First Name
Henry
John C.
Josiah
Mrs. M.
Edward (Uncle Ned)
Frank
James
Benjamin Hooker (Hook)
Claudia
Elizabeth (Lizzie)
Essie
Eugene
Francis
G.
John G.
Joseph
Katherine
Mamie
Milton
Nervie
Onoria
Phillip L.
Thomas F.
Mary
Edward
Frank
Grandison/Granson
Hamilton
Jane
Nimrod
Louis
Baggie
George
Ida
Mrs. N.
Miss
Abraham
Antoine
Jacob
Henry
Albert
Mac
David
Harris
No given name
Artegus
Milton
Daniel
Mrs. J.D.
Willis
Mrs.
A.
C.E.
J.A.
J.D.
J.W.
M.C.
No given name
S.R.
H.
Martin
A.
Amanda
George
Edward
Edward Jr.
Jane
Jerimiah (Jerrie)
Oscar
John Jamison, Reverend
Amy
R.A.
Albert
Armstrong
Baby (son of Rachel, no surname)
Benjamin
Isack
Isadore
Jacob
John G.
Joseph
Philly
Rachel
Samuel
Uncle Billie
Winnie
Amy
Robert
Ann Maria
Maude I.
Elizabeth
Ellen
Florence
Green
Jordan/Jourdan
Laura B.
Louis
Martin
William
William (Willie)
J.
John
Mrs.
Emma
W.H.
W.
Henry
Ned
William
J.
S.
James
Emanuel
Albert
J.
Jacob W.
Chasey (Thomas)
Isaac
Isaac T.
Jacob W.
Maude
T.
John
Alice
Baby
Dora A.
Estella
Florence
George Daniel
George Daniel Jr.
James
John
Rachel (Armstead)
Robert
I.
No given name
Annie
Baby (son of Jane Smith, no given name)
Chaney
Edward
F.
Grant
Henry
Jane
John Henry
John Jesse
Lincoln
Peter
No given name, New York)
Edward
Cassens
D.
Mary E.
Emma
John
No given name
Perrien
Jacob
Joseph
Soloman
John
Mary
Mary R.
J.
Jane
Robert
M.
William
A.
John
S.
Charles H.
Thomas Mayers Decatur, Bishop
Emery
William
William
Henry
Sarah Grey
J.L.
Rebecca
S.
Selena
M.
Addie
Josephine
Mathilda
Simon
Anna
Fanny
Mrs. M.J.
Benjamin

Narrow Gauge Railroad work crew, identified as Bob Paine and John Nolan on right, and five other unidentified men (Searls Historical Library)

Identified as “Raisch (?)” Preston, possibly John Preston (Searls Historical Library)

Identified work crew (Searls Historical Library)

Nevada County Hospital, a refuge to poor and aging blacks in the community (Searls Historical Library)

Caroline Allen on left, Mary Stockton on right (Searls Historical Library)

Slave quarters, William F. English plantation in Miami, FL (Florida Memory)

Some Notable Dates

Slave Girl Tree (Searls Historical Library)

Unidentified work crew (Searls Historical Library)

Far right, Claudia Johnson (front row) and Florence Sevelle (third row), Garfield School, Grass Valley, graduation class of 1884 (Searls Historical Library)

Unidentified woman and girls in Nevada City (Niel Locke)

Ernest Towle with the Emancipation Proclamation, and an unidentified boy at a 4th of July parade (Searls Historical Library)

Civility To All, Servility To None

African American Pioneers of Nevada County, CA


During the second half of the nineteenth century Nevada County was home to a sizeable community of African Americans comprised of slaves brought to the gold fields by their Southern owners, escaped slaves, and free people.  They lived in Grass Valley, Nevada City and in the smaller mining camps such as North Bloomfield, Rough and Ready and French Corral.  These pioneers brought a range of talents to the many towns and camps in which they lived, working as miners, laborers, shopkeepers, musicians, farmers, teachers, and clergymen.

Although Gold Rush California was more egalitarian than many regions of the country, the state and county were still environments hostile to blacks, politically and socially. Yet in spite of many obstacles, Nevada County’s African American pioneers built churches and schools, bought property, founded businesses, educated their children, and fought for civil rights.  Fortunately, the community had advocates as well as enemies.  Advocates included a number of prominent white leaders such as Niles Searls, Dr. Robert Hunt, and clergymen John Barnet Hill and J.P. Hall.

From 1850-1900 the county’s African American pioneers witnessed many important milestones on their road to freedom and inclusion: the end of slavery; voting enfranchisement for black men; the integration of public schools; and progress in gaining access to public services.  As the century came to a close, however, most pioneer families moved to urban centers such as Sacramento and San Francisco. And as the century ebbed, and the last of these Gold Rush pioneers passed away, their stories passed with them.

Although the full stories of our African American pioneers are presently incomplete, the Nevada County Historical Society has undertaken a project to remedy that situation.  The brochure that accompanies this exhibit has a list of community members who we have identified.  If you have information concerning these individuals, or if you are aware of names that should be added to the list, your information would be warmly welcomed.


