Biddy Mason: former Slave to Land Owner and More...

Joined
Aug 26, 2007
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Location
Central Florida
#1
I can across this successful lady who was born in Georgia as a slave and who end up in Los Angeles, Ca... Her name is Biddy Mason

Link: http://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2013/05/biddy-mason.html

Snippets...

Biddy Mason was an African American slave and midwife, who petitioned the court for her freedom, and became a wealthy Los Angeles landowner and philanthropist. As the town grew, her property became prime urban lots and she accumulated a fortune of nearly $300,000.

Snippet...

Bridget Mason, known to everyone as Biddy, was born a slave on August 15, 1818 on a plantation in Hancock, Georgia. As a child, she was separated from her parents and sold several times, working on plantations in Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina. She spent much of her childhood working on John Smithson’s plantation in South Carolina, where she assisted the house servants and midwives.

In 1836 Smithson gave the 18-year-old Biddy to his cousins Robert Marion Smith and Rebecca Crosby Smith, as a wedding present, and subsequently taken to the Smiths’ plantation in Logtown, Mississippi. Biddy had no formal education, but she learned about midwifery and herbal medicines from other slave women, and became well-regarded as a midwife. While working for the Smiths, Biddy gave birth to three daughters: Ellen, Ann and Harriet, all supposedly fathered by Smith.

Snippet...

On January 21, 1856, Los Angeles County District Judge Benjamin Hayes granted the petition and gave Biddy her freedom as a resident of a free state, as well as the freedom of the other slaves held captive by Smith: Biddy’s three daughters and ten other African American women and children, all of whom had been held as slaves by Robert Smith during their four-year residence in California.

Snippet...

A year later, November 16, 1989, was declared Biddy Mason Day in Los Angeles. The next day, a new mixed-use building called the Broadway Spring Center was opened on the spot where Mason’s homestead once stood. The site includes an 8-by-81-foot memorial wall dedicated to Mason that includes a collage of her original frame house. Biddy Mason Park has been established on South Spring Street in Los Angeles, California.

Her grandson, Robert Curry Owens, a real estate developer and politician, was the wealthiest African American in Los Angeles at one time.


So read her whole story from moving to the west and from slave to wealth...

Here are some more links to her story...

https://www.nps.gov/people/biddymason.htm

https://study.com/academy/lesson/biddy-mason-biography-and-facts.html
 

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Joined
Aug 26, 2007
Messages
7,155
Location
Central Florida
#2
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I found her grave it looks like she has a new Headstone...

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/20989/biddy-mason

Snippet...

Former slave, nurse/ mid wife, successful entrepreneur, humanitarian and founder of Los Angeles's first African-American congregation. Bridget "Biddy" Mason was born a slave in Aug. of 1818 on a Georgia plantation owned by Robert Marion Smith and his wife Rebecca (Crosby) Smith. Mason had three daughters, Ellen, Ann and Harriet, whose father was reputedly Smith himself. In 1847, Smith became a Mormon convert and decided to move to the Utah Territory with his household and slaves. In the strenuous two-thousand miles cross-country, Mason was responsible for herding the cattle, preparing the meals and acting as mid-wife along with taking care of her own children. It is said that Mason walked behind her master's 300-wagon caravan from Mississippi to Southern California. In 1851, Smith moved his household again, this time to San Bernardino, Ca. Smith sensed that Mason and her three daughters might seek their freedom in California, therefore he planned to take them back South. Luck came for Mason and her daughters after arriving in California, discovering that slaves were free in that state. She petioned a court in 1856 for her and her daughters freedom. A Sheriff asked Smith to appear in court to prove ownership of the family. He failed to appear in court and Mason won freedom for herself and her daughters. She and her daughters moved to Los Angeles where she found employment as a nurse and midwife. Hard work and her nursing skills allowed Mason to become economically independent. She later bought a site in what is now downtown Los Angeles on Spring St. for $250, becoming the first African-American woman to own land in Los Angeles. In 1884, Mason sold a parcel of her land for $1500 and built a commercial building with spaces for rental on the remaining land. She continued making wise decisions in her business and real estate transactions and her financial fortunes continued to increase until Mason had accumulated a fortune of almost $300,000. Mason gave generously to various charities and provided food and shelter for the poor of all races. She also remembered those in prison whom she visited often. In 1872, she and her son in-law, Charles Owens, founded and formed the Los Angeles branch of the First A.M.E. Church, Los Angeles's first African-American congregation which began having services in Mason's living room. Bridget "Biddy" Mason died in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 1891 and was buried in an unmarked grave in Evergreen Cemetery. By the time Mason had died, the property, she owned had become the heart of Los Angeles's financial district and was worth $250,000. On March 27, 1988, nearly a century after Mason's death, a tombstone was unveiled at a ceremony which marked her grave for the first time. The ceremony was attended by Mayor Tom Bradley and about three thousand members of the First A.M.E. Church. On November 16, 1989, the citizens of Los Angeles declared a Biddy Mason Day and a memorial of her achievement was unveiled at the Broadway Spring Center located between Spring St. and Broadway at Third St. in Los Angeles.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2007
Messages
7,155
Location
Central Florida
#4
Here is her time before she was freed from her Morman convert owner::: I notice they do not mention her slave master Smith was the father of her children...

