SOCIAL STUDIES FACT CARDS
CALIFORNIA GOVERNORS
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LELAND STANFORD


8th Governor of
California, January 10, 1862 - December 10, 1863
(Republican)

Born:† March 9, 1824, in Watervliet, New York

Died:† June 21, 1893, in Palo Alto, California

Marriage:† Jane Elizabeth Lathrop (1850), 1 son

 

Leland Stanford is remembered more as the founder of a university and a railroad owner than as a governor of California.

 

Early Life

Named Amasa Leland Stanford, Leland grew up on a farm in New York State, where he attended the Clinton Liberal Institute and the Cazenovia Seminary. After an apprenticeship in a law firm, he opened a law practice in 1848 in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

 

Career

When a fire destroyed his law office in 1852, Leland left for California via Nicaragua. There he joined his five brothers in running a general store at a mining camp town. When his wife later joined him, they opened another store in Sacramento. There he had a part in founding the Republican Party of California. He was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor in 1859. When he was elected as governor in 1861, his only previous public office had been as justice of the peace at a mining town on the American River.

 

As
Governor

Stanfordís inauguration as governor was marred by a major flood in Sacramento. The new governor had to take a rowboat to a temporary capitol for the ceremony. The Civil War being fought in the eastern U.S. influenced Stanfordís time as governor. There was concern about the defense of the San Francisco harbor, and requests from the Federal government for troops and money. Stanford was a loyal supporter of President Lincoln and the Union.

 

Later Years

Stanford withdrew from the next race for governor, and returned to his railroad interests. While governor he had approved subsidies to the Central Pacific Railroad, which he controlled along with Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, and Charles Crocker. It was Leland Stanford who on May 10, 1869, drove the golden spike that marked the completion of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Point, Utah.

In 1885 Stanford became a U.S. Senator from California. He was re-elected in 1891, and died while in that office. Stanfordís gravesite is on the grounds of Stanford University, founded by Stanford and his wife as a memorial to their son who had died at the age of 15.

 


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