First Name
Henry
John
John
Julia
Mary
J.
Amelia
Frank Jacob
Henry Horatio
John Preston
Louisa (elder)
Louisa (younger)
Preston
Rosela
Caroline (Aunt Caroline)
Fanny
Frances
Frank Sumner (Hybo)
John (Kentucky)
John (Missouri)
John (New York)
Robert
J.F.
Charles
Catherine
Henry
P.
Mrs. F.G.
Philip A.
Henry
Henry
M.
Commodore Perry
Charles
E.J.
Edward A.
Elijah
George W.
Hannah
Harriet
J.W.
James
Lauralin
Luvatia
Mary Ann
Samuel John
P.
Alex
Lewis
Letitia Frances Dozier
William C.


Mary
J.
Fred
Isaac
John
Julia
John L.
Elizabeth
Milton
Garret A.
George A. (Possibly Garret)
Jessie M.
Mary
Josephine
Dennis Drummond
Jennie
Lincoln
Loretta
Robert
Harry
T.
A.
John
Della
Cesar
John C.
Mrs. _
W. Hampton



Francis
Alice 
Alice Jr.
Benjamin
Elizabeth
Emily
Eugene
George S.
Grant
Henry Wallace
James R.
Lillie
Lincoln
Mary Ann
Mary Elizabeth
William
Victoria
William H.
Soloman/Samuel
Francis
George A.
Hannah
Lydia


Robert
Robert
James W.
Lydia
William
Henry
Archibald
Manuel
P.
Emma
Viola
Alexander
Emma
John S.
Lettie F.
Maria
Medora
Merlevina
Nathaniel
Nathaniel Jr.
Thedora
Calvin
Lulu


Bateman
Benard
Georgianna
Susan A.
L.
Mrs.
M.
Caroline
Grace Carter
Henry
Edmonia
Fanny
Henry
John
Oni
Peter R.
Willie C.
George W.
Angelina
George
Jane
Julia
Scott
R.A.
Annie
Harry
John H.
John
Lewis
Boz
Fannie
Hannah
Jackson
Minnie
E. 
E. Jr.
John
O.
J.M.
A.
James
John
John
Laura F.
Peter 
A. (Missouri)
A. (Pennsylvania)
George
George Jr.
John
Walker
Oliver
James H., Reverend
James
Josephine
L.
Anna
Clarrissa

Last Name
Ackwood
Ackwood
Adams
Adams
Adams
Aikens
Alexander
Alexander
Alexander
Alexander
Alexander
Alexander
Alexander
Alexander
Allen
Allen
Allen
Allen
Allen
Allen
Allen
Allen
Anderson
Arrowsmith
Bailey
Baley
Banks
Barbadoes
Bell
Blackburn
Blackman
Blackmar
Boardley
Bobmer
Booth
Booth
Booth
Booth
Booth
Booth
Booth
Booth
Booth
Booth
Booth
Booth
Bradley
Brasfila
Briscoe
Brown
Brown
Brown
Buckner
Bullman
Bulmer
Bulmer
Bulmer
Bulmer
Burnridge
Burrows
Callaway/Colloway
Cantine
Cantine
Cantine
Cantine
Carson
Carter
Carter
Catanch
Catanch
Chappel
Clayton
Clemens
Clevland
Crawford
Cunningham
Davis
Davis
Davis
Davis
Dawkin, Sea
Denman
Donne
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dorsey
Dozier
Dozier
Dudley
Dunne
Duvall
Edgar
Edgar
Fair
Farr
Farrell
Ferguson
Ferguson
Ferguson
Findley
Fisher
Fitzpatrick
Fleming
Fletcher
Fletcher
Ford
Ford
Ford
Ford
Ford
Ford
Ford
Ford
Ford
Ford
Foster
Franklin
French
Gaines
Gaines
Gaines
Gaines
Gardner
George
Gibson
Godair
Godair
Godair
Green
Green
Green
Green
Green
Green
Green
Greenly
Gregory
Gregory
Gregory
Gregory
Gregory
Hall
Hamden
Hamden
Hamilton
Hammond
Harris
Harrison
Harrison
Harrison
Harrison
Harrison
Haskins
Haskins
Hassell
Helmus
Hernandez
Hernandy
Hicks
Hicks
Hill
Hinds
Hodge
Holland
Holland 
Hood
Hood
Hood
Hoskins
Howard
Hubbard
Iradit
Iradit
Isaac
Jackson
Jackson

African Americans of Nevada County, CA

Unidentified school class, 1891 (Searls Historical Library)

Preston Alexander, Searls Historical Library

Caroline Allen and William Horrel (Searls Historical Library)

