On January 1, 1924, J Edward and Emma Little sold their property at 67 Wildwood Avenue in Piedmont to Julia Davis, a White Canadian woman and the mother in law of Sidney Dearing for $10,000. The 1940 Census lists Julia as a widow and her daughter, Irene, is listed as Black while a previous Canadian Census lists Irene's father as Wallace Davis, a Black man. Julia turned around and transferred the house to Sidney and Irene. They were the FIRST Black homeowners in Piedmont, California since it had been established as a city in 1922 and incorporated in 1907. During this time Piedmont as well as many surrounding areas of Oakland were redlining residents which was marketed as "race restricted" or "highly restricted" to prevent certain races from owning homes in their neighborhoods. According to The Whittier News (Whittier, California) on Jun 9, 1924 on Page 9, Sidney's “blood is Indian and White, but sufficient of the Black to mark him (Black).” Sidney is listed as "Mulatto" on the 1870, 1880 and 1920 Censuses.
When the effort by the Piedmont West End Improvement Club and its president, WF Wood, tried to induce the 54 year old Dearing to sell by claiming the block was “unusually long” and had a desire to a street between Wildwood and Fairview Avenues. Sidney refused to sell and the racist citizens grew mad. In May of 1924, a 500 person mob surrounded his house while the sheriff of Alameda County, Frank Barnet, protected Sidney. Piedmont's Police Chief and KKK Klansman, Burton Becker, did not protect Sidney so he had to hire private help. Neighbors planted at least three bombs made of dynamite stolen from the local Bates and Borland quarry on his property and his neighbor at 75 Nova Drive (who wanted Sidney to move). One bomb powerful enough to blow up a few city blocks was found in his neighbor's garden. Sidney's wife and two kids Thelma (2 years old) and Sydney (7 months old) moved out to another home in Oakland while Sidney stayed to protect their house. They possibly moved in with his oldest son, Felix, who was a Pullman Porter who had moved back to Oakland after fighting in WW1 and was living with his fiancé, Ida May Summer. Felix passed in 1961 and is buried next to Ida at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno. Thelma stared in the movie, Sunday Sinners later in life with her husband Harold Norton.
Sidney asked the city of Piedmont to buy his house back from him for $25,000 -- and the city of Piedmont eventually did at the taxpayer's expense. In the end the two houses were never demolished.
For more information please visit SidneyDearing.com
And more information about the potential location of the plaque and type of informational plaque please go here.
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