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Charles Rosenberg

pioneer settler in Los Angeles County, California, in the 1850s, blacksmith, teamster, firewood salesman, and landowner, was born in Kentucky around 1827. Although it is commonly assumed that he had been enslaved there, he arrived in California a free man prior to the Civil War, and nothing has been established about his previous life.

He was married on 6 November 1859 to a woman named Amanda, born in Texas, by Jesse Hamilton, the earliest pastor of First African Methodist Episcopal church, Los Angeles. Their first two children, Dora and Julia, were born in 1857 and 1859. In 1860 the household included a laborer named Juan Jose, recorded by the census as being of Indian ancestry. Another man of African descent, Oscar Smith from Mississippi lived next door and no race was specified for the other neighbors who had either English or Hispanic names ...

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Maria Elena Raymond

former slave, western pioneer, church founder, businesswoman, and philanthropist, was born in Gallatin, Tennessee—some sources offer a birth date of 1800—and at the age of three was sold with her mother to a planter in Virginia. There, at the age of eighteen, she married a slave named Richard and had several children. When her owner, Ambrose Smith, died in 1835Clara and her children were auctioned off to different slaveholders. Her daughter Margaret was sold to a slaveholder in Kentucky and reportedly died a few years later. Clara lost contact with her son Richard, who was sold repeatedly. Another daughter, Eliza Jane, was sold to a James Covington, also in Kentucky.Clara was sold again at auction, this time to a Kentucky slaveholder named George Brown a merchant and for the next two decades served the Brown family as a house slave During this ...

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Minor Ferris Buchanan

slave, soldier, hunter, guide, and pioneer, was born on Home Hill plantation, Jefferson County, Mississippi, the son of slaves Harrison and Daphne Collier. Little is known of Daphne Collier, although it is believed that she had some Native American ancestry. In 1815Harrison Collier accompanied the famed General Thomas Hinds when he fought alongside General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans. As house servants the Colliers maintained a higher status on the plantation, and from all indications young Holt was a favorite of the Hinds family. At age ten he was taken into the upriver wilderness to serve as a juvenile valet and hostler on Plum Ridge plantation in what would later become known as Washington County in the Mississippi Delta.

At Plum Ridge plantation Holt was trained to hunt and kill anything that could be used as food for the growing ...

Article

Ann T. Keene

Dorman, Isaiah (?–26 June 1876), frontiersman and interpreter, was known as “Teat,” or the Wasicun Sapa (Black White Man), among the Sioux of Dakota Territory. Nothing is known of his life before he entered the territory as a young man around 1850; he is thought to have been an escaped slave who fled to the wilderness to avoid capture. Sioux tribal history records his presence in their midst from that date; he became known to white settlers in 1865, by which time he had become fluent in the Sioux dialect. About this time he married a Sioux woman and built a log cabin near Fort Rice, in Dakota Territory, not far from present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. For a while he earned a living cutting wood for the fort and for a trading firm, Durfee and Peck.

In November 1865 Dorman was hired by the U S Army ...

Article

Ann T. Keene

frontiersman and interpreter, was known as “Teat,” or the Wasicun Sapa (Black White Man), among the Sioux of Dakota Territory. Nothing is known of his life before he entered the territory as a young man around 1850. He is thought to have been an escaped slave who fled to the wilderness to avoid capture. Sioux tribal history records his presence in their midst from that date. He became known to white settlers in 1865, by which time he had become fluent in the Sioux dialect. About this time he married a Sioux woman and built a log cabin near Fort Rice, in Dakota Territory, not far from present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. For a while he earned a living cutting wood for the fort and for a trading firm, Durfee and Peck.

In November 1865 Dorman was hired by the U S Army to carry the ...

Article

Ezra  

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Ohio frontier settler and slave, was likely born in Africa and brought to the American colonies by slave traders as a young boy. While details about nearly all of his life are speculative at best, Ezra was purchased at Baltimore, Maryland, by Dr. David McMahan in the years before the American Revolution. When Dr. McMahan decided to travel to the Ohio country to claim land for his own in early 1777 he brought along with him his two Negro slaves Ezra and Sam Eckert 123 Traveling overland from Fort Cumberland on the Braddock Road the three man party crossed the Monongahela River and made their way to Wheeling on the Ohio River Making their way on packhorses loaded with the provisions and supplies needed for homesteading as well as McMahan s medical gear the trip was a long and arduous one While details are lacking there can be ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

building foreman and caretaker, U.S. mail coach driver, Montana pioneer, also known as Black Mary or Stagecoach Mary, was born a slave in Hickman County, Tennessee. Information about Fields's parentage and early life remain unconfirmed, although James Franks, whose grandparents knew Fields in the late 1800s in Montana, writes that Fields was the daughter of Suzanna and Buck, slaves of the Dunne family, owners of a Hickman County plantation. The Dunnes sold Buck immediately following Mary's birth. According to Franks, the Dunnes allowed Suzanna to keep her daughter with her in quarters behind the kitchen, and Mary enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood, even becoming friends with the Dunne's daughter Dolly, who was about the same age as Mary. This arrangement, Franks writes, lasted until Suzanna's death forced fourteen-year-old Mary to take over her mother's household duties.

