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9th Governor of
California, December 10, 1863 - December 5, 1867

Born:  January 30, 1828, near Frankfort, Maine

Died:  July 21, 1894, in San Francisco, California

Marriage:  Mollie Creed (1850)


Frederick Low was the first California governor to serve under the four-year term rule.


Early Life

Frederick grew up on a small farm in Maine. He went to public schools until he was 15, when he became an apprentice in the accounting section of a trading company in Boston. Here he heard about gold in California and on March 1, 1849, he set out by ship for the gold fields.



Mining at Horseshoe Bar on the American River, Low brought in over $1,500 in gold during the summer. He used the money to get started in a mercantile and shipping business, Low Brothers Company, with his two brothers. He organized the California Steam Navigation Company in 1854, controlling river transportation to the gold mines. In 1861 he moved to San Francisco, a wealthy businessman.

Low’s first political position was in 1862 as a U.S. congressman from California. In 1863 President Lincoln appointed him as collector of the port of San Francisco, an important post during Civil War years. Here he gained the respect of the people, and easily won the election for governor in 1863.



Governor Low spoke out for fair treatment of minorities, including the Chinese and Indians who had been excluded from civil rights. He believed trade and a good relationship with China would serve California well.

As Governor, Low advanced education in the state, increasing public school attendance, encouraging the new California State Normal School, and laying the groundwork for the state university system. He oversaw the establishment of Yosemite Valley as the first state park in 1866.


Later Years

After four years as governor, Low served as Minister to China, where he is credited with arranging exchange student programs between China and the U.S. Leaving public service in 1874, Low managed the Anglo-California Bank in San Francisco for 18 years, and was president of the Sutter Street Railway Company. He was 66 years old when he died in San Francisco.


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