Governor #3, Bigler

California’s third governor was a Pennsylvania native and self-educated lawyer who came west in 1849 with thousands of others during the Gold Rush. John Bigler  settled in Sacramento, where his kindness and selfless aid to sufferers during the 1850 cholera epidemic was widely applauded.  Until 1863, when the term limit was changed to four years, California governors served two-year terms. John Bigler was the only nineteenth century governor to be elected for two terms, 1852 to 1856. During his tenure a jewel-like, alpine lake in the high Sierra was named Lake Bigler in his honor. Bigler advocated restriction of Chinese immigration, a sentiment echoed in many quarters, but his administration was plagued with activities by pro-slavery extremists and charges of fiscal extravagance. By the early 1860s public opinion held that Bigler had failed to distinguish himself, and Lake Bigler was renamed Lake Tahoe. However, he did effect one major change. On February 25, 1854, Governor Bigler signed into law a provision that made Sacramento, his adopted city, the permanent site of California’s capital. He died in Sacramento in 1871.


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