Rogerio Rocha, baptized in the mission of San Fernando, became a well-known blacksmith in California. In the late 1800s, he became the head Captain of the Fernandeño tribe. As a young man, Rocha learned the trade of a blacksmith and worked for several farmers in Northern Los Angeles County. Through trade, Rocha made his wealth and occupied several acres of land throughout the San Fernando Valley. In his later years Rocha and the Fernandeños settled on ten acres in San Fernando, the northeast corner of Hubbard and Fourth, which was a land holding that he fought for until his death in 1904.
Rocha lived on the San Fernando land with his lineage, respecting the ways of his ancestors. On the property Rocha constructed two adobe houses (made of sun-baked bricks), two tule houses (native traditional houses), and two wood frame houses, with an enclosed fenced area where he cultivated.
In 1874, ex-California Senator Charles Maclay purchased the land title “San Fernando Grant” through a court probate, and tried to negotiated with Rocha for the Tribe’s land holding. Rocha refused to sell the land and soon after, in 1885, Maclay visited him with a Los Angeles sheriff, wanting Rocha to sign a paper. Rocha replied, “I sign nothing.” On December 11, 1883, the Los Angeles Superior Court entered a default judgment in favor of Maclay for possession of the lands the Fernandeños were occupying. Shortly after, two deputy sheriffs were ordered to evict Rocha and the Fernandeños from San Fernando.
The manner of ejection was as cruel as it was outrageous. The actual circumstances of the eviction are contested. Maclay claims to have offered Rocha housing and compensation. Eyewitness testimony from then Indian Agent, H. N. Rust and others, contradicts Maclay’s claim to support Rocha.
Rocha was over eighty years old, living with his wife and another woman, nearly of equal age, with five or six other persons, constituting his entire household. The sheriff removed them by force in the middle of winter, tumbled the two aged women with all their effects (including Rocha’s blacksmith tools, fuel, chickens, etc.) into a wagon, and dropped them by the roadside, where they staid without the slightest protection and without food, excepting parched corn, for eight days when the rainy season was at its worst, while Rocha went to Los Angeles to get permission from the priest to occupy an old dilapidated shed connected to the old mission church.
Rocha’s wife soon after died of pneumonia, brought on by the exposure. Rocha became an old homeless wanderer, living his remaining life at Lopez Canyon until his death in 1904, when he was buried in an unmarked grave.
To learn more, please visit: www.tataviam-nsn.us/videos (scroll to “Request to Rename Maclay Avenue in the City of San Fernando“)