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5th Governor of
California, January 8, 1858 - January 9, 1860

Born:† February 22, 1812, in Montgomery, Ohio

Died:† August 17, 1875, in New Orleans, Louisiana

Marriage:† four times; 2 sons

Early Life

Californiaís fifth governor grew up in Hamilton County, Ohio, and attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He was 20 years old when he began to practice law in Hamilton. Johnís first wife died after a few years of marriage, as did his second wife. His third wife, a niece of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, also died just three years after their marriage. His final marriage was in 1854.



After a term as district attorney for Butler County, Weller served three terms as an Ohio representative in the U.S. Congress. He declined a fourth term to return to his law practice. When the Mexican War began, Weller organized a company of volunteers, the Butler Guards. He led them in several campaigns, including the Battle of Monterrey (Mexico), and was honored for his service.

In 1848 Weller was defeated in a close election for Ohio governor. He was then appointed by President Polk to serve on the International Boundary Commission with Mexico. He traveled to California by ship via Panama, but was then removed from the Commission. He stayed in California, practicing law and becoming involved in politics. In 1852 Weller took over John C. Frťmontís seat in the U.S. Senate. He lost the senatorial election in 1857, but was soon elected governor of California by a large margin.



As governor, Weller had to deal with problems of the prison system, which he felt was not well managed. In 1859 Weller and the California legislature approved the request by six southern California counties (Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Tulare) to separate from the rest of the state and form a separate territory. The U.S. Congress did not approve the move.


Later Years

From 1860-61 Weller served as President Buchananís Minister to Mexico. He then returned to California where he took up farming. In 1863 he was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress on a platform that opposed President Lincolnís plan to preserve the Union. Weller was an outspoken advocate of statesí rights to continue slavery. Weller spent the last years of his life in New Orleans, where he died of smallpox in 1875. He was buried in San Francisco.


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