No tombstone in the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery attracts more attention than the one for Davis Wright, "colored boy" - or so it seems, as every few months questions or comments pop up on social media when someone discovers it and expresses amazement. What's the story behind it? There has to be a story.

We only know four things about Davis Wright. He was 12 when he died; he was "colored," but born in California so he was never a slave; he was buried in the Wright family plot. It's the latter connection which intrigues.

Davis was part of the household of Sampson Wright - a wealthy farmer and horse breeder -  where in the 1860 census the 8 year-old boy was listed as a servant. In itself that's not unusual; also in the census Davis' 5 year-old brother was likewise enumerated as a servant, as was a toddler at another house in Santa Rosa and an Indian baby in Sebastopol. It simply meant a person of color who was living under a white man's roof.

What made the Wright situation so unusual in 1860 was that he had six other black "servants" beside Davis.1 No other home near Santa Rosa had more than a couple - and in those situations, the second servant appeared to be the baby or the mother of the other.

The other curious thing about the Wright black servants was that they all had the last name "Wright:" Esther (age 50), John (25, but actually 29), Mary (18), James (13), Henry (11), David [sic] (8) and Georg [sic] (5). Except for Davis and George, all of them were born in Missouri, where Sampson Wright had lived before coming to California. Missouri was a slave state and Wright was a slaveholder there, with five slaves counted in the 1850 census.

The rest of this article can be read at the website. Because of recurring problems with the Blogger platform, I am no longer wasting my time formatting and posting complete articles here. I will continue to create stubs for the sake of continuity, but will be publishing full articles only at

- Jeff Elliott


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