Whether or not Franks s account is accurate it is ...

Article

Mary Fields was born a slave in Tennessee, but little else is known of her early life. Some historical accounts have placed her on the Mississippi River in the early 1870s, and at least one researcher claims that she was a passenger on the Robert E. Lee when it raced the steamer Natchez in June 1870. By 1884 Fields was living in Toledo, Ohio, where she worked as a handywoman for an order of Ursuline nuns. She became attached to the mother superior of the convent, Mother Amadeus, who is variously reported as a close friend or as the master in a master-servant relationship. Shortly after Fields arrived at the convent, Mother Amadeus left for Montana to open a school for Blackfeet Native American girls. When Mother Amadeus fell ill in Helena, Fields came to her aid and decided to stay in Montana.

Fields assisted the Catholic mission ...

Article

Kelli Cardenas Walsh

The story of Mary Fields is one of race, gender, and age. She was the antithesis of the nineteenth-century Victorian image of womanhood. In an age of domesticity, Fields lived a frontier life dependent upon no one and uninhibited by Jim Crow.

A former slave, in freedom Fields became an independent, gunslinging, liquor-drinking woman in the untamed frontier of Montana. She stood six feet tall and was stout. Details about the early life of Mary Fields are sparse, other than that she was born into slavery in 1832. Judge Dunn in Hickman County, Tennessee, owned Fields and presumably owned her family. She was befriended by her master’s daughter, Dolly, and remained with the family after Emancipation.

Once she left the Dunn family Fields spent an unspecified time in Ohio and along the Mississippi River During this time Dolly joined a convent of Ursuline nuns taking the name of ...

Article

Donna Tyler Hollie

former slave and Mormon pioneer, was born in Anson County, North Carolina. Nothing is known about his family or early childhood. At age ten, Green was given as a wedding gift to James Madison and Agnes Love Flake, wealthy plantation owners in Anson County. In 1841 the Flakes relocated to Kemper County, Mississippi, taking Green and other slaves with them to clear and work the new land. Two years later, the Flakes joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as did several of their slaves, including Green.

The church, commonly known as the Mormon Church, was founded by Joseph Smith, in Fayette Township, New York, in 1830 Many of the group s tenets and practices they voted in a block they were antislavery and they took over land that Missourians did not wish them to have made them extremely unpopular Consequently the members ...

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James M. O'Toole

Coast Guard officer and Alaska pioneer, was born Michael Augustine Healy in Jones County, Georgia, to Michael Morris Healy, an immigrant from Ireland, and Eliza Clark, a mixed-race slave owned by Michael Morris Healy. Michael was the sixth of nine surviving children born to his parents, who, though never legally married, maintained a common-law relationship for more than twenty years, neither one of them ever marrying anyone else. Michael Morris Healy was barred by Georgia law from emancipating either his wife or his children, but he treated them as family members rather than as slaves, even as he owned fifty other slaves. He was a successful cotton planter and amassed the resources to send his children north before the Civil War, which he did as each approached school age, beginning in 1844 The children exhibited a wide range of complexion but most of them including young ...

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Angela Bates

slave, pioneer minister, coroner, and politician, was born in Scott County, Kentucky. As a slave he was a carriage driver and house slave. It was against the law for slaves to learn to read and write, which was sometimes punishable by death, but Daniel took the risk. He learned by secretly listening to and watching his master read. He saved scraps of printed paper and taught others to read and in doing so almost lost his life after he was discovered by his master. After emancipation the Freedman's Bureau established schools to educate the formerly illiterate slaves. It was then that he could take full advantage of his freedom and spend time improving his reading skills.

In 1862, while still a slave, Hickman became a Christian, and in 1866 after emancipation he became a minister and the pastor of the Owens Baptist Church the ...

Article

Vickey Kalambakal

gold miner and rancher who was legally stripped of his property and liberty, was born into slavery, most likely in the early nineteenth century. Nothing is known about him, including the place of his birth or his parents' names, until 1849 when he accompanied his owner Tucker Wood from Arkansas to California.

When Wood returned to Arkansas four years later, Hill stayed in California. A document filed in the county court of Tuolumne County states that Hill bought his freedom from Wood on 1 April 1853. Almost seven months later, on 27 October 1853 Hill filed a claim to 160 acres of land at the top of a canyon on the Stanislaus River in central California less than five miles from Sonora The claim was recorded and Hill began to work his land clearing and sowing forty acres with wheat and barley He also built a cabin to ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Ohio frontier settler, was likely born a slave in Maryland. Though Johnson's life remains largely undocumented in official records, oral tradition regarding his life and that of his family members has been extensively recorded. The fragmentary details they reveal are a fascinating commentary both on the role African Americans played in settling the Northwest Territory and the lives they led afterward in what would soon become the state of Ohio.

