Title: California Gold Rush Era Government Correspondence,
Date (inclusive): 1850-1869
Collection number: Mss34
Extent: 0.5 linear ft.
University of the Pacific. Library. Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
[Identification of item], California Gold Rush Era Government Correspondence, Mss34,
Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library
Peter Burnett (1807-1895) , California's first Governor (1849-1851), is represented by a
document commissioning Ludlow Thomas as notary public for Shasta and Trinity counties
(July 16, 1850). Burnett first came to Oregon (1843) where he was a member of the Oregon
Supreme Court (1845-1847). He later moved to California (1848) where he was active,
following the California Constitutional Convention, in seeking the Governership. A
Democrat, Burnett's administration was plagued by an inability to raise sufficient monies
to carry on the business of state government. He is remembered for his opposition to
slavery in California. Burnett resigned in mid-ter to settle his own debts (1851). No
"Ludlow Thomas" appears in the Index to the 1850 Census of the State of California in
either Shasta or Trinity County, nor is a "Ludlow Thomas" mentioned in the Annals of
Trinity County (1857).
John McDougal (1818-1866), California's second Governor (1851-1852), is represented by a
covering letter for a shipment of the Acts of the 31st Congress from U.S. Secretary of
State, Daniel Webster (January 22, 1851). The letter bears Webster's signature. Shortly
after Democrat McDougal came to California he was elected President of the California
State Senate (1849). From this position of influence he was chosen California's first
Lieutenant Governor (1849-51) and thus succeeded to the Governorship upon Peter Burnett's
resignation (1851). McDougal lost popularity early in his brief term by pardoning certain
convicted murderers and by opposing the San Francisco Vigilance Committee of 1851. He was
never elected Governor in his own right.
John Bigler (1805-1871), California's third Governor (1852-1856), is represented by three
items. The earliest of these is a covering letter for a shipment of the "Synoptical Index
to the Laws of the United States," from U.S. Secretary of State, Daniel Webster (January
16, 1852). This item is not signed. The collection also includes a covering letter for a
shipment of the Acts of the 32nd Congress from Webster's successor, Edward Everett
(December 20, 1852). The letter bears Everett's signature. A third item representing
Bigler's governship is a letter from Wisconsin Governor, William A. Barstow,
acknowledging receipt of California Statutes for 1855 (September 17, 1855). Bigler came
to California in 1849. A Democrat, he faced the same problems of state indebtedness as
his predecessors. When he sought to relieve these through the sale of reclaimed San
Francisco waterfront properties, he was accused of favoritism and corruption. Bigler
attempted to help emigrants by establishing the Emigrant Relief Train (1852). In this,
too, he was accused of corruption, supposedly diverting funds to himself and his cronies.
Bigler was also known for his attempts to block Chinese immigration and his efforts to
provide state lands for homesteading farmers. Personally popular and an astute
politician, Bigler was the only 19th century Governor elected to a second term.
J. Neely Johnson (1825-1872), California's 4th Governor (1856-1858), is represented by a
routine memo to Col. G.W. Whitman, State Comptroller (February 12, 1857). Johnson, like
all early governors, came to California prior to statehood (1849). He holds the
distinction of being the first elected Governor who was not a Democrat. Although
nominally a Whig, Johnson was elected on the American Party (Know Nothing) ticket during
the brief period between the death of the Whig Party and the birth of the Republican
Party (1856). Johnson was elected on his promise to trim government spending. This he
accomplished by reducing salaries (including his own) and eliminating some offices. Like
his predecessor, Governor McDougal, Johnson opposed vigilantism in San Francisco (1856).
Frederick F. Low (1828-1894), California's 9th Governor (1863-1867), is represented by
two items. The earlier of these is a letter from the Governor to Col. A.H. Markland of
San Francisco (November 14, 1865) that discusses arrangements for the latter to meet W.H.
Parks. The second item is a letter from the Governor to B.B. Redding, land agent for the
Central Pacific Railroad, regarding the appointment of John P. Johnson as notary for San
Mateo County (January 5, 1869). Both letters are signed by Frederick F. Low. The future
Governor came to California in 1849, worked in transportation for a time and achieved the
merger of all steamer lines on the Sacramento River. He then became a banker in
Marysville, was later a successful capitalist in San Francisco and was also active in
founding the California Republican Party. He was briefly a member of the U.S. House of
Representatives (1862-63) and was then appointed by President Lincoln Collector for the
Port of San Francisco (1863). As Governor, Low was friendly both to the Chinese and to
the Native Americans. He was a major advocate of a state university and also facilitated
the California's acquisition of the Yosemite Valley as the nation's first State Park.
William H. Parks (1824-) was doubtless a close friend of Frederick Low. He was a
Marysville freight transport magnate and Republican State Senator (from 1859). Benjamin
Bernard Redding of Sacramento (d. 1882) was the Douglas Democratic State Central
Committee chairman and was elected is Secretary of State (1863-1867). He is presently
best known as the man who laid out the town of Redding in Shasta County.
Tennessee Democrat and personal friend of President Polk, William Van Voorhies
(1823-1884) came to California when appointed California's first Postmaster General
(1848). He quit this post because his salary did not pay expenses (1849), began a law
practice and entered into a general merchandise store partnership in San Francisco. Van
Voorhies became California's first Secretary of State under Peter Burnett and remained in
the post under John McDougal, finally resigning under Governor Bigler when the Democratic
Party split into pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions (1849-1853). Van Voorhies was
well-known as a fiery and partisan orator. When the Civil War forced the Democrats from
office he remained in California, becoming a freelance journalist and attorney in Alameda
County. He is represented in this collection by two items The earliest of these is a note
from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Alexander Stuart, acknowledging a request for
information about certain California swamp lands (1851). The second item is a standard
acknowledgement of receipt of California documents from John L. Manning, Governor of
South Carolina (1853).
James William Denver (1817-1892) was Secretary of State under Governor John Bigler
(1853-1856). Denver administered Bigler's Emigrant Relief Train and felt obliged to fight
a duel with the editor of the Alta California, Edward C. Gilbert, to defend the
Governor's honor against charges of corruption. Denver killed Gilbert and Governor Bigler
promoted him to the State Supreme Court. He later served in Congress (1855-57) and became
Territorial Governor of Kansas (1857-58). The city of Denver is named for him. The
collection contains five items of Denver's correspondence; with one exception, all are
routine acknowledgements of receipt of government documents addressed to Denver. The
exception is a letter from Thomas Cox, Attorney General of Plumas County, deploring
disorganized conditions in the newly established County (1854).
David F. Douglass (1821-1872) served as Secretary of State under Governor J. Neely
Johnson (1856-1858). Douglass, a Whig and later a member of the American Party, had been
Brigadier General of the State Militia (1850), U.S. Marshall (1851) and an Assemblyman
from San Joaquin County (1855) before becoming Secretary of State. He is represented in
this collection by a single letter from one W.A. Whitaker requesting a report of the
Henry Lambard Nichols (c1824-) was Secretary of State under California's 10th Governor,
Henry Haight (1867-1871). Nichols, a Democrat and physician, settled in Sacramento (1853)
where he became active in politics and was elected Mayor (1858) before being chosen
Secretary of State. He is represented in this collection by a covering letter from Dr.
Lorenzo Hubbard accompanying the U.S. Grant Mining Company certificate of incorporation.
Hubbard, a physician and naturalist, studied and published reports during the 1850s on
the Indians, earthquakes and the San Francisco water supply.