From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Migration to Rough and Ready, Yuba County, California

When the gold mining town of Rough and Ready, CA, was established in 1849, there was a male population of mostly Wisconsin miners, and included 82 men from Kentucky. The total population was 672 men, according to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, and 12 of them were African Americans. Two of the African Americans were from Kentucky, Samuel [no last name] and Silas [Mc?], both born around 1825 and both were listed as traders; the men were probably slaves who were brought West by their owners. By 1860, there were four Mulattoes from Kentucky, and among them was Allen Kinkade (b.1825), the first African American to be listed as a miner from Kentucky.

Also listed is Kentucky native Caroline Allen (b.1824), who is said to have been a slave in Rough and Ready in 1851 when she planted one of the two legendary trees in the town. The tree fell in 1967. Another version of the story is that the infamous tree is where a slave girl was hung in the 1850s. Writer Arthur W. Knight did not know which story was true, but learned that the stump of the tree had been made into a loveseat that was placed on the porch of the local general store.

African Americans still lived in the town in 1870. There were 9 Blacks and one Mulatto from Kentucky, they were employed as wood choppers, farm laborers, and domestic servants. No African Americans from Kentucky were counted in the census of Rough and Ready between 1880-1930. Rough and Ready had been a gold mining town, and in April 1850, it was the only one to secede from the Union; the miners were rebelling against the federal mining tax. Three months later, in order to celebrate the 4th of July, the citizens of the Great Republic of Rough and Ready voted the town back into the Union.

The town had been established by the Rough and Ready Company from Wisconsin. The company was named for Zachary Taylor who was nicknamed Old Rough and Ready. The town was originally located in what was Yuba County, and it is now in Nevada County, which was created from a portion of Yuba County. For more see the Rough and Ready website; A. W. Knight, "The Great Republic of Rough and Ready," Anderson Valley Advertiser, 09/10/2003 [online]; Northern California Curiosities by S. Rubin; and Rooted in Barbarous Soil by K. Starr and R. J. Orsi.

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Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Anderson Valley advertiser (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Northern California curiosities : quirky characters, roadside oddities & other offbeat stuff
NKAA Source: Rooted in barbarous soil : people, culture, and community in Gold Rush California

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Migration to Rough and Ready, Yuba County, California,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 21, 2019,

Last modified: 2018-03-05 00:09:43