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Anderson Valley’s First & Only Black Family

In Boonville, real wilderness can often begin a few feet from the pavement, as it does throughout the Anderson Valley and much of Mendocino County. I would hike due west from my house, down into the summer desert of the Anderson Creek stream bed, past the stilt house built for the Luffs, Anderson Valley’s last Indians, and on into the fertile little draw between the Rancheria and Anderson Creek where a black man named Daniel Jeans established a homestead in the 1870s. 

Valley old timers remember walking the short mile from the very west end of the Anderson Valley Elementary School to the Jeans place.

Daniel Jeans had been a slave. As a boy, the late Richard ‘Dick’ Day remembers Jeans as a large, strong man who would pull up his shirt to show valley youngsters the whip scars from his slave days.

Born in 1836, his place of birth not known, Jeans liked to boast that he could out work any two white men, which may have been more than a boast because Jeans’ labor was always in demand, and his homestead was a prosperous one that provided much of the Jeans family’s sustenance.

The Indians of the stilt house were neighbors of the Jeans whose homestead a mile west of the stilt house became known as Ham Canyon, the name perhaps both a specific site reference to the race of Mr. Jeans and the Old Testament designation of black people as the sons of Ham, the biblical slave. Jeans’ apple trees still bear fruit, and you can see from what's left of the Jeans’ hillside cabin what a productive and pretty little farm it must have been, tucked away in that little canyon in the big, wild county of Mendocino.

How Daniel Jeans came to then-remote Anderson Valley is lost to time and another matter for pure surmise. But he probably had some association, perhaps as a slave, with the valley’s first settlers, a preponderance of whom were from the slaveholding state of Missouri. Jeans married Mary Brown, a Native American, and in these two modest representatives of devastated peoples you could say that the entire bloody history of the early United States had survived and were prospering in a tiny settlement called Boonville.

The couple was accepted, if not embraced, by the isolated valley community, which was still difficult to reach up through the 1930s. There wasn’t much reason to come here in 1870 unless you had business or relatives here. It was so remote that Frank James, brother of Jesse, hid out in the Peachland hills with old friends from Missouri after the James’ brothers disastrously failed bank robbing foray into Minnesota.

Dan Jeans cleared the land for the Philo Methodist Church and the Con Creek School, for years known locally as the Little Red School House where my youngest son attended kindergarten in 1980s, the last year the structure was a classroom. 

Jeans had also worked the convivial hop fields of the Valley, where old timers remember him joining the evening storytelling and singing around the camp fires. Asked once about his religion, Jeans is said to have replied, “Abraham Lincoln is the only God I know.”

There were black people in Sacramento soon after the Gold Rush, and black people in San Francisco before the Gold Rush. The Clearlake Indians sheltered several black sailors who, along with their white mates, had fled the excessive brutality of certain Yankee sea captains. General Vallejo’s brother, Salvador Vallejo, is assumed to have murdered an awol black ship’s cook named Anderson Norris who had successfully sought refuge with Pomo Indians at Clearlake. There were Black people in Mendocino County from the early 1860s. Confederate sympathies ran so hot in inland Mendocino County additional federal troops were sent into the Eel River Basin to monitor the Confederate militia formed in and around Covelo. The fear was that militia might try to take Mendocino County when the war began.

There are fleeting references in local histories to Hiram Scott, who is described in one of those histories as “a huge, muscular Negro” who worked for white settlers, among them the infamous George S. White, “King of Round Valley,” an early cattle baron whose ruthlessness in the Eel River back country made him a national figure of sorts, as well known for murder plots against his wives as he was for so dominating the vast semi-wilderness from Covelo north to Weaverville that for a time White agitated for his own county. The “huge, muscular” Scott was one of White’s buckeroos, as cowboys were then called, and may have run criminal errands for his boss because thuggery was an important part of the job description for any buckeroo of whatever ethnicity working for the murderous White.

