Sunday, September 13, 2009

Nancy Gooch


A brand new marker for Nancy, placed in 2008

Nancy Ann Ross
Born: August 1811 (Anne Arundel County, Maryland)
Died: September 16, 1901 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Interred: September 18, 1901 -- Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Occupations: Domestic chores, housework


The old (but not original) wooden marker

Family Matriarch (The story of the Gooches and the Monroes)

But, "Who was Nancy Gooch?", you ask? Well, actually nobody has asked me that, but I'd like to believe some have been curious, since her leeward wooden marker has served as the backdrop for this blog since I started it three months ago.

Nancy Ross and Peter Gooch were brought to California in 1850 by their owners. They were slaves. Shortly after their arrival, California became a state, and it's statehood included some new laws, including one prohibiting slavery. Nancy and Peter were both forcefully freed by their owners.

Nancy worked for the miners, performing domestic chores they didn't want to do, such as sewing, cooking and washing. She saved every penny she could earn until she had enough to buy the freedom of her only son, Andrew Monroe, and his wife Sarah Ellen, who were living as slaves in Missouri.

On January 8, 1857, in Coloma, Nancy and Peter Gooch were married. Thirteen years later, in 1870, Andrew and Sarah finally arrived in Coloma, along with their two young sons, Perley and Ulysses S. Grant. The Monroes eventually had six or seven more children: Cordelia Ann, Andrew Jr., William Henry, Garfield, James Leonard, and an unnamed girl who died in infancy. There is also some evidence that suggests there may have been one more girl. In an era when the average lifespan was in the 40s or 50s, several of the Monroes, as well as Nancy, lived surprisingly long lives. James lived the longest, dying only 21 years ago when he was 101 years of age.


Nancy Gooch and the Monroes

Over time, the Monroe family acquired and owned much of the land in the Coloma area, including the site where Sutter's saw mill had originally been built, and they were very well respected members of the community, again a rarity in a time when black people were not generally treated too well.

In 1885, after James Marshall died, Andrew, Sr. dug the grave on a hill overlooking the town, where the giant monument now stands. James, who worked as a miner for a period of time, once discovered a gold nugget that weighed 1.75 ounces. As he showed it off to friends and family, so many of them cut a small piece off to keep as a souvenir, he ended up with a much smaller chunk of gold that weighed only a single ounce. Perley built the blacksmith shop on Coloma's Main Street (now highway 49), and he worked there for a while.


Site where the original mill was built, about 100 yards from where the replica stands today


Zoomed in on Marshall's monument and grave on the hill, from in town by the replica of the mill


Inside the blacksmith shop


The blacksmith shop

The granite marker that marks the family's plot in the cemetery was put in place not long ago by Al and Trudy Mynsted. Al had been a good friend of the Monroe children when they were young. Unfortunately, there are a few errors on the marker, with spelling and dates. The personal data for the rest of the family follows.


Ashley, at the family's marker


Minnie, visiting the Gooch and Monroe family graves

Peter Gooch
Born: cir 1814 (Missouri or Georgia)
Died: 1861 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Interred: Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Occupations: Cook, Gardener

Andrew Monroe, Sr.
Born: January 9, 1846 (Saint Charles County, Missouri)
Died: November 1, 1921 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Interred: November 5, 1921 -- Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Occupation: Rancher

Sara Ellen Collins
Born: October 1844 (Flint Hill, Missouri -- there are three Flint Hills in Missouri and the correct one is not known)
Died: April 10, 1937 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Interred: April 13, 1937 -- Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)

Perley Monroe
Born: August 1868 (Missouri)
Died: January 25, 1963 (Sacramento, Sacramento County, California)
Interred: January 31, 1963 -- Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Occupations: Blacksmith, railroad worker, Custodian for the State Library

Ulysses S. Grant Monroe
Born: October 22, 1869 (Missouri)
Died: April 27, 1943 (Uniontown, El Dorado County, California)
Interred: May 1, 1943 -- Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Occupation: Farmer

Cordelia Ann Monroe
Born: December 1871 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Died: May 18, 1945 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Interred: May 22, 1945 -- Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)

