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Yosemite stagecoach driver George Frazier Monroe was born in Georgia possibly around 1844. His father, Louis Augustus Monroe, arrived from Georgia in the Gold Rush and settled as a barber in Mariposa in 1854. He was also locally known as a civil rights advocate because he promoted the integration of local schools. George’s mother, Mary, was an Ohioan and thus a free woman of color but it is unclear if Louis had been enslaved. Although the parents were in California by 1855, young George stayed behind to complete a school year in Washington, D.C., before being brought to Mariposa around the age of 11 by his uncle in 1856.
By 1866 young Monroe began working as a tourist guide at Henry Washburn’s lavish resort hotel, Big Tree Station, at Yosemite. By 1872, when the hotel could be reached by stagecoach routes maintained by the Southern Pacific Railroad, Monroe became one of the stagecoach drivers.
Stage drivers, like airline pilots today, commanded great prestige: upon their skills rested the lives of passengers. Testimonials reveal the fame of George F. Monroe. As a rule, stagecoach drivers drove only a portion of a route, going back and forth so that they knew all of its idiosyncrasies. The twisty road from Mariposa to Yosemite Valley was Monroe’s segment. Chicago journalist Benjamin Taylor wrote in August 1877 that Monroe was “a born reinsman.” This is due to the fact he was a Tomas.