How A Former Slave Managed To Become A Millionaire
By Ryan Velez
Born in 1818 on a Southern plantation, Bridget “Biddy” Mason’s name could easily be forgotten as one of the many people who grew up in the slavery era. However, a recent Celebrity Net Worth article tells a story that is anything but ordinary, as this slave managed to become not only free but a millionaire by today’s standards.
In youth, Biddy Mason was a slave in the house of Robert Smith, a farmer in Mississippi. Biddy would have three daughters, Ellen, Ann, and Harriet, while she was a slave for Smith. As a member of the new Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Smith would pack and leave to the Utah Territory to live with other Mormons, bringing Biddy and her children. However, it was in 1851 where her story took a different turn.
Smith decided to move to California in that year, but what he didn’t realize is that slavery was outlawed in that state. As a result, Biddy and her children were technically free as soon as they crossed the border, but Smith didn’t want to lose his slaves, especially as Biddy became friends with many free blacks in the area, like Elizabeth Rowan and Robert and Winnie Owens. Despite attempting to flee to Texas with his slaves, Smith would be taken to trial, and Biddy was legally free at 37 years old.
Soon becoming a midwife and becoming beloved across Los Angeles, Biddy, at the behest of her friends, began turning her attention towards real estate, buying a parcel of land on Spring Street. In addition to a home for her and her daughters, Biddy used the space as a place for stranded settlers, daycare for working moms, and a spot for civic meetings.
In 1884, as the area became more active, Biddy sold half her property and had a two-story brick building built on the remaining half, allowing her to live on one floor and rent out to businesses on the other. Finally, in 1885, Biddy turned over part of the beloved Spring Street property to her grandsons. Despite never learning to read or write, Biddy Mason was a well-known figure in Los Angeles, on top of being a successful midwife and real estate investor. At the time of her death in 1891, she was one of the richest women in Los Angeles. Her $300,000 fortune was worth about $6 million dollars today.