Nicolaus Robles

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About Nicolaus Robles


The first of these sons of Branciforte to cross over the line were the Robles brothers, younger boys of Jose Antonio Robles and his wife Maria Rosalia Gertrudis Robles y Merlopes original settlers of the villa. There were five of them in all who caught the attention of the alcaldes and Juez de Paz’ of the region; they were Nicholas, Avelino, Fulgencio,Teodoro and Secundino.

All were skilled vaqueros, who developed a great deal of pride in the way they dressed and rode in the saddle. They worked the rodeos at large ranchos which surrounded Branciforte. Beyond that, their lives consisted of unrestrained freedom in the fandango halls and gambling dens of the area, where there always seemed to be a “bota” of whiskey and a pretty girl get to in their way and cause them to stumble.

The boys antics began in 1828, when Nicholas stole a horse from the corral of a neighbor, Jose Ramero and galloped over the mountains to the Pueblo de San Jose, where he immediately fortified himself with a type of cactus whiskey called “Aquardiente.” He soon made a general nuisance of himself at the cantinas and fandango halls over in the Santa Clara Valley. Finally tiring of his troublesome behavior, the outraged authorities, sent him packing from the region.

Still astride Ramero’s horse, he found his way to the provincial capital at Monterey where he continued his drunken binge. But soon, word of his reckless actions reached back home to Branciforte where authorities agreed not to prefer charges if Nicholas would return the stolen horse to Ramero and remain under his parental roof. This leniency was due to the high respect that the father, Jose Antonio Robles was held at the villa.

From time to time one his brothers would break free and imitate Nicholas’ freewheeling ways. Their crimes were usually horse stealing, drunkenness and disturbing the peace, and their punishment never more then a small fine. For a dozen years, they the kept the good citizens of Branciforte in an almost constant state of uproar. But in 1838, events took a serious turn.

Nicholas again stole a horse, was apprehended and,exiled to Santa Barbara for a short period. Once again, light punishment. Upon his return he rejoined his brothers and a group other young Branifortians flaunting the rules, irritating the authorities of the villa and padres at the mission.

Among this group was dusky, vivacious, 15 year-old Lucia Soria, the favored daughter of Francisco Soria. She was greatly attracted to the flamboyant Nicholas who returned her affections. All this to the met with the stern disapproval of Lucia’s father, who took all possible steps to discourage the budding romance. However, all of the younger members of her family were friends of the Robles and helped the lovers by setting up rendezvous spots for them to meet. One night when Francisco locked his daughter in her room, Nicholas brazenly cut open the rawhide window covering in the bedroom and the couple escaped into the night.

A couple of days later, forces sent out by the Alcalde of Branciforte found the two hiding out in the woods along with the younger Soria’s and Robles’. When the soldiers attempted to arrest Nicholas and take Lucia home, Nicholas and the others faced them down with flintlocks and swords. A short time later, the “federales” returned and managed to overpower the boys. They fettered the young men together by looping ropes around their neck and set off on a march them towards San Juan Bautista.

Nothing could have been more insulting and humiliating to the proud young vaqueros then to be tethered together like so much livestock. At the first opportunity they broke free and bravely charged their captors shouting vulgarities as they ran. The soldiers opened fire wounding Nicholas and killing young Avelino Robles.

The incident only served embitter the other Robles brothers, but it did seem to slow down Nicholas. After he recovered from his wounds, he was sent into exile for six months. When he returned to Branciforte, he married Lucia Soria and they had two children before he died in 1843.

The next of the boys to break loose was Fulgencio, who was said to be as tough and reckless as brother Nicholas. And in the end it was pride that was to do him in also.

During the early 1840s, Yankee explorers and trappers were beginning to make their way over the Sierra Mountains and into Mexican territory. A number of them settled in the hills around Branciforte and a few moved into the villa. One of these was a obnoxious Scotsman named Lawrence Carmichael. He was a loud drunk who delighted in criticizing all things Mexican. He was particularly harsh on the young men of the villa calling them lazy and shiftless.

When the nature of his insults reached the ears of Fulgencio Robles, he vowed revenge upon the upstart “Gringo.” On the night of February 12, 1842, Fulgencio, who had been drinking heavily, rode fully mounted into the adobe where Carmichael and number of Americans were gambling. He jumped from his horse waving a knife and pistol, cursing is adversary only to be shot dead before hit the floor. After a hearing, held in Monterey, Gil Sanchez, an petty official of the villa, was ordered to be “exiled 20 leagues from Branciforte and pay 200 Pesos to the children of Fulgencio Robles” in the death of their father.

Following the killing of their brothers, the two remaining Robles boys Secundino and Teodoro, decided to leave Branciforte for the quiet and peaceful life on their Rancho Santa Rita near the site of Mayfield (later Palo Alto) in San Mato County.

However, Secundino Robles was to play a minor role in the lives of the next generation of Branciforte Banditos.

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