Moses Logan Rodgers came to California in 1849 as a slave. Born in Missouri in 1835, he he was only 14 when he joined the Gold Rush. He mined by day and worked for himself in the evenings until he had earned enough to purchase his freedom. By “great effort, close study and application” he not only freed himself, but gained an education as a mining engineer. (All quotations are from The Negro Trail Blazers of California, by Delilah L. Beasley (1919).)
Exactly how he got his education isn’t known, but Moses became a successful and sought-after miner. To his friends he was “Mose.” He settled at Hornitos, in Mariposa County, where he operated several mines. The respect he earned is evidenced by this quotation from the Merced Star:
“A carload of machinery arrived at the depot last Friday, consigned to the Mount Gaines Mine, Mariposa County. Moses Rodgers, of Hornitos, than who there is no better mining man in the State, has been engaged as its superintendent. The standing and known energy of the men backing the enterprise are a guarantee that the mine will be carefully handled and worked on a paying basis. The Mount Gains Mine is well known among mining men to the good mining property, and the new arrangement and its undoubted success will mean a great deal for mining in the vicinity of Hornitos”. (Beasley, p. 114)
In 1873 he married Sarah Quivers and they become the parents of five daughters. Seeking a better education for his girls, he moved the family to Stockton, where he built a fine home. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the daughters of Moses and Sarah Rodgers, Miss Vivian Rodgers, was the first African American female graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She became a teacher in Hilo, Hawaii.
Moses Rodgers died in October 1900 at the age of 65. His obituary in the Merced Star said of him:
He was an expert in his line and his opinion was always sought by intending purchasers of mines. He was a man of honor and his word was as good as his bond. He was energetic in his younger days and took a great interest in helping along any good enterprise.
In the photograph below, Moses Rodgers is the tall man in the black coat on the far right. The photo of these “Hornitos old-timers” in front of the Hornitos Saloon was taken in 1890, when Moses would have been 55 years old.