While researching this past weekend’s Surname Saturday article on the Waldo surname, I came across today’s subject. Her story is interesting and a bit intriguing, especially in regards to her parentage.
America Waldo was born on June 2, 1844 in Missouri. For years it was purported that Daniel Waldo was America’s father. However, it appears that couldn’t be true because Daniel and his family left for Oregon in 1843. His single brother Joseph, however, remained in Missouri (later going to Oregon in 1846). It seems more plausible that America was the child of Joseph Waldo and an unnamed slave. Also of note is the fact that the 1840 census indicates that Daniel did not possess slaves at that time, although his two brothers did.
America made her way to Oregon on a wagon train at some point (one source estimates 1856, but no one knows the exact date). Although some African Americans who came to Oregon were still slaves, many came to the Oregon Territory as free citizens looking for better opportunities. A few months ago I reviewed a book, Worthy Brown’s Daughter by Philip Margolin, which was based on a true story of a slave who came to Oregon Territory with the promise of freedom but was held back as a slave against her will. You can read the review here.
Upon arrival in Oregon, America made her home with Daniel Waldo and his family on their farm east of Salem. As a teenager, she made the acquaintance of a Jamaican immigrant, Richard Bogle, who was a barber in Salem. Richard had been born in 1835 and fled the island in 1847. His first stop was New York, then Tennessee and then on to California in 1851 to seek his fortune as a gold miner. When the gold didn’t “pan out” Richard moved north to the Oregon Territory where he apprenticed as a barber in Roseburg. He later moved to Salem where he met America.
Richard and America were married on January 1, 1863, the same day President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Those of African American descent who had hoped to come to Oregon for a better life and less racial strife must have been disappointed when Oregon’s constitution, adopted in 1859 before admission to the Union, had an “exclusion clause” banning African Americans from living in the state.
So it wasn’t surprising that their wedding was met with controversy in Salem. The local paper, the Statesman-Journal editorialized against the wedding ceremony which was to be held at the First Congregational Church, calling it a “n____ wedding”. Daniel Waldo, a prominent citizen of Oregon and a politician, gave his blessing to the marriage and presented them with several gifts of great value with which to start their new home.
Richard took his bride to Walla Walla, Washington where he had, according to marriage records, already established residence. Richard opened a barbershop and farmed after trying mining (unsuccessfully) one more time. He also co-founded the Walla Walla Savings and Loans Association. The couple had several children, five of which lived to adulthood. Cemetery records indicate that three of their children died before 1878: John, Jennie and Charles. Their other children were Arthur, Belle, Warren, Kate and Waldo. Two of his sons followed Richard into professions as barbers.
America and Richard died less than a year apart, she probably in late 1903 since her grave stone records that she was buried on January 1, 1904, their forty-first wedding anniversary. Richard died later that year and was buried on November 24, 1904.
Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!