(AKA African/Americans.)


The Jenny Lind restaurant was in this building 1854.

Many former slaves (and Freemen) came west to help their slavemasters as a labor force, or came alone just to try their hand at digging up a better life for their selves and maybe a family. Their stories are written in the places they worked, ran a business and lived mostly unhindered.

Some letters sent home by various folk are similar in content to those written from the California diggings by thousands of other homesick miners to their families and friends in the Atlantic States. They contain a general smattering of information of interest to the historian - contemporary mining conditions, the price of provisions, mining litigation and some additional information about the pioneer history of an isolated area of this county of which relatively little is known.

The letters are more important because they were written by Southern miners who were using Negro slaves in their mining operations. According to Mr. Parks, all of the slaves who came to California were volunteers and all returned even though it would have been easy for them to have escaped and remained in California. One slave, Big Jim McElrath, married while in the diggings and upon his return to North Carolina was given a house and 40 acres by his master. Each slave was allowed to retain for his personal use the gold from one day's digging per week. The illustration accompanying the letters indicates that some of the slaves accumulated tidy nest eggs from their earnings. It is also interesting to know that the writers of these letters were from Burke County, North Carolina, an area which had experienced a gold rush of its own that commenced in 1828 and lasted for ten years. Presumably some of the North Carolina miners had had previous experience in the art of digging for gold. Unfortunately, little information is available about the persons mentioned in the letters. Few of them are listed in either the Federal Decennial Census of 1850 (taken in 1851) or the state census of 1852, and the isolation of the area precluded the publication of much local news in the newspapers at Columbia and Sonora. (see Sonora Chispa collection for the letters) (C. M. De F.)

Note of Interest

1859 August - Tuolumne Negroes gathered at an elaborately planned celebration of the West Indian emancipation. This brought together Negroes from Columbia, Angles Camp, znd Jamestown. It featured a wide variety of speakers, including a West Indian black (William A. Ward) as well as James R. Starkey, orator of the day. (It was held at) Tuolumne picnic grounds, called Billy O'Hara's Place, there were about one hundred people, many of whom had arrived in handsome carriages.(Tuolumne Courier, 6 August 1859)
(This could be the event that O'Hara thanked the people of Tuolumne County for not causing amy problems with their gathering.)

From the July 1860 Census
Blacks listed as a barber.
and details from other documents

The association of the black men and the razor goes back to 1820 when they controlled the profession of shaving and hair cutting. As late as 1884, Chamber's Encyclopedia of New York stated, "In the United States the business of barbering is most exclusively in the hands of the colored population." San Francisco was home to sixteen black-owned barber shops as early as 1854, and during the 1860s, a former slave named Peter Briggs enjoyed a monopoly as the sole barber in Los Angeles. The owners of the following buildings with barber shops are not conclusively the barber. They rarely state that the owner is the barber. We can safely assume that many of Columbia's early barbers were black.

1859 Black Barbers, James Barker, age 32, from Tennessee (his wife Sophia, 24 years old, from Illinois, was a dress maker) and J. A. Cousins, 32 years old, from Virginia (his wife Justine, 21 years old, from New York) open a Shaving Emporium in the third building above Fulton Street on the west side of Main (the Temple Building).

1859 July - J. A. Cousins advertised as a barber. 1859 J. A. Cousins leaves the shop with James Barker and locates in the frame building south of the Wells Fargo building.

1859 - Richard Henderson from Virginia, a black barber, (not married) was in a shop on Fulton Street where Barker joined him. He received some notoriety when his brother William Hendreson rescued a Columbia woman from a shipwreck they both happened to be aboard. She wrote a very grateful and sentimental letter to the paper.

1860 census J. A. Cousins a "Mulatto" age 33 with personal worth at $100 from Virginia. (P61-L8)

1860 census Ried Henderson a "Mulatto" age 40 from Virginia. (P62-L7) R. Henderson operating a Barbershop on the South side of Fulton west of the Water Co. office. A colored. Was joined by James Barker until his death in Nov. 1860 from consumption. (Eastman 1:16:21)

1860 census James J. Barker a "Mulatto" age 33 with personal worth at $300 from Tennessee. (P62-L14) 19 November - Jas. J. Barker (blackman) from Tennessee dies of apoplexy age 35. (Columbia Burial Ground Register of Deaths by B. Eastman 1959)

1860 census Louis Dukehart a "Mulatto" age 29 with personal worth at $100 from Maryland. With wife Phebe A. Potter age 28 a "Mulatto" washerwoman. (P64-L24)

1860 census Thomas Smith a "Black" age 40 from New York.

