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North Bay Black Roots


Napa's early black residents prospered

On September 30, 1865, Rev. John Jamison Moore, the founding pastor of the first AME Zion Church in California, visited members of the African American community in Napa Valley. In the 1860s through 1880s, Napa's black community grew and prospered. Moore, who had come to California in 1852, played a key role in establishing Napa's AME Church. He often visited the Napa church, which was located on Washington Street. Moore's observations during his Autumn 1856 visit to Napa were printed in The Elevator in October of that year.

Through a kind invitation of our esteemed fried, Mr. E. (Edward) Hatton and others we visited Napa on the 30th. This is among the most pleasant visits we have enjoyed this season -- made so by the pleasant passage on the steamer "Amelia," through the courtesy of the Captain, and the kindness of his excellent employees -- which our gratitude will not cause us soon to gorget and by the lavish hospitality of our kind and numerous friends in Napa. They seemed to vie with each other in conducing to our comfort -- white as well as colored.

Our greatest pleasure was to find in the Valley, within a radius of 10 miles from Napa, so many industrious colored farmers, of good moral and religious practices. We obtained the names of ten, with the quantity of land cultivated, and the amount of stock by them as follows:

Messrs. A. Seawell and J. (Jacob)  Sinclair cultivate 200 acres 40 hand of stock
Mrs. (Isabel) Holman cultivates 100 acres 9 head of stock
Mr. (Hiram) Grigsby cultivates 30 acres 40 head of stock
Mr. Brooks cultivates 100 acres 50 head of stock
Mr. William cultivates 50 acres 4 head of stock
Mr. Scott cultivates 50 acres 2 head of stock
Messrs. H. and C. Price cultivate 100 acres 6 head of stock

In addition, Messrs. Seawell and Sinclair raised between two and three thousand sacks of wheat and barley, and Mrs. Holman, a widow lady with two sons, the oldest thirteen years of age, raised about fifteen hundred sacks of wheat. Some of these farmers own, in addition to their farms, fine lots and houses in Napa City. Also Messrs. Mr. E (Edward) and J. (Joseph) Hatton and W. (William) H. Christopher, barbers in Napa, own fine property in this city, and what is still more commendable to our colored citizens of Napa county is, they are all temperate as we have been informed, and out of a population of forty to fifty, there cannot be found one person that gets drunk or gambles.

I would to God that could be said of the people of color in San Francisco. The position of our Napa brethren, speaks volumes for our elevation. We were informed by some of our colored farmers, that they would like often to give employment to our brethren, but they cannot get them to leave the city of San Francisco to go into the country to work. Why will not our young men, at least, leave the cities and look for higher positions in living pursuits, than our larger cities can afford? Further more, we found our brethren generally religious and strictly moral; that is a source of great pleasure. Through the kindness of Rev. Mr. Maclay, the M.E. Church was tendered to us to preach in on Sabbath afternoon at 8 o'clock. We were favored with a large audience, mostly of white persons. We have laid the foundation to make this the place of our attention hereafter. We have never visited a more delightful locality in this State, or out of it, than Napa Valley, for beauty of situation and salubrity of climate. May its inhabitants ever enjoy the highest favor of our great benefactor.


Copyright © 2013 by Sharon McGriff-Payne
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