John Ballard: Negrohead Mountain, CA

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by cherryblossom, Jul 6, 2009.

  1. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    A heightened profile for one of L.A.'s black pioneers

    Early settlers in the Agoura area named Negrohead Mountain after John Ballard, a former slave who moved there in the 1880s. Now L.A. County wants to put Ballard's actual name on the 2,031-foot peak.
    By Bob Pool
    February 24, 2009

    Negrohead Mountain is an unlikely memorial to a friendly former slave who made a name for himself at the western end of Los Angeles County.


    John Ballard was a former Kentucky slave who had won his freedom and come to Los Angeles in 1859. In the sleepy, emerging city, he had a successful delivery service and quickly became a landowner. Soon he was active in civic affairs: He was a founder of the city's first African Methodist Episcopal Church.

    The arrival of the railroad triggered a land boom in Los Angeles in the 1880s, boosting property values and bringing the city its first sense of class structure and the beginnings of segregation.

    Ballard packed up his family and moved about 50 miles west to the snug valley in the middle of the Santa Monica range. He settled first on 160 acres -- space that eventually doubled in size when one of his seven children, daughter Alice, claimed an adjoining plot.

    Besides raising livestock and a few crops, Ballard collected firewood in the nearby mountains and sold it in Los Angeles.......

    In his own book, "Happy Days in Southern California," published in 1898, Rindge recalled a conversation with Andrew Sublett, who told how would-be thieves tried to chase Ballard out.

    "He brought to mind how his old colored neighbor across the range had been maltreated by the settlers on account of his color; how they set fire to his cabin, hoping thus to terrorize him and drive him from the country; how some thought that the real purpose was that some men with white faces and black hearts wanted to jump his claim after they got rid of him," Rindge wrote.

    "But this was not the material the good old gentleman was constructed of, and as a shame to his tormentors, he put up a sign over the ruins of his cabin which read: 'This was the work of the devil.' "

    Ballard died in 1905 at about age 75. His daughter Alice married and moved to Vernon in about 1910. But memories of the man and his family that gave the mountain its name have survived in Agoura.

    Today, Kanan Road, a busy route between Malibu and the Agoura-Westlake Village area, bisects the mountain, with its northernmost tunnel actually crossing through part of it.

    The effort to rename the peak was launched by two contemporary residents who live on either side of the peak's base.

    Nick Noxon, a 72-year-old retired National Geographic TV producer, first learned of Ballard when he found a copy of Russell's book in the Agoura Public Library. He and his friend Paul Culberg, 66, a retired video executive, would eventually lobby county officials to initiate a formal name change.,0,2554745.story
  2. Clyde C Coger Jr

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