Jeans Place, Front Side

The Jeans family stayed on in Anderson Valley until 1946 when Albert Jeans, the last of the family, died at the Mendocino County Hospital in Ukiah at age 66. His brother George died at age 70 in Boonville, in 1940. The Jeans brothers are buried in Boonville’s Evergreen Cemetery a mile east of the family homestead in Ham Canyon. The Jeans patriarch, Daniel Jeans, died on May 10th, 1920, in Ukiah where he is buried in the Cypress Lawn Cemetery.

Mrs. Jeans was an Indian. Only Albert and George of her five children survived into adulthood, She and three of her children died of tuberculosis when she and the children were young. 

One of Jeans’ two sons, Albert, appears in an old elementary school class picture, his alert face dark among his Huck and Betsy classmates. Albert appears to be about ten in the photo. He does not appear in subsequent pictures, but he became locally infamous when, according to the Ukiah Republican of January 10th, 1926:

“Using a shotgun and causing a wound which resulted fatally 48 hours later, Albert Jeans, a colored man who lived on the road between Elk and Philo, shot his neighbor, G. Marcheschi, Sunday afternoon. There were no eyewitnesses to the crime and District Attorney L.C. Hurley is checking up the few facts he has been able to secure.”

Within days this initial bulletin was supplemented by a more complete version of Jean's arrest,

“Constable Apprehends Slayer,” reads the front page headline. “The murderer was arrested by Constable Buchanan after the slayer had fled the scene. It is understood the victim leaves a widow and three children at Cloverdale. After the shooting Mr. Marcheschi crawled a considerable distance along the road to the Schneider ranch before he was picked up by Ottavio Falleri and rushed to Greenwood where the injured man was treated by Dr. Sweet, who advised his removal to the hospital at Fort Bragg. In the meantime, a number of coast citizens, as a result of wild rumors that Jeans was on a rampage and was shooting at everything that got within range, armed and rushed to the scene of the trouble as there were a number of unprotected families in that neighborhood.

“Upon arrival they found the Jeans cabin deserted and a shotgun and two empty shells on the floor. Later they located Mr. Jeans at the Schneider Bros. ranch where he was placed under arrest and brought to Greenwood by Constable Buchanan who lodged him in jail until the following morning when he was sent to Ukiah.

“The stories of the slayer and his victim are decidedly at variance. Mr. Jeans claims the shooting was done in self-defense and asserts his victim had fired one shot at him from a rifle before he opened fire with the shotgun. He states further that, after shooting Mr. Marcheschi with one barrel of the shotgun, the latter again raised his rifle with the intention of firing a second shot when he, Jeans, told him to drop his rifle or he would finish him. Mr. Jeans claims he had no desire to kill Mr. Marcheschi and points to the fact he shot him in the leg whereas it would have been a simple matter to have shot him through the body had he desired to inflict fatal injury.

“As far as can be learned, Mr. Marcheschi’s version of the affair is to the effect the night before Mr. Jeans was in a dangerous mood and had done some wild shooting after which Mr. Marcheschi relieved him of his rifle. The following day Mr. Jeans was still in a belligerent state and Mr. Marcheschi went to the former’s cabin with the idea of gaining possession of Mr. Jeans’ shotgun to prevent him doing any serious damage. When within about 10 feet of Mr. Jeans, the latter is said to have exclaimed, ‘You fooled me last night and got my rifle but here is where I fool you,’ or words to that effect, and fired. The full charge of shot entered Mr. Marcheschi’s leg, inflicting a frightful wound.”

The shooting occurred on the last day of 1925, New Year’s Eve. Marcheschi was a bootlegger up on Greenwood Ridge where quite a number of Italian immigrants had settled. He also maintained a home and family in Cloverdale, much as latter day marijuana growers maintain dual households — one where they produce their illegal substance, the other where they manufacture respectability.

When word got around after the shooting that Albert Jeans, a black man, had shot the bootlegger, a white man, and that Jeans was still on the loose and was a raving maniac besides. Lynch mob fever rose on the Mendocino Coast. Jeans was not merely taken into custody. He was hunted down and nearly hanged when he was discovered, trembling and terrified, hiding in a water tower on the Schneider ranch. The press accounts of his arrest make it sound as if the constable simply walked up to Jeans and took him into custody; in fact the constable rescued Jeans from his captors.

