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John Bigler

Gov. John Bigler

  • January 8, 1852 - January 9, 1856
  • Democrat
  • January 8, 1805
  • November 29, 1871
  • Pennsylvania
  • Dickinson College
  • Married; one child
  • Ambassador


JOHN BIGLER was born near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on January 8, 1805. He attended Dickinson College, but never finished. Bigler studied law, was admitted to the bar, and was the editor of the Centre County Democrat for five years. He moved to Mount Sterling, Illinois, where he started a private law practice. In 1849, he migrated to California, in search of gold, but instead found a life in politics. That same year he was elected to the California Assembly, and in 1850, served as speaker. On Sept 3, 1851, Bigler was elected governor, and on January 8, 1852, he was sworn into office. He became California’s first two-term governor when he was reelected on September 7, 1853. During his tenure, the state’s capital was moved to Sacramento, three new counties were formed, and the U.S. opened a branch mint in San Francisco. Authorization was also granted surveying a railroad route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. In 1854, the legislature honored Governor Bigler by naming a lake after him, since renamed Lake Tahoe. Bigler was unsuccessful in his third bid for governor, and left office on January 9, 1856. He later was appointed the U.S. Minister to Chile, and was a delegate to three Democratic National Conventions. Governor John Bigler died on November 29, 1871, in Sacramento, and is buried at the City Cemetery, Sacramento, California.


Bellefonte (Pennsylvania): Governors Page

Official Records: California State Archives

Personal Papers: California State Library

Image source: California State Library: Governors' Gallery

Governors of California 1849-2002

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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