20.11.07

F I R S TP R E V665NEXTLAST

William Leidesdorff's Legacy
After Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821 slavery was outlawed in Mexican-administrated California. Blacks were invited here to settle around the Spanish missions. One black man who took up the invitation was William Leidesdorff. Born on the island of St. Croix in the West Indies, Leidesdorff piloted a vessel through the Strait of Magellan and arrived here in 1841. He established himself as a waterfront trader and prospered, becoming a millionaire. He built the first city hall, became Municipal Treasurer, head of the first college in California, and the United States Vice-Consul in Yerba Buena (San Francisco). Leidesdorff lived with his common-law wife, a Russian Alaskan woman from Sitka on the corner of what is now Montgomery and California streets. Leidesdorff died of 'brain fever' just six days after the discovery of gold. The whole town mourned his passing and he was given a grand funeral. Today on the site of his downtown warehouse is a plaque that bears his likeness, it sits on a street named after him.
[ MAP F-15 ]


0 comments