Taos merchant, John A. Rowland, paid $60 in silver to Mexican Comancheros, to barter with Comanche Indians for the return of nine year old Fayette Smith. The boy was captured January 21, 1841, near present day Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Fayette’s father, Judge James W. Smith, was murdered and scalped during the attack.
Fayette was taken to New Mexico. Rowland, who owned a trading post at Taos, heard about a white boy living with the Indians. He paid the Comancheros to bring him to Taos. The Rowland’s nourished the boy back to health and located his mother, Angelina Smith, in Austin. The couple arranged to return Fayette to his family by wagon train to Independence, Missouri, the eastern end of the Santa Fe Trail. The Santa Fe Trail was the only safe route to travel at the time. They never asked and were never reimbursed for their expenses for finding and returning Fayette.
The good samaritans fell out of favor with New Mexico Governor Manuel Armijo over the Rowland’s connections to the Republic of Texas, in Austin. He and his Mexican bride, Maria Encarnacion Martinez, headed west to California. They homesteaded 49,000 acres that would become a part of Los Angeles County. The 1855 home John Rowland built still stands as the oldest surviving brick structure in southern California. It is now the home of the Historical Society of La Puente Valley at 16201 Gale Avenue, City of Industry, California. It is presently in the process of being restored to become a museum. I look forward to its completion.