Historical Legacy of Negro Hill, California
by Michael Harris
Can you feel the vibration of “unknown” pioneering souls who cry out for justice?
Desecrated burial grounds of early Negro Hill pioneers offer a key sign of a people who have forgotten there past, thus face a limiting future.
i’ve been down so longgggg, gettin’up never much crosses my mind… Ole’ Tyme Sayin’s…
Negro Hill, California history comes alive.
The Sesquicentennial Celebration of the California Colored Convention ( 1855-1865.)
The history of Negro Hill, CA is an excellent place to begin to share our 150+ year statewide celebration.
In 1854, Newton Miller noted that in his racially mixed Methodist Church at Negro Hill, “Negroes constitute nearly all the church members and are a majority of the congregation.” Negro Hill was founded in early 1848 along the American River, east of Leidesdorff Ranch, near today’s City of Folsom.
1830 – 1850 Negro Seamen Acts were established at most major southern seaports in the United States. They prohibited free men of African ancestry from their lucrative career in the maritime industry. Many Negro seamen became farmers in 1840’s Mexican California.
The Gold Rush of 1848 and California U.S. statehood in 1850 expedited an influx of industrious free men of African ancestry to California. Negro Hill, CA is an extraordinary early Gold Rush community and maintains a golden historical legacy of the free migration of American citizens of African ancestry.
In 1849 three enterprising men from the New England seaboard named Vosey, Long and French opened a store and boarding house called the Civil Usage House. Business was good. Gold Rush “fever” swept across the world, like wildfire and brought Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, Mormon, Chinese and Americans from all corners of our new United States.
Early success was assured in Negro Hill and brought global attention to El Dorado County.
Charles Crocker, brother of Edwin Crocker and Dewitt Stanford, brother of Leland Stanford, joined the Negro Hill business community competing directly with the Negro established trade and commerce entities.
In 1853, Negro Hill population exceeded 1200 and could boast of a multiethnic community unmatched outside the Port of San Francisco. Negro Hill was the hub of a regional community that included Salmon Falls, Massachusetts Flat, Chile Hill, Mormon Island and many mining camps along the American River.
By 1854, portions of the deeply religious community of Negro Hill had deteroriated into a Wild West saloon and place of ill repute while the California State Legislature passed laws prohibiting Blacks from testifying in court, homesteading land, voting and public education, these and other environmental hazards helped to destroy the harmonious beginnings of Negro Hill, CA.
A group of drunken, broke and destitute white citizens of the village of Negro Hills began to terrorize the Negro business community. Theft, fights and lynching were often encouraged because of the legal prohibition of equal access to the law in early California State History.
In 1855, the first California Colored Convention began to address the disenfranchisement brought about by our California State Legislature. Negro Hill was effectively destroyed to the benefit of the Crocker, Stanford and other “prominent” families.
Today, California State Historical Landmark No. 570 of Negro Hill is missing. A small portion Negro Hill Cemetery was relocated during the 1954 construction of Folsom Dam; however, government approval sought fit to rename Historic Negro Hills, “Nigger Hill” on 36 “unknown” grave markers.
An effort to establish the City of El Dorado Hills could bring a fresh new perspective towards a more inclusive historical legacy that reconciles the pioneering spirit of all citizens of early Negro Hill, CA.
A people, who have forgotten their name, will have a limited future unknown, and forgotten.