A white jury — Indians and other persons of color were prohibited from serving — several of whose members were ranchers from Anderson Valley who knew the Jeans family well, rendered a verdict of manslaughter, much to the disgust of popular opinion, which was then nearly as anti-Italian as it was hostile to the darker races.

“The verdict in the case of the People vs. Albert Jeans convicted of manslaughter by a jury in the Mendocino County Superior court was upheld by the appellate court. The appellate court in its decision held that while there had been misconduct on the part of the district attorney, it had been corrected by Judge Preston’s instructions to the jury. The appellate court stated also that Jeans was lucky to have escaped with manslaughter as the evidence warranted a conviction of murder.”

Albert Jeans went off to San Quentin for ten years just as the Fort Bragg Advocate of Wednesday, July 8th, 1925, was reporting, “A beautiful ceremony and a beautiful setting over which a full moon shone, marked the open air initiation of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Anderson Valley near Boonville last Saturday evening. To the casual onlooker it was solemn and impressive and the white robed clansmen, moving about in the glare of the huge fiery cross lent an air of ghostliness to the affair. Over two hundred autos loaded with those who held invitations were present. Three initiatory ceremonies were enacted on that evening: the first being the Women of the K.K.K. and second the Knights who were then followed by the American Krusaders.”

At a time and a place when a black man might well have been hanged for so much as a perceived crime, and Indians could not testify against white people, and there were fewer than twenty black people in Mendocino County, Albert Jeans, a black Indian, received a sentence from a jury of his non-peers which seems to have been proportionate to his crime, an unpremeditated shooting death by a thirsty man.

Albert returned to the Anderson Valley from prison in 1935. He worked at the Clow Mill in Philo and earned a small income from an apple drier he built on the family homestead in Ham Canyon. His obituary appeared in the May 8th, 1946 edition of the Ukiah Republican Press: “Albert Jeans, colored, dead. Anderson Valley Long Time Resident Died Last Week. Graveside services were held Thursday afternoon for Albert Jeans, 67, at the Evergreen Cemetery. Reverend C.L. Goodenough officiated and Eversole Mortuary was in charge of arrangements. Mr. Jeans was a resident of this valley almost his entire life, having been employed in San Francisco for a time when a young man. He was born here December 28, 1878, and attended local schools, and although of the colored race, he numbered many of this valley’s residents among his friends.”

Reno Bartolomie served as Sheriff of Mendocino County for many years. His terse comment on race and class relations from the late 1920s until the early 1960s included a brief anecdote on another black resident of the county.

“I think the County was fair in the thirties and forties. Them days, people lived on honor. But them days, poor people never did get a fair shake. Colored people didn’t have much chance. Joe Perry lived in Fort Bragg, and he had to leave. They accused him of burning something down, so he moved to Ukiah. When I was a deputy sheriff in Ukiah he was still working at the Palace Hotel. He was quite old. He must have left Fort Bragg in the twenties. He made a living being a boot black. Everybody, them days, used to have their shoes shined, even the women. He was the only bootblack in town. He had a girlfriend in Richmond. He went down and visited her. He would give her all this money he made. Then her boyfriend came home and he killed Joe.”

Mendocino County has always been a violent place. Two sons of prominent early Anderson Valley families fatally met in the schoolyard one afternoon at the little red school house that Daniel Jeans had cleared the land for. The graceful little structure is now a museum devoted to celebrating the valley’s pioneer families, deserving or not. But the little red school house remains a landmark sight on Highway 128 between Boonville and Philo.

The Clows were ranchers, the Irish family ran a sawmill and lived in the fine big house that would later be owned by, among others, John Scharffenberger, who became a well-known wine and chocolate entrepreneur. Scharffenberger settled in Anderson Valley in the late 1970s when he was in his late 20s when the valley became rich with wineries and three million dollar men — a mil for the land and the house: a mil for a small vineyard for bottles of wine with Three Mil’s name on the label; a mil for Three Mil to live out his life on.

