by Shalane Sheley-Cruz

NOTE: Unless indicated otherwise by references, the following information was taken from the book, THE MOUNTAIN MEN AND THE FUR TRADE OF THE FAR WEST by LeRoy R. Hafen (Glendale, CA, 1968). On pp. 213-218 is the article "Francisco Laforet" written by David J. Weber of San Diego State College. I have put in quotes places where I directly quoted the book.
Francisco (Francois) Laforet was born in Montreal, Canada between 1791 and 1796 (as estimated by the ages given in the 1850 and 1860 census records) to Francois Laforet and Maria Feliciana Campbell (according to the baptismal information of his sons). He was a French trapper and was in New Mexico by 1827.

At the age of 34 Francisco married Maria Dolores Armenta (probably around the age of 15, born about 1813) on 25 July 1828 at Taos. She was the daughter of Antonio Elias (or de Leon) Armenta and Maria Ysabel Sanchez (married 10 Dec 1810). Francisco and Dolores were the parents of:

  1. Jose Antonio born 12 April 1829
    - married Martina Pacheco 9 December 1848
    - children
    1. Juan Antonio born 7 May 1852

    2. - married Claudia Salazar
      - children
      1. Luz born 20 Feb 1881
      2. Benardo born 8 Oct 1883
      3. Juan Pedro born 1 Aug 1888
      4. Celestino born 28 Mar 1897 married Clodovia Lucero 04 Oct 1915
    3. Maria Benigna born 18 Nov 1854
    4. Maria Dolores baptized 15 Feb 1857
    5. Jose Narcisco born 17 Apr 1859
    6. Maria Josefa born 31 Oct 1861
  2. Juan Crisostomo (or Cristoval), born 28 February 1831

  3. -married Maria Encarnacion
    1. Jose Francisco born 22 Jan 1851
    2. Maria Concepcion (aka Antonia) baptized 20 Dec 1855 married Francisco Escobedo, died 15 Nov 1943, Huerfano County, CO
  4. Maria Isabel, born July 31, 1835

  5. -married Juan Ignacio Velasquez
    -children, baptized:
    1. Antonio Jose born 29 Mar 1852
    2. Guillermo and Crescencio born 26 Sep 1853
    3. Jose Encarnacion born 25 Mar 1856
    4. Jose Donaciano born 27 Feb 1857
    5. Mara Rosa born 3 Sep 1860
    6. Maria Josefa born 14 Nov 1861
    7. Maria Feliciana born 17 Jan 1865

Francisco went on a fur trapping expedition to California in 1830 with two other men. Through that trip, Francisco and his companions helped open the Old Spanish Trail, connecting New Mexico and California.

Around 1832 he became a Mexican citizen. In 1833 he mortgaged everything he had for 88 pesos (about 88 dollars) and went on another trapping expedition. He didn't start paying back the money until 1835, in beaver furs.

"In 1842, Francisco became one of the first settlers of the new village of San Antonio del Rio Colorado. Known today as Questa, Rio Colorado was then Mexico's northern most outpost in the Rio Grande Valley."

"Francisco settled down as a farmer on two hundred varas of land next to his father-in-law. It was there on the farm that an English-traveler named George Ruxton sought refuge at his house on a cold winter night in 1847. Later Ruxton wrote about his adventure at the French Canadian trapper's home."

"Ruxton pronounced Rio Colorado to be the most miserable town in the area - no high compliment. Further more, the residents were cowardly. When Utes were near, they would 'refuse to leave the shelter of their burrows even to secure their only food.' With all humility, Laforet told Ruxton that 'he and his son entirely supported the people on several occasions by the produce of their rifles, while the maize was lying rotting in the fields.' Laforet's larder was well provisioned: 'the fare in Laforey's house was what might be expected in a hunter's establishment: venison, antelope, and the meat of the carnero cimarron, the Rocky Mountain sheep.' Coffee, however, was missing and Laforet lamented its absence frequently. This, Ruxton supposed, was designed to elicit some coffee from him. Like many mountain men, Laforet had surmounted the problems of his multilingual background and communicated with Ruxton by lapsing into occasional snatches of English."

