The Life and Times of George Monroe and His Family


By Tom Bopp




“Just as there are the greatest of soldiers and sailors, artists and mechanics at times
 so there are greater stage drivers than their fellows and George Monroe was the greatest of all.”

– A.H. Washburn, Supt., Yosemite Stage & Turnpike Company  


It is around this time that George Monroe is reported to have been employed by Washburn. Henry Washburn and German immigrant Herman Schlageter  were likely old friends, said to have shared a cabin during their younger years. A corner of Schlageter’s Hotel was occupied by Louis Monroe’s tonsorial parlor, so there’s a good chance that Monroe was Washburn’s barber. Amid the lively ambiance of Schlageter’s “commodious barroom” amid the scent of bay rum and tobacco smoke, Louis might have been applying final touches to Washburn’s beard while apprising him of young George’s special talent for horses. Or it may be that George was already making a name for himself, perhaps helping out at local livery stables. According to a later article:

“ … [George Monroe] entered the employment of A. H. WASHBURN & CO., as a Yo Semite guide in 1866. In 1868 he commenced driving stage for the same company ….” [i]

It is more likely that Monroe was hired by Washburn in 1867. Washburn doesn’t appear to have entered the Yosemite tourism business until that year, and though he ran “carriages and buggies,” Monroe would have to wait until 1869 for Washburn to start running stages.

In his first job as a guide for Washburn & Cook, George Monroe was one of at least four employees who would carry travelers by carriage and then by saddle-train through Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove. Monroe’s fellow guides in 1867 were named in the Mariposa Mail: J. H. Wilmer, James Ridgway , and a man identified only as  “Parteta.” From scant data such as this, and occasional reports of vehicles used or purchased by the company, it would appear that Washburn and Cook may have started out with fewer than a dozen wagons of various description, and perhaps half that many drivers or guides. These numbers would, of course, increase with demand. By the early 1880s, there were about twenty stage drivers mentioned by name in various sources as working for Washburn and company, and by the end of the century, it was reported that in some years Washburn had as many as fifty regular drivers. [ii]

During his first years of employment, George Monroe would have ample opportunity to develop his skills, spending hours training and tending the horses at the stables, and out on the trails and roads driving carriages and leading saddle-trains. Having a full-time job, he would be seeing less of his parents, who were busy making plans for their own future. Washburn, too, was making plans that would keep George busily engaged for years to come.

By April 1869, the new partnership of Washburn & McCready  owned three livery stables in Mariposa. That year, Cook and Bruce are no longer listed as Washburn’s partners. Cook still ran his drugstores in Mariposa and San Francisco, the latter location being where in 1874 he would also serve as a travel agent for Washburn & McCready. Bruce reappears as Washburn’s partner by 1877. [iii]

As Washburn was growing his business, Louis and Mary Monroe were pursuing their dream of property ownership. July 1868 brought the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment  to the United States Constitution, which cemented and expanded the rights of citizenship for African Americans without interference from individual states. At this point, any questions about the Monroes’ right to homestead seem to have been resolved, and within two years they would be land owners. It was also around this time that they would have received word of the death of Mary’s mother, Polly Millen , though exactly when or where she died remains unknown. [iv]

Louis Monroe, as an agent for The Elevator  newspaper, was sharing copies with the local press as evidenced by a letter from the Mariposa Mail to The Elevator in 1868:  

“[To] The Elevator.—We are under obligations to L. A. Monroe, agent at this place, for several numbers of the San Francisco Elevator, the organ of the colored people of the Pacific Coast. We find it an able and dignified journal, earnestly and efficiently laboring for the intellectual, moral, religious and material advancement of that people. We comment it to the encouragement and support of every friend of the black man.—Mariposa Mail.” [v]

In 1870, the Gazette reported a surge of Yosemite-bound tourists through Mariposa—400 travelers in 25 days from May 13 to June 14. [vi] Around this time, certainly by the following spring, Washburn and McCready were well into the tourist stage business:  

“New Stage.—Washburn & McCready, who are running a daily line of stages between Mariposa and Clark & Moore’s, where they connect with their saddle train for Yo Semite, received on Saturday last a splendid eleven-passenger stage, which they immediately placed upon the road. It runs smooth and is just the thing for the mountains. It was made in Stockton.” [vii]