Link: https://studiesinamericanhistory.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/biddy-mason/

Biddy Mason
Biddy Mason was born in Georgia. A slave, she was purchased by aspiring cotton planter Robert Smith, and brought to the cotton frontier of Mississippi.

Smith’s efforts at growing cotton were unsuccessful; he didn’t even manage to acquire his own land. So when the Latter-day Saints decided to build their new Zion at Salt Lake City, Smith and his wife, who had recently converted to Mormonism, decided to emigrate. By the end of 1848, Biddy Mason found herself living in Utah.

The next year she was uprooted again, this time to California. In the wake of the Gold Rush, Mormon leaders had seen fit to establish an outpost in the hills around San Bernardino, where they hoped to successfully raise cattle. The perpetually-struggling Robert Smith volunteered to join the San Bernardino colony.

By the time Biddy Mason arrived in California, it had joined the Union as a free state. Although the state constitution was not clear on the legalities, free blacks and white abolitionists in California were actively taking steps to free the slaves brought to the new state. Among such local activists were a family by the name of Owens.

Robert Owens had once been a slave in Texas. He had managed to purchase his own freedom and then that of his wife; together they had worked to purchase the freedom of their three children. Then Owens had moved his family to the sleepy little town of Los Angeles, California, where he established successful livery stable and cattle business. After the Mormons moved to the area, the Owens family became acquainted with Biddy Mason, who was still being held in slavery by Robert Smith.
Sometime in the mid-1850s, Robert Smith had a disagreement with the Mormon leadership, who then took him to court and successfully sued him for the possession of his land and cattle. Disgruntled, Smith decided to leave California for a new start in the slave state of Texas. He intended to take with him his few remaining possessions, including his slave, Biddy Mason.


The Owens family, with the help of sympathetic neighbors and the county sheriff, acted quickly. The Smith family and their slaves were already camped outside Los Angeles, preparing for the trip to Texas, when the authorities showed up and took the slaves and their children into protective custody.

The judge at the trial happened to be a southerner and former slave owner, Benjamin Hayes. Nevertheless, Hayes ruled that, because California was a free state, Smith did not have the right to make Biddy and the other slaves leave. They were, by California law, “forever free.”

After gaining her freedom in 1856, Biddy Mason stayed in Los Angeles. She and her daughters moved in with the Owens family; one of her daughters married an Owens son, and Mason soon became a grandmother. She worked as a domestic and became known as a dependable midwife. Then in 1859 a successful local physician offered her a job as his assistant, for the excellent wage of $2.50 per hour.

Mason saved her money, invested in real estate, then eventually built a home which became a place of meeting for the city’s several dozen black citizens.

As the value of her properties grew, she became a wealthy woman and a notable humanitarian. She founded a day-care center, visited prisoners in jail, and aided the poor and homeless. In 1872 she helped local black Methodists establish the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Perhaps most importantly, she became a leader in the black community and served as a role model and an inspiration for others – a slave woman who had found freedom and prosperity in the American West.
 



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