"I vas nevare tan pauvre as dis time; mais before I vas siempre avec plenty cafe, plenty sucre; mais now, God dam, I got go a Santa Fe, God dam, and mountain men dey come aqui from autre cote, drink all my cafe . . . enfant de Garce, I no live parceque me not sacre Espangnol, mais one Frenchman." (Hafen , pg 196)

Ruxton also wrote about stories he heard about Francisco:

"[One] was an incident involving a certain 'Forey' who, after three days of starving, killed, cooked, and ate a captive Digger squaw, much to the disgust of his companion, the mysterious La Bonte. If this story is based on an incident in Laforet's life, it seems to indicate that he was not held in great esteem among his former colleagues and acquaintances on the Arkansas."

"Not long after Ruxton had left Rio Colorado, the bloody Taos revolt against the new American government had erupted. In the ensuing confusion two former Mountain Men, Harwood and the well-known Mark Head, were murdered by a mob at Rio Colorado. Laforet was suspected of having instigated the deed and of making off with their property. Thus, Harwood's and Mark Head's friends on the Arkansas, according to Ruxton, 'vowed vengeance against him, and swore to have his hair some day'."

They never carried out their vengeance as in the 1850 census, Francisco had reached the age of 54, was born in Canada, and could not read or write. His occupation was given as farmer, with a real estate value of $200 (almost $4,000 in 2000). The age of his wife, Maria Dolores Amenta was 41 and she could not could read or write either. Also in the household were their two sons (Jose Antonio age 22 and Juan Cristostomo age 20), two daughters-in-law (Maria Martina age 20 and Maria Encarnacion Velasques 21) and an unknown person, Juan Martin, age 28 (farmer).

By 1860, Francisco's age was 69 (thus the 1791 birth date), aging 15 years in 10. Since he was dead within the year, he very possibly was going downhill fast in his later years. This time, he was a grocer with real estate value of $300 (over $5,500 in 2000) and a personal estate worth $700 (almost $13,000 in 2000). But he wasn't the rich man on the block as Migel Ortiz had a store next door with a real estate value of $1000 ($18,500 in 2000) and a personal estate of $2000 ($37,000 in 2000) which I presume was mostly taken up in merchandise, and Jean Bautiste Beaubien who had a store worth $2000 and contents also valued at $2000.

The town of Rio Colorado probably hasn't changed much as even 140 years later, it is a sleepy little place, where everyone knows everyone, which was probably true in 1860. Maria Dolores' age was given as 50 in 1860, and as mentioned earlier, all the older children were gone with two more children: Jose Francisco age 11 and Anto. Ab., age 8, their grandchildren to raise.

Francisco died within five months of the census just before December 8, 1860. He is listed as being buried on that date in the Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic church records, Arroyo Hondo. His wife's name was given as Maria Dolores Archuleta, the information obviously given to the priest by someone who didn't know all the facts, or either the priest mis-understood what was said to him. It is unknown when Maria Dolores died.


1850 U.S. Census, The Northern Division in the County of Taos, New Mexico, Family No. 1115. LDS Film 443667.

1860 U.S. Census, Rio Colorado Precinct, Taos County, New Mexico. Family 1144. LDS Film 803715.

Nuestra Senora de Los Dolores Burial Records, Arroyo Hondo, Taos County, New Mexico. LDS Film No. 0016622.

From "The Inflation Calculator,"

Nuestra Senora De los Dolores Church, Arroyo Hondo, NM baptismal records 1852-1869. LDS Film 0016622.

Marriage records at our Lady of Sorrows Church, 1852-1869, Arroyo Hondo, NM LDS Film 16622.

Nuestra Senora De Los Dolores Church, Arroyo Hondo, NM. From records extracted by Maria Clara Martinez. LDS Film 0016622.

St. Mary's Baptismal Records, Walsenburg, Colorado, 1870-1901. LDS Film 2791.

St. Mary's Church Marriage Records 1871-1957, Walsenburg, CO. LDS Film 2795.

Taos Baptisms 1701-1852 Baptism Database Manuscript of Aarchives held by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the State Archive of New Mexico. Database Entry by Thomas D. Martinez. July 18, 2000.

Index to Taos Marriages 1770 - 1860 Extracted by David Salazar. Indexed by Bill Trujillo. Sep 1994. Published by GSHA.

Huerfano County RootsWeb site

Hafen, LeRoy R. (ed.), Ruxton of the Rockies (Norman, 1950).

© 1997 - 2012 inclusive Karen Mitchell - Colorado City, Colorado