But on a fatal afternoon in 1877 in the little red school house’s boisterous but peaceful playing field, young A.E. Irish and young John Clow were arguing, about what nobody knew. Clow punched Irish, and Irish pulled a knife and slashed at Clow whose brother, Jim, alarmed at the sight of the knife in Irish’s hand, ran up shouting, “Boys, he has got a knife!” Irish moved uncertainly backwards but threatened by Clow, cut Clow deeply above the hip. The bleeding couldn’t be stanched and Jim Clow died where he’d fallen beneath the big pine that still shades the school room.

Two comments from ‘Mendocino County Remembered’ reflect both the times and the community opinion of Daniel Jeans, the first from Tom Ornbaun of the pioneer Ornbaun family who first settled what is now known as the Mailliard Ranch northwest of Yorkville on Fish Rock Road: 

“…My father had an innate lack of discrimination. I remember as a small child I couldn’t even have been in grammar school, we were going from Ornbaun Valley to Boonville. We were in a horse and buggy, I think. At this time there was one colored man, black man, in Boonville. And he was called, as usual, Nigger Dan. I think he married an Indian girl. As we were coming along this stretch where you get to Boonville, Dan was in the front and my father saw him. He stopped the horses and he turned around to John and me and said, ‘Son, I want to stop and say hello to my friend. He’ll be different from the other people you see. You don’t pay any attention and just treat him nice.’ So he stopped and introduced us to Nigger Dan. He just called him Dan. I think everybody said ‘nigger’ then. There was not any derogatory sense to it. That’s just what they did. But I think he just said Dan. He knew this instinctively because we had no black people. None. This was the first and probably the last for a long time that I ever saw.”

And from an interview with Alice Gowan in Mendocino County Remembered:

“I was going to mention Nigger Dan as we called him. He was Dan Jeans. I knew him. Nice old colored man. My father had some of the boys work for him. We always liked him just as well as anybody else, the same way with the Italian people up here on Signal Ridge. We never called them Dagos like lots of people did. My goodness! They were just as good as we were. They never came to the Valley but they stopped at our place. They had to walk clear down to the store after we had a store for their mail.”

George and Albert Jeans lived their lives in and around Boonville. Daniel Jeans left his estate to George and Henry Jeans, excluding Albert, his youngest son. 

When the old man died at age 85 in May of 1920, he was remembered by the Ukiah Dispatch Democrat as “well thought of in the community and many an expression of sorrow was heard at the funeral.”

The Jeans home had burned to the ground in 1914, and the family eventually moved to a new home on Anderson Valley Way now occupied by Karen diFalco. 

Jeans Place Now

That home may have been built by Henry and George Jeans — their father was already elderly in 1914 and largely looked after by George until his death. The Anderson Valley Way property was well known locally in the 1960s and 70s for the spectacular summer flower beds planted facing the road by then-owner, Delitha Clark.

It’s fair to assume that Albert Jeans was left out of the patriarch’s will because he’d become something of an embarrassment to his highly regarded, church-going father. Although a hard worker who was always employed, Albert became notorious in lightly-populated Mendocino County when he was twice the subject of scandals that found their way into court, and in-between his major scandals he logged a Santa Rosa citation and fine for “buying an Indian alcohol.” 

And, on the morning of 17 March 1934, a man named Charles Miller, already drunk despite the early hour, loudly announced in the busy Boonville Post Office that he was going to kill Albert Jeans because, Miller alleged, Jeans was “annoying” Mrs. Miller. But ancient whispers explained the relationship more explicitly than newspaper euphemism. Those excited whispers said that Jeans and Mrs. Miller were regularly intimate in an uncoerced relationship discovered by Mr. Miller one afternoon when he spotted Jeans climbing, shirtless, out of Mr. and Mrs. Miller’s bedroom window.

Later that day, about 4 in the afternoon, Jeans was working as part of a hop-planting crew on the Boonville ranch of Jesse Ginochio when Miller appeared some three hundred yards from Ginochio carrying a .22 rifle. Jeans was another few yards beyond Ginochio, but having spotted the armed Miller, and knowing he was the target of Miller’s wrath, Jeans promptly fled into the nearby hills.

