Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Vallejo African American Pioneer

John Grider – Shedding New Light on an Unknown Vallejo Pioneer with Statewide Significance

On Saturday, September 19 at 1:00 p.m. the Museum will host the first in a periodic series looking at Vallejo’s Unknown Pioneers. Local author and researcher Sharon McGriff-Payne will tell the story of John Grider, one of Vallejo’s most significant African American pioneers. The program will be held as part of the Museum’s monthly Free Family Day.

Ninety-five years ago John Grider, one of the last surviving members of the Bear Flag Party, was honored at a huge Admission Day celebration in Vallejo.

The September 12, 1914 event attracted more than 40,000 people from all over the state to Vallejo’s downtown and was hosted by the Natives Sons and Daughters of the Golden West, Parlor 71. Grider, an African American, was then in his early 80s.

Nearly 70 years earlier, on June 14, 1846, Grider was among a small band of about 37 men who wrestled control of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo’s ranch at Sonoma – an incident that would come to be known as the Bear Flag Revolt. The incident would help to lead to California statehood and the American takeover of western territory, which was then owned by Mexico.

Grider, who moved to Vallejo in 1850, told a writer who interviewed him shortly after the 1914 parade that he was one of about seven black men who participated in the Bear Flag incident. He found the paint for the original Bear Flag, a symbol of the short lived Bear Flag Republic. The Bear Flag continues to serve as our state flag. Grider also served as a flag bearer on the day of the Bear Flag Party takeover.

Grider was about 98 years old when he died at the Fairfield County Hospital on December 23, 1924. He is buried in the Suisun-Fairfield Cemetery. He was the lone African American in the Society of Vallejo Pioneers, a distinction given to pioneers who were in Vallejo prior to 1859. Grider was a well-respected figure throughout his long life in Vallejo. He spent most of his work life working for area livery stables, farms and the Vallejo Steam Laundry.

Learn more about this fascinating Vallejo pioneer on Saturday, September 19 at 1:00 p.m.

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