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2nd Governor of
California, January 9, 1851 - January 7, 1852

Born:  1818, in Ross County, Ohio

Died:  March 30, 1866, in San Francisco, California

Marriage:  1846, several children


John McDougal was the first lieutenant governor of California, serving under Governor Peter Burnett. When Burnett resigned on January 9, 1851, McDougal became governor.


Early Life

McDougal was born in Ohio (exact birth date uncertain) but spent much of his early life in Indiana. His family was poor, and John left home when he was old enough to get a job in a store. By the age of 14 he was serving as a soldier in the Black Hawk War, and later fought under General Winfield Scott during the Mexican War, earning the rank of captain.

John’s brother, George, had gone to Sacramento and opened a store there. In December 1848 McDougal and his family followed him, going by ship from New Orleans to Panama. After crossing Panama on land, they joined the California, the first ship carrying gold seekers up the coast to California, arriving in San Francisco on February 28, 1849.



Finding little success in the gold fields, McDougal tried his hand at managing his brother’s store. Because of his low prices and easy finance terms, he was forced out of business by other merchants. He was a delegate to the constitutional convention in Monterey in 1849. A fellow delegate there mentioned McDougal’s many loudly voiced opinions as well as his excessive drinking. In the first election for state officials, the popular McDougal received more votes for lieutenant governor than Peter Burnett received for governor.



During McDougal’s one year as governor, the State Marine Hospital was opened in San Francisco, as well as state hospitals for the physically and mentally ill in Stockton and Sacramento. The legislature approved money for a militia to defend the state’s boundaries. McDougal’s popularity lessened when he granted pardons to a number of criminals. He was opposed to the Vigilance Committees of San Francisco who took justice into their own hands.


Later Years

McDougal was not a candidate in the 1852 election, and he moved to San Francisco. The last years of his life were troubled by alcoholism and illness. He was 48 years old when he died in San Francisco from a stroke.


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