Robert Stokes, acknowledged as the true pioneering patriarch of Riverside’s historic black community, traveled west with a white family from Georgia, taking their last name as his own. Stokes prospered and sent word to Georgia that Riverside offered better economic and social conditions than freedmen could find in the South. He arrived between 1870-1873, prior to the city being incorporated.
He and his wife, Mary, owned a hog farm on the corner of what is now Market Street and Mission Inn Avenue. He later built a house on Brockton Avenue between McCray and Tibbets Street. He also owned considerable acreage from Brockton to Magnolia Avenue. According to his great niece, Alyce Cooper, “Great Uncle Robert Stokes was a big man, weighing over 200 pounds and standing above six feet tall.” He is listed in the 1889 Riverside City Directory as a Special Policeman.