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

In February 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified under the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, establishing that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” [i]

One month later, Louis Monroe made local history:

“Several colored citizens during the past week have placed their names on the Great Register of Mariposa county. L. A. Monroe, an old resident of this place, being the first to enter his name. Our County Clerk will place the names of all colored men, entitled to vote, on the Register when they present themselves for that purpose at his office.” [ii]

The famous illustration in Harper’s Weekly later that year depicted the universality of this historic moment so fittingly that it could almost have been Monroe himself in the image, though he may have been better-dressed than the craftsman first in line (with a hammer in his left pocket and a patched pant-leg), more like the businessman second in line. The businessman is followed by a Union Army veteran, analogous to a Mariposa area African American veteran named Alexander Pelton . Behind him appears to be a farmer who, curiously, is looking toward a light-complexioned, possibly feminine face, perhaps included as a reminder that women, of any color, had been excluded from the legislation.

[i] The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution; currently online at: loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/15thamendment.html (accessed 3/21/2023).

[ii] Mariposa Gazette, April 22, 1870, pg. 2, col. 3.