Nevada County Namesakes: Nimrod Street
Special to The Union
Nimrod Street, which traverses alongside Nevada City’s Pioneers* Park and Little League ballfield, ironically throws us a curveball since it takes its name from pioneer Nimrod Wellington Jones.
H. S. Bradley’s 1869 Official Map of Nevada City, which handily designates the names of the property owners of each of the lots in town, reveals Lot 1 of Block 59, situated on Nimrod Street, was owned by Jones.
Jones paid $50 for this property to John C. Birdseye and William W. Palmer on June 14, 1859.
The description from the deed of the property states that it was on the east side of the road leading from Nevada past Birdseye and Palmer’s Sawmills.
The deed later refers to the road as the “Nevada and Gold Flat Road,” thus letting us know that this was Nimrod Street’s former moniker.
This description puts us in the correct locale, since Birdseye and Palmer’s Sawmill was situated on Little Deer Creek.
Birdseye and Palmer sold this mill for $3,000 on May 5, 1859, to M. L. Marsh, L. R. Perry and L. O. Palmer.
The record of this deed specifically excluded properties they were selling to Nimrod W. Jones and another party.
The property Jones had purchased, recorded as having been on the east side of that road, also matches the position of Lot 1 of Block 59 to Nimrod Street on the 1869 map.
While Jones was not detected on the 1860 census, his presence hereabouts was re-established via Bean’s Directory in 1867, which tells us he was a cook, who resided on Nimrod Street.
Nimrod was a married man, his wife Rosana died in Nevada City on Dec. 23, 1869.
Whether Nimrod and Rosana had any children was not determined, but no children appear in Nimrod’s household in either 1870 or 1880.
The 1870 census lists N. W. Jones in Nevada Twp., occupied as a laborer, native of Virginia, 46 years of age.
The next family to reply to the census was that of Antoine Silva, which again places Jones in the correct area as the Silva name also appears on a lot near Nimrod’s property on the 1869 map.
The Silva family is the namesake for Silva Avenue, which, although represented on the 1869 map, was not yet named.
Nimrod exercised his right to vote, as the voter’s registry of Nevada County conveys for the years 1871 and 1873.
It is this record that provides his full name was Nimrod Wellington Jones.
The final record found of Nimrod in Nevada County came about through his selling his property to Joseph Lopes for $275 on March 4, 1875.
He then moved to San Francisco, where, in order to re-establish his voting right, he dutifully re-registered on April 30, 1875.
The voter’s registry also lists Nimrod in San Francisco for the years 1878 and 1880.
In the latter year, he was also picked up on the census. He was represented as having only gained four years in age, instead of the necessary 10 between 1870-80, but he was still listed as widowed and a native of Virginia.
The most perplexing change in the 1880 census appeared under the columnar entry for Nimrod’s race.
Upon this census he was listed as black, whereas he had in 1870 been listed as white.
Nimrod remained in San Francisco, his places of residence fluctuating slightly. He was typically listed as a laborer, but was also listed as both a porter and a clerk.
He was last noted in San Francisco in 1892, and although his date of death was not found, may have died in that vicinity.
If so, he may now be at rest in Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, as San Francisco saw fit to rid itself of its cemeteries.
Nimrod’s true race was verified by the following records:
In Delilah L. Beasley’s 1919 book, “Negro Trail Blazers of California,” Nimrod Jones was listed among the pioneers of Marysville.
While the 1878 voter registry of San Francisco, did not specify race, it did connect Jones back to Nevada County.
He was last found on the 1892 Voters Register, which gives greater details.
He was 5 feet 5 1/4 inches tall, had brown eyes, gray hair and the third finger on his left hand was crooked.
The entry under complexion is “Col.”. Since he had moved to a different precinct, he had re-registered on Oct. 3, 1892, and was listed as 76 years of age.
His age varies between records, suggesting a year of birth somewhere between 1816 and 1824.
The right to vote having been so long denied to men of Jones’s race, made their ability to finally do so of utmost importance.
This level of importance was conveyed by the press. Thus the Elevator, an early California newspaper, provided further proof in its article entitled “Prospective Voters”, which made its appearance on Nov. 12, 1869.
Excised from this article we find:
“We have received answers to our inquires for the number of colored male adults from different sections of this State. … D. D. Carter of Nevada City sends us the names of a portion of Nevada Co. …”
Amongst the 37 names listed under Nevada City, which Dennis Drummond Carter had submitted was the name “Nimrod Jones.”
The name upon this street fits hand in hand with Nevada City’s pioneers typically being portrayed throughout its early history, as willfully embracing their fellow citizens who were black.
To not exclude individuals of this race from this particular honor, without the pressure of what might be deemed “politically correct,” provides greater insight toward the mentality of our pioneers.
They simply did what they felt was morally correct, and in so doing displayed a level of understanding which some people still find difficult to comprehend today.
Nevada City has two streets known to have been named in honor of its black pioneers.
Nimrod Street, noted by this name as early as 1866, is its first. The second is Alexander Street, named in honor of Preston Alexander.
— *Pioneers Park was originally named in honor of all pioneers. It thereby originally had an “s’ affixed at its tail-end.
When or why the change to Pioneer Park came about is not known, but Nevada City has a tendency to drop its “S’s”, as Bennetts and Niles streets both also lost this letter from their original names as well.
Donna Reynolds is a volunteer at the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research in Nevada City.
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