Barney Ford was a slave born in Virginia on 22 January 1822. He escaped to Chicago to gain his freedom after walking out off a Mississippi riverboat in 1848 where earlier he was hired as a teenager. After that Barney ford worked as a cook, a porter, a barber, an underground rail operative and finally became the Black Baron of Colorado.
In 1851 his astonishing journey started with the California gold rush. Barney and his new bride Julia traveled from New York City by ship around Cape Horn. They headed to the California gold fields by way of the Nicaragua root. After reaching Nicaragua he observed, local travelers lacked a clean place to eat and sleep and that was the idea behind the birth of, the United States hotel and restaurant. While the business was an unqualified success, the hotel was destroyed because of civil war in Nicaragua. This kind of loss would have broken any man but Barney Ford was unbreakable. After that Barney returned to Chicago and worked as a railroad operative there.
Again In 1860, Barney followed the gold rush but this time in Colorado where he stakes claims in central city and Breckenridge. But he was rejected as he was an African American. So, he moved to Denver and his stars shined again, his honest hard work paid off and all we know that the unflappable Barney Ford came as a winner once again. Because of Barney’s keen business insights, boundless energy and unraveling commitment to service, Barney Ford soon became the owner of several successful salons and restaurants in Denver in mid-1860s.
The building which is known today as the Barney L ford building is one of the few buildings associated with the ford that is still standing in Denver. The interesting fact is that this building, standing at 1514 Blake Street was earlier popularly known by people’s restaurant which was known for his luxuries like fresh oysters, lemons and Havana cigars. Soon he opened two grand inter-ocean hotels one in the rocky mountain region in Cheyenne and one in Denver. Electric lights in the sleeping room and a telephone in the lobby were the features which were first introduced in the inter-ocean hotel in Denver.
Barney Ford was a wealthy man by 1870s. Starting an adult evening classes and a children school in Denver were the two great works by him. It was the time when Barney turned his passion and commitment to civil rights and equal education for African Americans. More than a century later, Denver public schools named after his name. Soon Barneys reach extended as he jumped into politics. He was the first to run for a Colorado public office as well as the first African American to serve on a Colorado grand jury. He also fought for the right to vote for African Americans.
In 1878 Barney come up with a bang after returning to Breckenridge with his wife Julia and opened another successful restaurant Ford’s chappos. Barney build one of the most beautiful homes in Breckenridge which stand today as a historical landmark and museum. Barney Ford died in 1902 at the age of 80. On the west wall of the state’s capital, a stained glass window honors his great contributions for the country.
A man like Barney ford can be seen once in a life. His visions and beliefs in the ideas are unmatchable. His inspiring life story is a piece of motivation for the coming generations.