According to the Zanesville, Ohio, historian Norris Schneider in his book Y Bridge City, based in part on the oral history newspaper columns written by Elijah Church for the Zanesville Courier in 1878, Johnson was a slave in Maryland in 1799 when he learned that his master was going to sell him Perhaps afraid of being separated from his family Johnson decided to flee and with another slave named Sam made his way north to Pittsburgh ...

Article

Margaret Blair Young

was born a slave in Mississippi and became a successful homesteader in Idaho after the Civil War. Records of Leggroan's birth year differ, some listing it as 1840 and others as 1856. His wife, Susan Leggroan, claimed that he was about twenty-five years old when they married, just after the Civil War ended. Given this information, his birth year was most likely 1840. In addition Leggroan's grave lists his date of death as 1 February 1926.

The couple came west with Ned's sister, Amanda Leggroan Chambers, and her husband Samuel. After arriving in Salt Lake City, the Leggroans were baptized into the Latter-day Saints religion. They began farming in Salt Lake and subsequently moved to Milo, Idaho, where they settled on a homestead ranch.

They were among a handful of blacks in that area which is why Leggroan is significant Only a few blacks ventured to the ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

William Alexander Leidesdorff was born in St. Croix in the Danish Virgin Islands, the son of William Leidesdorff, a Danish planter, and Anna Marie Sparks, an Afro-Caribbean slave. He was educated by his owner, who reportedly treated him more as a son than as a slave. As a young man he was sent to New Orleans to work for his uncle's cotton business as a master of ships sailing between New York and New Orleans. Both his father and uncle died soon after, leaving Leidesdorff a sizable inheritance. His newly acquired wealth enabled him to propose to a woman he had been courting, Hortense, who accepted. The engagement ended painfully, shortly before the wedding day, when Leidesdorff told his fiancée that he was of African descent through his mother. Hortense called off the wedding, and he, heartbroken, left New Orleans.

Arriving in California in 1841 aboard ...

Article

Elizabeth Zoe Vicary

pioneer, diplomat, and businessman, was born in St. Croix in the Danish Virgin Islands, the son of William Leidesdorff, a Danish planter, and Anna Marie Sparks, an Afro-Caribbean slave. He was educated by his owner, who reportedly treated him more like a son than a slave. As a young man he was sent to New Orleans to work for his uncle's cotton business as a master of ships sailing between New York and New Orleans. Both his father and his uncle died soon after, leaving Leidesdorff a sizable inheritance. His newly acquired wealth allowed him to propose to a white woman he had been courting, Hortense, who accepted. The engagement ended painfully shortly before the wedding date when Leidesdorff told his fiancée of his partial African descent. She called off the wedding, and he left New Orleans.

Arriving in California in 1841 aboard his ...

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Lynn Downey

legendary woman of influence and political power in Gold Rush and Gilded Age San Francisco, was born, according to some sources, a slave in Georgia; other sources claim that her mother was a Louisiana slave and her father was Asian or Native American. Many sources agree that she lived in Boston, as a free woman, the wife of James W. Smith, a Cuban abolitionist. When he died in 1844 he left her his estate, valued at approximately forty-five thousand dollars.

Mary Ellen next married a man whose last name was Pleasant or Pleasants and made her way to California, arriving in San Francisco in 1849 Her husband s whereabouts after this time have never been made clear She started life in San Francisco as a cook for wealthy clients then opened her own boardinghouse Her guests were said to be men of influence and it was rumored ...

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Lynn Hudson

Mary Ellen Pleasant arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, probably sometime in 1852. For the next fifty years, she worked as cook, accountant, abolitionist, and entrepreneur in the bustling town on the bay. Histories of the West describe her as madam, voodoo queen, and prostitute. Pleasant herself requested that the words “she was a friend of John Brown’s” be printed on her gravestone, indicating her own desire to be remembered as an abolitionist. She was the target of what one historian has called an “avid conspiracy” that sought to silence her, and it was said that she harbored the skeletons of San Francisco’s elite in her closet.

The folklore about Pleasant reveals conflicting stories of her background (some say she was from Georgia, others Virginia), but Pleasant herself claimed she was born in Philadelphia She described her mother as a free colored woman and her ...

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One of San Francisco's most colorful and controversial characters in the late nineteenth century was Mary Ellen Pleasant, a former slave who moved to the city in 1849. She began managing a boarding house whose reputation for cards, liquor, and beautiful women—it is likely her services included procuring prostitutes—earned it a devoted following.

No mere businesswoman, Pleasant involved herself in both local and national politics. In 1858, she personally presented abolitionist John Brown with a $30,000 U.S. Treasury Bond, after which she traveled south to promote his upcoming revolt. When Brown was captured at Harpers Ferry, Pleasant returned to California under an assumed name, where she raised money for the Union cause in the Civil War, and continued her work for civil rights.

Throughout her life Pleasant helped escaped and former slaves find work in San Francisco mostly as domestic servants Some historians speculate that Pleasant ...