1860 census Thomas H. Bowen a "Mulatto" age 27 from Mississippi. (Can't read or write) (P90-L11)

Other Blacks in Columbia
1860 census

B. Zechariah (Mulatto) B:1821 Arkansas. Wife - Elizabeth (Zechariah) (Black) Birth 1824 Texas - Children: George B:1842 in Texas, Henry (Mulatto), birth 1854 Columbia, Township 2, Tuolumne County, California, Louise (Mulatto), Born 1856 Columbia, Township 2, Tuolumne County, California.

William Cawtion age 33 from Pennsylvania (Black) (can not read or write)

James C Garvin age 44 from Florida (Mulatto)

James Nichols age 30 from Florida (Mulatto) and
His children: (where is his wife?) James Nichols age 5 born in California (Mulatto) Salistina Nichols age 4 born in California (Mulatto) Henry Nichols age 2 born in California (Mulatto)

John Clamant age 25 from Louisiana (Mulatto)

James Drew age 36 from Connecticut (Mulatto) (can not read or write)

Samuel Jones age 30 from North Carolina (Black) (can not read or write)

James S Shaw age 40 from New York (Black) (can not read or write)

Robert Addison age 56 from Maryland (Mulatto)

Franc Garesa age 30 from France, Laundryman (Mulatto) (can read & write) His wife:
Rosa Garesa age 23 from France Laundrywoman (Mulatto)
Mary Garesa age 5 born in California (no mention of race, assumed white Mulatto)
John Garesa age 3 born in California (no mention of race, assumed white Mulatto)

Thomas H Bowen age 27, born 1833 Mississippi, (Mulotto), Occupation: Barber and His wife
Henrietta Bowen age 25, from Maine, (Mulotto).

Thomas Gilmore age 29 from Tennessee (Black).

Daniel Lucus age 40 from Tennessee (Black), Servant.

Richard Campbell age 30 Tennessee (Black) wife and children: Susan Campbell age 26 Arkansas (white?) Washerwoman
George Campbell age 9 (black) California, Malilda Campbell age 7 (Mulatto) California, Thomas Campbell age 4 (Black) California, Sarah Campbell age 2 California. (Mulatto)

Charles Essex age 48 from Kentucky, Teamster (Black)

John E Smith age 22 from Prussia, Miner (Black)

Peter Barker age 38 from North Carolina, Miner (Black)

William Davis age 42 from Mass, Laborer (Black)

John Austin age 50 from Mass, Laborer (Black)

B.F. Griffin age 35 from Mass, Laborer (Black)

William Haywood age 28 from North Carolina, Miner (Mulatto)

1870 Census
Blacks in Columbia

Comment: Five or so years later (Civil War ended April 1865) this census shows a huge loss of Blacks living in Columbia. Without checking Sonora census, I decided to check on a community within California that started earlier in Los Angeles. Many Blacks headed there.

1872, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in Los Angeles when emancipated Blacks began moving to the city in significant numbers towards the end of the Civil War. In 1885, the second Baptist Church for African Americans was built.

5th July 1870 on first page of census at bottom for Columbia, states: 3 colored males and 1 colored female, however there are no references to any Blacks on this page. Interesting twist. The census taker for Columbia called all Chinese "Colored" and and all the names for "Whites" were reversed (last names are listed first, except the Chinese)

George Gale age 27 (Harstler?) Black man from Texas (page 8 or 72, Dwelling 938 )

Thomas Gilman age 38 (Miner) Black man from Tennessee (page 33 or 97, Dwelling 1297)

Joseph Lee age 54 (Miner) Black man from Florida (page 41 or 105, Dwelling 1393)
M.M. Age 41 (Keeping house for Lee) female from Mexico, "Mexican?"

Known Businessmen in Columbia

Visit Steven Spencer Hill Born in Arkansas into slavery and known as "Black Steve"

William O'Hara
Born 1813 - Died 1880 Was Columbia's Black Chef and philanthropist.William opends the Jenny Lind restaurant at the back of the saloon. (Billy O'Hara is a popular black cook living here with his wife, Charlotte.)


Black Barbers. THE BLACK BARBER. 1820 - 1890

One Last Thought

Note on populations during 1850 to 1880:
When gold was discovered in Columbia by the Hildreth Party March 1850 it was stated that in 6 weeks 6000 people from all over the state came to try their luck.

The first census for our new state and Township 2, Tuolumne County was taken in 1851. Between this date and the next census was July 1860, the amount of miners coming to Columbia could change daily and they might stay a full 8 years between those dates. Many folk came here and started businesses or worked hard panning/digging for a better life before heading off to other diggins or back home. Except for journals, diaries, letters of personal accounts, etc. the information is slim and speculative at best.

This page is created for the benefit of the public by

Floyd D. P. Øydegaard.

Email contact:
fdpoyde3 (at) Yahoo (dot) com

created for the visitors to the Columbia State Historic park.
© Columbia State Historic Park & Floyd D. P. Øydegaard.