a more fluid English version. The original translation may be found more easily in Donald E. Rowland, JOHN ROWLAND AND WILLIAM WORKMAN: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PIONEERS OF 1841, Arthur Clark Co. and the Historical Society of Southern California Spokane, 1999, p. 73.]
Padre Antonio José Martínez, the Cura de Taos wrote this Letter of Transit—a kind of passport– for John Rowland and his wife Encarnación Martínez and their family. The letter is dated September 3, 1842. John Rowland, together with William Workman, had fled New Mexico to California in 1841 because of political troubles.
Although both Rowland and Workman were married to native New Mexicans of Taos, and were therefore naturalized citizens of the Republic of Mexico and therefore had the right to own property, they retained certain “Anglo” sympathies. They both had declared themselves in favor of the intent of the Lone Star Republic to claim New Mexico as part of Texas as far east to the Rio Grande. New Mexico, of course, strongly opposed the idea, and Governor Armijo denounced Rowland and Workman as “traitors to the nation.” They fled to California where Encarnación Martinez, the wife of John Rowland, already had business dealings for several years. The major commerce between California and New Mexico at the time, and for some years to come, was the trade of New Mexican blankets for California horses and mules.
When John Rowland first arranged to settle in California in 841, Manuel Alvarez–the Spanish-born American Consul living in Santa Fe–provided a Letter of Transit for him.
August 11, 1841
[Mr. John Rowland] is…. a native of the United States of America, a naturalized [Mexican] citizen and since the year 1823, a resident of this jurisdiction [of the Department of New Mexico, Republic of Mexico].
He is an industrious and peaceful man, very well known and respected in this country. I know him very well, and have associated with him since the early years of his settling here…Whatever favor you may deem worthy of extending to Mr. Rowland, I shall thank you for it.
Kissing your hands, I remain,
Consul of the U.S., Santa Fe
After his first visit to California, John Rowland established a residence on the eastern portion of La Puente Rancho in what is today Rowland Heights, twenty-two miles east of Los Angeles. In those days, it was a space where San Gabriel Mission used to graze cattle. Rowland then returned to Taos in order to escort his wife and family to their new California home.
Padre Martinez, parish priest for the Rowlands—John, Encarnación and their family– had been away from Taos when Rowland and Workman left in their first expedition of 1841 to California. He was on a year of continuing education in Durango, and was also taking care of personal business.
Upon the return of Padre Martinez, Rowland was quick to ask him for a Letter of Transit so that he could take it with him on his return trip to California in 1842. Rowland sought such a letter of recommendation from the Pastor of Taos for reasons similar to those that had initially prompted his request to Alvarez. In addition, Rowland correctly surmised that a Letter of Transit from his pastor might help neutralize the objections to his obtaining La Puente Land Grant that the pastor of San Gabriel Mission and his successor harbored. Padre Tomas Estenaga of San Gabriel Mission strongly opposed Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado’s attempt to divest what he considered Church patrimony in order to sell it to Rowland. For his part, Rowland was hoping that Padre Martinez’ letter would neutralize the objections of the San Gabriel clergy so that Governor Alvarado could effect the land grant over their clerical objections, thus making it the first Mexican land grant in California made to Anglos.
Encarnación Martinez was related to the Padre’s father, Severino Martinez of Taos. Although Padre Martinez had been a Mexican nationalist for most of his years, he nevertheless graciously and generously acceded to John Rowland’s request to write the very positive letter for him and his wife who was the Padre’s relative. The letter was shown to the equivalent of customs officials (or border patrol agents) between New Mexico and California, different departamentos—equivalent to states or territories–of the same Republic of Mexico. The letter also served as an effective credential with politicians and priests, including the governor of Alta California and the pastor of San Gabriel Mission. Indeed, it must have helped Rowland’s effort to eventually own property in California, his new adopted homeland. It was a case where family blood (through intermarriage) trumped politics!