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John Neely Johnson

Gov. John Neely Johnson

  • January 9, 1856 - January 8, 1858
  • American (Know-Nothing)
  • August 2, 1825
  • August 31, 1872
  • Indiana
  • Married Mary Zabriskie; two children


JOHN NEELY JOHNSON was born in Johnson Township, Indiana, on August 2, 1825. He studied law and was admitted to the Iowa Bar in 1846. Johnson migrated to California in 1849, settling in Sacramento, where he started a law practice. Entering politics in 1850, he served as Sacramento’s city attorney, and was reelected in 1851. Johnson served in the California Assembly in 1852, and was a trustee of the Sacramento State Hospital. On September 5, 1855, Johnson was elected Governor of California, and at the age of 30 was the youngest man ever to assume the office. During his term, the San Francisco county and city governments were combined, and California’s first railroad was completed. Wells Fargo and Company opened an express office in Los Angeles, and the first wagon road was accessible over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Also, in 1856, the San Francisco Vigilance Committee was restored without the governor’s approval, and the State Normal School was founded. Johnson did not seek reelection, and left office on January 8, 1858. Relocating his law practice to Nevada, Johnson returned to public life, and served as a delegate to the 1863 Nevada Constitutional Convention. In 1867, he was appointed to bench of the Nevada Supreme Court. Governor J. Neely Johnson died on August 31, 1872, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is buried at the Fort Douglas Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Utah.


Official Records: California State Archives

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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