arney Ford was born a slave in Virginia. At the age of twenty-fire, he escaped and began a successful career in a variety of entrepreneurial ventures. In the hope of discovering gold in California, Ford purchased ship passage for himself and his wife, Julia, by way of Nicaragua. Central America proved lucrative and Ford decided to stay. In 1851, he opened the United States Hotel and Restaurant, which hosted many American dignitaries. However, Nicaragua’s reinstatement of slavery forced him to return to the United States. He and his wife opened a livery stable in Chicago, which doubled as a station for fugitives migrating to Canada. By 1860, he was living in Denver and became a prosperous tycoon in the hotel, restaurant, and barbershop businesses, earning the nickname the “Black Baron of Colorado.” Throughout the Civil War, he gave financial assistance, food, and jobs to escaped and free African Americans.