Stockton History (1840 - 1875)
California was born a “free" state in 1850. Slavery was forbidden — on paper. But California 's infant government held little sway over the state 's vast wildernesses and the anarchy of the Gold Rush. Prospectors from the Deep South dragged slaves with them to the Golden State, resolved to exercise their God-given right of dominion over those they regard as lesser humans.
Nor were Blacks alone enslaved. Despite their unconstitutionality, laws passed shortly after statehood allowed enslavement of Americans Indians. Amateur historian Grant Ashley researches slavery in San Joaquin County.
“California was a free state — with a wink," said Ashley, whose background is ethnic studies. Researching old records, Ashley says he has documented upward of 60 slaves in early San Joaquin.
Stocktonian Elizabeth Walthal owned two. Edward and Martha Sambo, bought for $450, presumably worked the Walthal farm and home. Elizabeth 's husband, James, was a farmer and customs officer at the port.
Ashley found records showing the Sambos bought their freedom in 1854 for $150. Stockton legislator Henry A. Crabb, a Southern transplant and Whig, authored the Fugitive Slave Act of 1852, which said any slave who escaped to California could be captured and returned to slavery.
Crabb 's Negro Evidence Law, also of 1852, said whites accused of crimes against Blacks couldn 't be convicted by Black testimony alone.
Crabb suffered a cosmic retribution for his deplorable legislation.
Captured on a military expedition to Mexico, he was shot by a firing squad, beheaded and his head was pickled in mescal.
Although many Stocktonians were Kleagle-level racists by today 's standards, most were anti-slavery. The Methodist Church officially objected; lawmen rescued slaves discovered toiling on remote farms; many citizens aided slaves.
But newspapers also carried accounts of a lawyer 's “Indian boy." Other accounts discuss “Squaw-Protector Legislation" necessary to stop whites from kidnapping American Indian girls into sexual slavery.
When the Civil War broke out, a pro-Union militia called the Stockton Blues joined The Third Regiment California Volunteers and marched east to join the Union Army.
But others, such as Judge David S. Terry, rode off to fight with a Confederate Texas regiment.
Ashley harbors iconoclastic suspicions about Stockton 's founder, Capt. Charles M. Weber. Although Weber generously donated land to Stockton 's Black community for the first Baptist church, he used American Indian labor in the gold fields.
Early histories say Weber bartered for hundreds of laborers with a local Indian leader. Ashley wonders if Weber was a virtual slaver like John Sutter of Sacramento.
He knows he has a fight on his hands with that one, “It is such a touchy subject," Ashley admitted.