Governor #9, Low

Born on his father’s farm near Frankfort, Maine (now Winterport), Frederick Low left home at fifteen to become an apprentice to Russell, Sturgis and Company, a Boston mercantile. While in Boston, Low augmented his public school education by attending lectures at the Lowell Institute and Faneuil Hall, where he heard noted scholars such as Frederick Douglass, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was twenty-one when the excitement of the gold discovery lured him to California in 1849—and he was one of the lucky ones. In a few short months he mined over $1,500 in gold, which he used to open a general store in San Francisco. In 1850, he moved to Marysville where, in 1851, he and his two brothers began a mercantile and shipping business. In 1854, along with five partners, Low helped organize the California Steam Navigation Company, a large river navigation business.  Low entered politics in 1861, when he was considered—but not selected—as the Republican candidate for state controller.  He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from June 3, 1862 to March 3, 1863. That same year President Lincoln appointed him as the Collector of the Port of San Francisco; however, Frederick Low was elected governor of California in September. He was the first California governor to serve a four year term (December 10, 1863 to December 5, 1867) under legislation passed during the incumbency of his predecessor Leland Stanford. As governor, Low encouraged the development of a state university system and the use of land grants to promote higher education.  Hallmarks of his administration were the establishment of Yosemite National Park and the formative committees and regents of the University of California.  After leaving the governor’s office, Low was appointed the Minister to China by President Grant, a post he held from the end of 1869 until the spring of 1874. Later in 1874 he became the manager of Anglo-California Bank, a position he held until 1891. Frederick Low died in San Francisco on July 21, 1894, aged 66.


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