Clark & Moore’s  was the current business name for Galen Clark’s rustic hotel, midway between Mariposa and Yosemite Valley. At the end of the 1860s, Clark & Moore’s employed an African American  named George McEwen, whose brief exchange with a foreign tourist drew notice in the local news:  

“George McEwen is also there [at Clark’s], assisting everybody in his usual quiet and gentlemanly manner. George was rather taken aback the other day, when a long gander-legged Dutchman, on a tour of the Valley, and eager to receive every attention without regard to the convenience of others, stepped up to George and demanded to know where his master waz. Cooly surveying the imperious individual a minute or so, George replied: ‘Don’t know—haven’t seen him since the war.’” [viii]

[i] Mariposa Gazette, November 27, 1886, pg. 3-4, col. 3.  

[ii] Mariposa Mail, June 22, 1867, pg. 3, col. 1. Washburn reportedly told Ben C. Truman of having employed fifty stage drivers during peak years.

The name “Parteta” shows up again in Mariposa Gazette, July 3, 1875, pg. 3, col. 1-2 as “Ceneral Partida,” possibly a typographical error meant to be “General” Partida. U.S. Census Bureau (1870) lists Stephen Partida , a laborer living in Mariposa and born in Mexico c. 1810. The 1880 census spells his name Estevan Partida, and occupation as “porter.”  

[iii] Washburn’s partnering with McCready and the consolidation of their stables and stock was announced in Mariposa Mail, April 9, 1869, pg. 3, col. 1, and in an advertisement dated 4/23/1869 in Mariposa Gazette, June 18, 1869, pg. 4, col. 4. John R. McCready established a livery stable in 1861 (Mariposa Gazette, January 29, 1861, pg. 3, col. 7), and was guiding saddle trains into Yosemite by 1865 (Mariposa Gazette, July 8, 1865, pg. 2, col. 4).  

“Saddle-train” is a descriptive term for the method still used for guiding travelers, often single-file, on horseback.  

As seen in the ad from 1868, Washburn’s “Mammoth Tree Livery Stable” at 7th & Bullion appears to have been extended to Main St. (now State Highway 49). On March 28, 1869 Washburn deeded to McCready a parcel of land on the north-west corner of Charles St. & 6th called the “Upper Stable,” and McCready deeded to Washburn a parcel on the south-east corner of Charles St. & 4th called “Washburn & McCready’s Lower Stable.” The reason for the land swap is not recorded. Copies of the deeds are in the Yosemite Museum & Archives.  

[iv] The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution; currently online at:

loc.gov/rr//program/bib/ourdocs/14thamendment.html (accessed 3/21/2023).  

[v] May 22, 1868, pg. 2, col. 4. Incidentally, Louis Monroe reported the following accident, recounted in The Elevator, June 18, 1869, pg. 2, col. 1:  

“Accident at Mariposa.—We learn, by a letter received from Mr. L. A. Monroe, that a distressing occurrence happened at Mariposa, on 10th instant, which caused the death of Mr. Sandy Jackson. He was sinking a well, and while down he was taken suddenly sick. He cried to those above, and while they were raising him up he fell out of the bucket. He was got out immediately, but expired soon after. Mr. Jackson was born in Loudon County, Virginia, and was about 52 years old. He leaves a wife and one child.”  

Louis Monroe remained on the list of “Agents for the Elevator” until at least 1869: The Elevator, February 26, 1869, pg. 1, col. 1.  

[vi] Mariposa Gazette, June 17, 1870, pg. 3, col. 1.  

[vii] Mariposa Gazette, May 26, 1871, pg. 3, col. 1. Sources suggests that the stage may have been constructed by the firm of Milton Henderson  and E. G. Clark ; see carriagemuseum.org/articles/m-p-henderson-son/ (accessed 3/21/2023). Two examples of stages attributed to Henderson are in the collection of the Yosemite Museum & Archives, and often on display at the Yosemite History Center in Wawona, Yosemite National Park. 

[viii] Mariposa Gazette, July 3, 1868, pg. 2, col. 4.  





"A very well written, carefully documented story."
  – Dr. John Oliver Wilson, School of Social Welfare,
University of California at Berkeley