His father, John Rowland, was born sometime in the 1790s in northwest Maryland or southeast Pennsylvania and was either of English or Welsh ancestry. The elder Rowland moved with his family to Morgan County, Ohio, east of Columbus and almost directly west of his place of birth and along a growing emigrant route to the "Old West." By the early 1820s, John Rowland was on the road once more, probably following the Ohio River route to the Mississippi and then to St. Louis. He then headed further west and wound up on an early caravan along the newly-created Santa Fe Trail leading then from central Missouri to New Mexico.
John Rowland settled in Taos and ran a flour mill while also entering a partnership distilling the famed "Taos Lightning" whiskey with English native William Workman. Rowland married New Mexico native María Encarnación Martinez in 1825 and raised a large family. Their lives, however, were transformed by politics when the American revolution that led to the creation of the independent Republic of Texas brought ambitions by that country of annexing much of New Mexico. Rowland, along with Workman, was accused of conspiring with the Texans, leading the two men and dozens of others, including Americans, Europeans and New Mexicans, to migrate to California in Fall 1841.
The next spring John Rowland secured a land grant to Rancho La Puente, receiving 18,000 acres east of the San Gabriel River and then, three years later, obtaining an extension to nearly 49,000 acres. The eastern boundary ran near Valley Boulevard in present Walnut and Pomona, within a few miles of Tonner Canyon. For decades, the Rowland family raised cattle, farmed, ran a flour mill, manufactured wine and enjoyed great wealth. After receiving a federal land patent for La Puente in 1867, Rowland and Workman divided the ranch amongst themselves and Rowland, in turn, partitioned his ranch to his children, the distribution of which took place after his death in October 1873.
William R. Rowland was the last of the children of John and Encarnación and the only born in California when he was delivered on 11 November 1846. His mother died when he was not quite five years old and, within a year or so, his father married widower Charlotte Gray, a member of the new American community of Lexington (later El Monte), founded in 1851. William was educated by Henry D. Barrows at the private school of orange grower and rancher William Wolfskill and then attended what would roughly be the equivalent of high school at Santa Clara College (now the University of Santa Clara) in the town of that name next to San José. Returning to La Puente, he assisted his father in the ranching business for about a decade.
He left ranching because he was, at age 25, the youngest person ever elected Los Angeles County sheriff. Securing the office in the election of December 1871 and taking oath the next month, Rowland was the county's lead law enforcement officer during a time in which the region experienced its first significant period of growth. His tenure was largely quiet, except for one notable event.
|William Richard Rowland (1846-1926) from John Steven McGroarty's |
From the Mountains to the Sea, 1921.
In Spring 1874, noted bandido Tiburcio Vásquez came down from northern California and, skirting Los Angeles, came upon the house of sheep rancher Alessandro Repetto in modern Monterey Park. The bandit's attempt at robbery snagged, however, when he learned that the Italian-born rancher kept his money in the Los Angeles bank of Temple and Workman, the latter the same co-owner of Rancho La Puente with the Rowland family mentioned above. When Repetto sent a nephew (or son) to the bank to withdraw $800 to give to Vásquez, bank president, F. P. F. Temple, Workman's son-in-law, became suspicious and notified Sheriff Rowland. A plan was hatched for Rowland and some deputies to follow the young man back to the Repetto ranch, but, fearing harm would come to his uncle (or father), the lad raced ahead and warned Vásquez of the coming of the sheriff. A chase ensued, in which Vásquez and his men stormed north toward the San Gabriel Mountains, though coolly enough to stop and rob a surveyor working on a new townsite for some migrants from Indiana soon to be called Pasadena. Vásquez and his band managed to reach the steep mountains and, with great daring, eluded Rowland and posse.
Vásquez was, however, wanted for murder in the north, so decided to find refuge west of Los Angeles in what is now West Hollywood at a ranch of a man known as Greek George (born Yiorgos Caralambo in Smyrna, Turkey and naturalized as George Allen.) After a period of days, Rowland learned from an informer of the bandit's hideaway and decided that the best way to capture Vásquez was to send a posse out to the ranch while Rowland remained in Los Angeles, acting as if he was completely ignorant of the bandit's whereabouts. The subterfuge worked and Vásquez was captured rather easily by the group led by Under-Sheriff Henry M. Mitchell. After confinement in Los Angeles, during which Vásquez likely became the first criminal celebrity in Lotusland, and extradition north to face the murder rap, Vásquez was hung in San Jose in Spring 1875. Rowland was generally accounted a hero and received a $5,000 award from the state, though some in the local press grumbled that the delay in netting Vásquez was because Rowland had a Latina mother!
Rowland served two terms as sheriff, from 1872-75 and 1880-82, and then returned to his 2,600-acre share of the La Puente ranch, which included much of today's Walnut as well as land closer to the family homestead in modern City of Industry and Rowland Heights. In the former, he ran livestock and an adobe house he constructed for ranch workers survives today as a historic landmark in a Walnut city park. At the latter, he was the extremely fortunate beneficiary of oil discovered in the Puente Hills in 1885. With partners Burdette Chandler and William Lacy, Rowland created the Puente Oil Company, of which he was president, and also found his discovery to be timely because, with the completion of a direct transcontinental railroad link to Los Angeles from the east that same year, a new development boom, the famed Boom of the Eighties, meant a growing customer base for the Puente Oil Company.
Indeed, one of the early customers for the oil as used for fuel was Richard Gird of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, whose sugar beet factory utilized the product. Puente Oil also shipped its crude to Chino where a refinery was constructed. Notably, aside from the successful production of oil in 1876 at today's Santa Clarita, Rowland's enterprise was one of the first oil discoveries in the region and came seven years or so before Charles Canfield and Edward Doheny opened a field in the city of Los Angeles. Doheny, in 1896-97, also drilled the first successful well in Orange County, specifically in the Carbon Canyon area at Olinda.
As an oil magnate, Rowland settled into a life of wealth and luxury atop Bunker Hill, the preeminent neighborhood of Los Angeles in the late 19th-century and now the financial center of the city. He had another connection to Rancho Santa Ana del Chino in that, in 1878, he married Manuela Williams, daugher of Isaac Williams, owner of the Chino ranch from 1841 to 1856. The couple had two daughters, Nina and Helen. Rowland was a trustee of the Whittier State School, a reformatory for boys now called the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility and a member of the exclusive California Club in downtown Los Angeles.
By the time that he became one of the "three brothers" in acquring that Tonner Canyon property that became Tres Hermanos Ranch, Rowland was near seventy, though also the only of the three to have something of an "authentic" rancher's background and history, dating back to his birth in the twilight of the Mexican era at La Puente. He lived at his Los Angeles mansion, however, until his death in 1926, at age 80.
Next comes the final of los tres hermanos and more of the direct connection between Tonner and Carbon canyons.