Governor #8, Stanford

California’s eighth governor was born Amasa Leland Stanford on March 9, 1824, in Watervliet, New York, and was raised on his family’s two prosperous farms in the area. Stanford attended college in Clinton, New York, and studied law at Cazenovia Seminary. In 1845 he joined a law firm in Albany, New York. After being admitted to the Bar in 1848, he migrated to Port Washington, Wisconsin. In 1852, after having lost his law library in a fire, he followed his gold-rushing brothers to California, where he practiced some law but had greater success as the keeper of a general store for miners in Michigan Bluff.  Later, he achieved much success at the general store he and his brothers opened in Sacramento, retailing mining supplies and general merchandise. Elected governor in 1861, he served as the state’s first Republican governor from January 10, 1862 to December 10, 1863.  His one-month shortened term of office was the result of legislation passed during his administration, which changed the governor’s term limits from two to four years and also changed the start of the term from January to December. As governor, Stanford sponsored legislative reforms, backed the conservation of forests, and cut the state budget in half.  Meanwhile, Stanford and his fellow Sacramento merchants Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, and Collis Huntington had committed themselves to building the first transcontinental railroad, an enterprise that made him enormously wealthy, and far more famous than did any of his political activities.  In addition to his involvement in the railroad, Leland Stanford was the founder of Stanford University and a U.S. Senator from California from 1885 until his death on June 21, 1893, at Palo Alto.

 

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