Sugg and McDonald family papers
Scope and Contents
This collection documents the Sugg and McDonald family of Sonora, California, circa 1850-1964. Papers in the collection include correspondence, financial records, school records, recipes, photographs, and scrapbooks, as well as material related to collecting postage stamps. A group of papers documents the relationship between the Sugg family and George W. Nicol, a superior court judge in Tuolumne County, 1891-1922. Photographs in the collection consist chiefly of family portraits and snapshots, as well as examples of news photography created by Vernon McDonald for the Modesto Herald newspaper and Associated Press. The collection also includes books and printed material accumulated by the family.
- circa 1850-1973
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The Sugg and McDonald Family Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchased from Robert Brennan on the Frederick W. and Carrie S. Beinecke Fund for Western Americana, 2013.
I. Papers, 1864-1962. II. Photographs, circa 1850-1973. III. Printed Material and Books, 1859-1964.
50.1 Linear Feet (56 boxes)
Language of Materials
This collection documents the Sugg family and McDonald family in Sonora, California, circa 1850-1973. Papers in the collection include correspondence, financial records, school records, recipes, photographs, and scrapbooks, as well as material related to collecting postage stamps. A group of papers also document the relationship between the Sugg family and George W. Nicol, a superior court judge in Tuolumne County, 1891-1922. Photographs in the collection consist chiefly of family portraits and snapshots, as well as examples of news photography created by Vernon McDonald for the Modesto Herald newspaper and Associated Press. The collection also includes books and printed material accumulated by the family.
Sugg Family and McDonald Family
The Sugg family and McDonald family were prominent African American families in Sonora, California. The progenitor of both families, William Sugg (1828-1889) was born into slavery in Raleigh, North Carolina. Around 1850, he worked as a muleteer and bullwhacker traveling from Texas to Merced, California, with his master Francis Trale. In June 1854, Trale manumitted Sugg for one dollar. As a free black man, Sugg worked as a harness maker and teamster.
In 1855, Sugg married Mary Elizabeth Snelling (1839-1915). She was born in Johnson City, Missouri, the daughter of Julia Snelling (born circa 1800), an enslaved woman formerly held by the William Snelling family, the founders of Snelling, California. In 1851, Mary and her mother relocated to California with the Snelling family.
In 1857, William Sugg built a three-room brick-faced adobe house at 37 Theall Street in Sonora; in 1885, a multi-storied and wood framed addition added seven bedrooms to the residence. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the Sugg home provided rooms to overflow guests from local hotels.
William and Mary Sugg had eleven children: Julia "Fannie" Sugg (born circa 1856), Sarah Ann Sugg (circa 1857-1914), Elizabeth Francis Sugg (born circa 1858), Mary Anita Sugg (circa 1859-1917); William Sugg (1862-1908), Rosa Adele Sugg (1865-1941), Napoleon "Poli" Bonaparte Sugg (1867-1944), Alonzo Sugg (circa 1869-1923), Nellie Sugg (1871-1959), Melpomene "Babe" Sugg (1874-1950) and Ernest Alaric Sugg (1876-1952). In 1877, the elder William Sugg relocated to Merced, where he operated a harness business until his death.
Only two of the children in the Sugg family married. In 1897, the younger William Sugg married Alice Elebeck (born 1869); they divorced two years later. In 1906, Rosa married Daniel William McDonald (1866-1952), and they had two sons, Earl Sugg McDonald (born 1903) and Vernon "Scoop" Sugg McDonald (1906-1982).
In 1912, Rosa, Earl, and Vernon McDonald relocated to Sonora and lived in the Sugg House. Earl reportedly moved to Sacramento, while Vernon remained in Sonora and became a correspondent with the Modesto Herald and Associated Press. Vernon also served as a sergeant in the United States Army during World War II.
In 1979, Robert Brennan purchased the Sugg family home, while Vernon McDonald continued to live there until his death in May 1982. In 1984, the Sugg House became a listed property on the National Register of Historic Places.
Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
Information included in the Description of Papers note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Titles have not been verified against the contents of the folders in all cases. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during initial processing.
- African Americans -- California -- Sonora
- Historic sites -- California -- Sonora
- McDonald (Family)
- McDonald family
- McDonald, Earl Sugg, 1903-
- McDonald, Vernon Sugg, 1906-1982
- Modesto Herald
- Negatives (photographic)
- Nicol, George W., -1922
- Photographic prints
- Postage stamps
- Sonora (Calif.)
- Sonora (Calif.) -- Social life and customs
- Sugg, Alonzo, approximately 1869-1923
- Sugg, Elizabeth Francis, approximately 1858-
- Sugg, Ernest Alaric, 1876-1952
- Sugg, Julia, approximately 1856-
- Sugg, Mary Anita, approximately 1859-1917
- Sugg, Mary Elizabeth Snelling, 1839-1915
- Sugg, Melpomene, 1874-1950
- Sugg, Napoleon Bonaparte, 1867-1944
- Sugg, Nellie, 1871-1959
- Sugg, Rosa Adele, 1865-1941
- Sugg, Sarah Ann, approximately 1857-1914
- Sugg, William, 1828-1889
- Sugg, William, 1862-1908
- Suggs family
- Urban African Americans -- California -- Sonora
- Guide to the Sugg Family and McDonald Family Papers
- by Beinecke Staff
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.