Last Name
Jackson
Jackson
Jackson
Jackson
James
Jamieson
Jenkins
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnson
Johnston
Jones
Jones
Jones
Jones
Jones
Jones
Joplin
Joseph
Joseph
Judah
Judah
Judah
Kennie
Labroide
Laurence
Lawrence
Lee
LeMar
Lewis
Lewis
Livingston
Lyons
Magee
Mahoney
Martin
Martin
Massey
Mathews
Mathews
Mathews
Mathews
Mathews
Mathews
Mathons
Mathews
Matthaus
Mawny
McKenny
Miller
Miller
Mills
Mills
Mills
Mitchell
Montell
Moore
Murrels
Newall
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
No Surname
Norton
Norton
Odell
Odem
Ousley
Ousley
Ousley
Ousley
Ousley
Ousley
Ousley
Ousley
Ousley
Page
Perkins
Preston
Preston
Price
Rias
Rice
Richards
Richardson
Robinson
Rodgers
Rodgers
Rudd
Russell
Ryerson
Sanders
Sanders
Sanks
Sanks
Sanks
Sanks
Sanks
Sarren
Scott
Sevelle (Seville)
Sevelle (Seville)
Sevelle (Seville)
Sevelle (Seville)
Sevelle (Seville)
Sevelle (Seville)
Sevelle (Seville)
Sevelle (Seville)
Sevelle (Seville)
Sevelle (Seville)
Sharper
Shipler
Shipler
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Smith
Sottles/Settles
Sperks
Starks
St. Clair
Stevens
Stevens
Striker
Taylor
Thomas
Thomas
Thompkins
Thompson
Thompson
Timby
Tripbell
Tyler
Tyler
Van Buren
Vaughn
Wadking
Walker
Walker
Walls
Ward
Watters
Watters
Watters/Waters
White
Wilkerson
Williams
Williams
Williams
Williams
Willis
Wilson
Wilson
Wilson
Wilson
Wolfe
Yates
Yates
Young

Photos & Illustrations

On The Passage Of The 15th Amendment

“The great victory is won, the iron hoof of the tyrant is broken; the long bitter ages of injustice, blood, and whips are ended, and American's jubilee has come. For the first time in my life I write as an American citizen, and not as heretofore, an alienated American.”

Bishop T.M.D Ward, Grass Valley,
May 12th, 1870

1850's
September 20, 1850: A black miner by the name of Isadore made a strike on Gold Hill in Boston Ravine.

April 20, 1851: Colonel William F. English arrived in San Francisco on the steamship Commodore Stockton from Philadelphia with some thirty slaves destined for gold mining in Nevada County.

Summer 1854: Grass Valley’s African Methodist Episcopal Church on South Church Street was dedicated by Reverend Thomas Mayers Decatur Ward.

November 22, 1855: Dennis D. Carter, Daniel Mahoney, and George Duval served as Nevada County’s delegates to California’s First State Convention of Colored Citizens, held at the Colored Methodist Church in Sacramento.


1860's
January 1, 1863: President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

June 6, 1863: Grass Valley resident, Joseph Thomas, received a letter from Key West, FL,which reported that two of his formerly enslaved sons had been freed, and had enlisted in the Union Army.

September 18, 1864: The African Methodist Episcopal Church on North Pine Street in Nevada City was dedicated.

January 2, 1865: The Colored People’s Festival was held at Hamilton Hall in Grass Valley in honor of the second anniversary of Emancipation Day.

July 7, 1867: Writing under the pen name “Ann J. Trask,” Nevada City writer, Jennie Carter, submitted her first piece to San Francisco’s black newspaper, the Elevator.  She wrote for the newspaper until 1874.


1870’s
February 3, 1870: Congress voted to approve the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  It prohibited the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


April 9, 1870: The Nevada Transcript reported that John Adam of Galena, Illinois, a resident of Nevada City for twenty years, was the first black resident of the county to register to vote.

April 12, 1870: In celebration of the Fifteenth Amendment, Joseph Thomas–mounted on a splendid white horse–marshaled the Grass Valley voting enfranchisement delegation through the town and to Nevada City, where the delegations from the two towns joined at the county seat to celebrate.

April 22, 1872: County residents, Elijah Booth, Dennis D. Carter, and Isaac Sanks attended a statewide conference, whose delegates would challenge the California Supreme Court to eliminate school discrimination against blacks.


1880's
1880: Harry L. Wells published his History of Nevada County. Dennis D. Carter was the only African American to have a biography in the publication.

August 20, 1880: Grass Valley’s J.R. Dorsey was Nevada County’s representative to the California Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sacramento.

March 27, 1881: At sixty-seven years of age, Robert Sharper, died on the Kentucky Ridge.  Sharper had been brought to California as a slave in 1851 to work the Kentucky Ridge Mine, and had remained in a small cabin on the site until his death.


1890's

November 2, 1893: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in Grass Valley closed.  Charles E. Clinch purchased the property for a residence.  The proceeds went to the national A.M.E. church.

May 8, 1894: Grass Valley resident, Isaac T. Sanks, ran for Constable as a candidate of the Republican Party.  He was the first African American in California to run on the ticket of a major political party.

The last decade of the nineteenth century saw the deaths of many of the county’s early black pioneers: John Allen, Louisa Alexander, Alice, Grant, and Lincoln Dorsey, J. Hamilton, Jo