Andrew Monroe, Jr.
Born: cir 1873 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Died: August 1892 (Carson City, Ormsby County, Nevada)
Interred: Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)

William Henry Monroe
Born: January 6, 1877 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Died: May 30, 1928 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Interred: June 1, 1928 -- Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Occupation: Laborer

Garfield Monroe
Born: February 6, 1880 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Died: October 1920 (Stockton, San Jouaquin County, California)
Interred: October 30, 1920 -- Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)

Baby Girl Monroe
Died: (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Interred: Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)

James Leonard Monroe
Born: December 14, 1886 (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Died: May 19, 1988 (Sacramento, Sacramento County, California)
Interred: May 23, 1988 -- Coloma Pioneer Cemetery (Coloma, El Dorado County, California)
Occupations: Miner, State employee


Monday, May 23, 1988 Mountain Democrat (partial) article about the Monroes


1870 Coloma Township census, showing the Monroes (line 38)


1880 Coloma Township census, showing the Monroes (line 25)

Sources:
Coloma Cemeteries -- edited by Lynette Mizell, Coloma Cemetery Committee, 1997
Suzi Mickus
Mountain Democrat
1870 Coloma Township census
1880 Coloma Township census
Ken Burns Presents: The West (DVD 2, Episode 3)

8 comments:

  1. Wow, it sounds like they really made something good out of a miserable beginning. Its so neat to read these stories and let my mind wander to what their lives could possibly have been like. Thanks for sharing these!!!

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  2. You made this comment:
    "Perley built the blacksmith shop on Coloma's Main Street (now highway 49), and he worked there for a while. "

    I've heard many times that Perley built the shop. I've also heard that he rented it out to a blacksmith, and never worked in the shop, or that he rented it, and worked a smith for a short time.

    I've looked at all the US Census reports: 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920 and from 1900, Perley (or Pearly or Pearley or Parley) is listed as a farmer, with a couple listings of Farm schedules (non-population census schedules. If he did work in the shop, it must have been part-time only.

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  3. This is an amazing story, I visited Coloma with my 9 yr old African American Son. During this time we visited all the sites mentioned in this article. I think it's sad that the tour guilds as well as park personnel don't speak more about the contributions of the Monroe Family. Nancy Gooch was an American Hero before her time and deserves all the praise of the Town of Coloma and Eldorado County for her and the family’s contributions. Restating and rewording the prophecy of James Marshall 200 years after his death “Someday they’ll make fuss over Nancy.” May she be remembered always.

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  4. Thank you so much for this information. I visited Sutter's Fort in Sacramento yesterday and being an African American, we extremely impressed to find out that the land of gold discovery had to be purchased back by the State from Nancy Gooch. The interesting think is, I discovered this in a book I purchased at the Fort. At no time was it ever mentioned about the Gooch or Monroe familiies.

    While there was plenty of dialogue about John Sutter and James Marshall. Their contributions are extremely significant. I was just so impressed to find out about the Gooch / Monroes as well.

    Thank you so much!

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  5. Thank you for the info on the Monroe family. I recently visited Coloma and saw the Monroe house. Not much is mentioned about who they were and how the ended up there.

    Gordon Makimoto

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  6. We camped here for two weeks and I was surprised and proud to discover Peter and Nancy Gooch as I am also a Gooch! We are distantly related but I had never heard of them and I agree with previous posters that they have been sadly under represented in the history of Coloma. Thank you. Debra Gooch Healer

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  7. "Nancy worked for the miners, performing domestic chores they didn't want to do, such as sewing, cooking and washing. She saved every penny she could earn until she had enough to buy the freedom of her only son, Andrew Monroe, and his wife Sarah Ellen, who were living as slaves in Missouri."
    nancy gooch didn't just work for the miners - she was a baker for the miners and made thousands of dollars doing this. she did not buy her son and daughter in law out of slavery. when they came to california, slaves had been emancipated for five years.

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    Replies
    1. Nancy and Peter Gooch were emancipated when they were brought to California by their owners, as you said. However, Nancy's son and daughter-in-law were not brought to California by their owners. They were still living as slaves in Missouri, and she did have to buy their freedom before she could bring them to California to reunite the family.

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