Governor #1, Burnett

Born in Tennessee, Peter Burnett was a lawyer living in Missouri before he migrated to Oregon in 1843 to “make a comeback” after a series of business losses. There, he became a judge on the Oregon Territory Supreme Court. News of the gold discovery lured him to California in 1848, where he mined at Long’s Bar on the Yuba River. In mid-December, when the weather turned cold, he headed for Sutter’s Fort, where he was hired by August Sutter to sell newly-surveyed Sacramento City lots. Burnett held an auction on January 9, 1849, eventually taking more than 100 city lots as payment for his services. Falling in love with San Francisco on his first visit, in June 1849 he sold half of his Sacramento lots and moved there.  Peter Hardeman Burnett was California’s first elected governor, sworn in on December 20, 1849, when the state’s governors were limited to two-year terms. During 1850, however, his policies soured his public popularity and relations with legislators; he resigned his office January 9, 1851, to practice law in partnership with two other prominent lawyers. In December 1857, he was appointed a justice of the California Supreme Court, and in his later years served as president of Pacific Bank.  He died in San Francisco in 1895. Burnett Avenue near the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is named for him.


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