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Sun, 05.24.1857

The Sugg/McDonald House, (California) is Built

The Sugg/McDonald House (1934)

*The Sugg/McDonald House is celebrated on this date in 1857. Located in Sonora, Tuolumne County, CA it was built by a former Black slave William Sugg.

Sugg, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, arrived in California and it is not known how long he was enslaved in California. Francis Tate of Texas manumitted Sugg after Sugg agreed to repay the manumission fee. His manumission papers were filed in the Tuolumne County Recorder's Office on June 21, 1854. Sugg, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth Sugg, constructed the original section of their house in 1860 of adobe brick. Mary Elizabeth's legal status is dubious. As a child of 10 in 1849, she journeyed overland to California with her unmarried slave mother and the George Snelling family, who owned her mother. There is no known record of Mary Elizabeth having been listed as a slave in California, but no evidence indicates that her legal status was any different from her mother's. The Snelling ranch in Merced County was her home until 1855, the year she married.

Sugg brought his bride to Sonora in 1856, where he bought a lot and a cabin for $450. Within a year, an adjoining lot was purchased for $150. In 1860, the Suggs, with the help of friends among the 166 Blacks in the county (at the time), built a three-room house from adobe bricks made on their property. Over the next 25 years, as their family grew, they enlarged their home. In 1885, when the major addition was completed, there were seven rooms and 10 children in the family.

Only one of their children married. Rosa Adelle met Donald William McDonald at San Francisco's Third Baptist Church where he directed the orchestra, and she sang in the choir. They married there in 1876. From this union came two boys, Earl, born in 1902, and Vernon, born in 1906. Several additions and changes were made to the original structure in the nineteenth century. Structural alterations were made in 1885 with the completion of a three-story, seven-room frame addition. The last modification was made in 1900 when a 15' x 30' addition was added to the rear of the house at the ground floor level. The Sugg House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Located near the Stanislaus National Forest, Vernon McDonald now occupies the house.

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