Jesse Ginochio, owner of the hop field, was the Anderson Valley’s resident lawman, his rank being that of constable. Miller strode straight at Ginochio, pausing while still some distance away to load his rifle. When Miller reached Ginochio he was yelling curses and threats at the back of the fleeing Jeans, but never did raise his rifle to shoot. The intrepid constable simply grabbed the rifle and placed the irate cuckold under arrest.

Miller was duly convicted of attempted murder but won his appeal on the grounds that he never did either raise or fire his rifle at his wife’s playmate.

George Jeans was clearly his father’s favorite son. Born and raised in Ham Canyon, he lived all his life in the Anderson Valley and, like his father Daniel, enjoyed a reputation as a solid citizen, as reflected in the newspaper notice of his passing.

Ukiah Republican Press, June 5, 1940. Wednesday.

Kind Colored Rancher Died As He Slept 

Body is undiscovered for two days after passing 

George Jeans Taken 

Glasses in hand, he expired painlessly, belief is 

Special correspondence of the Press 

Anderson Valley, June 4, 1940. — Death came silently and swiftly to George Jeans, 71, colored, and the time of its coming can only be estimated but it is thought to have been Tuesday evening. He appeared asleep. J.H. Lockard was to have helped him cut wood Thursday but when he called at the Jeans home he found him apparently asleep with a newspaper over his face and did not disturb him. While he while in town late in the afternoon someone asked if he had seen Mr. Jeans and suggested he go back and see if anything was wrong as he had not been seen since Tuesday. Died peacefully. Mr. Lockard drove the three quarters of a mile north of Boonville to the Jeans home and found what he had taken for sleep was death instead, but death that came so quickly and painlessly he still held his glasses in one hand a newspaper in the other and his crossed feet showed there had been no death struggle. He had apparently retired for the night and was reading in bed and his kerosene lamp had burned dry and gone out. Has two brothers. George Jeans was a native of Anderson Valley. His father, the late Daniel Jeans, was in early life a slave and to his death carried the scars of lashes on his back. Two brothers survived him: Albert Jeans of this place (Ukiah) and Henry Jeans of Yakima, Washington whom he had been visiting and only recently returned to his home here. Funeral today. At 10 o’clock this morning funeral services will be held at the Boonville Church with the Reverend Glenn Akers officiating. Eversole Mortuary is in charge. Brother collapsed. Albert Jeans was in Cloverdale having dental work tended to when advised of his brother’s death. He caught a ride home but was in such condition due to shock he had to be taken back to Cloverdale for medical attention as Dr. Robinson of this place was out of town. K. B. Wallach and B.M. Brinegar took him down during the night and Dr. Sohler treated him and he is being cared for by a colored friend here.

The Jeans’ 160 acres, tucked away at the north end of Ornbaun Road, was long ago absorbed by the June Ranch, and much of the June Ranch subsequently absorbed by the Wasson Ranch. All that remains of the Jeans place is a remnant apple orchard and a collapsed outbuilding. It is not known what became of Albert Jeans, the last of the Mendocino County Jeans, but on clear summer nights, standing where the Jeans home once stood, you can imagine yourself welcomed by this uniquely American family who made their lives in the long gone Anderson Valley, a beautiful place gone corporate, transient, anonymous, only remnants of true community remaining.


  1. Laura Cooskey March 18, 2023

    What a wonderful story and contribution to Anderson Valley history! Thank you, Bruce.
    Someone ought to gather up a bunch of these AVA local history articles and put them together into a book… Volume 1, of course. (Maybe you’ve done that already; i’m not familiar with the Mendo book scene.)

  2. Kathy Davis March 18, 2023

    This is truly a well written piece of history, very interesting and significant. Thank you

  3. James Nella March 18, 2023

    Enjoyed the story Bruce. Thanks. Local history never gets old.

  4. Tonya Lindler March 19, 2023

    Great article! Thank you for sharing this piece of history with us.

  5. Ruffler Gunter March 21, 2023

    Great reads

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