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Leland Stanford

Reference: The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume IX
*Contributed by Deborah Hollowbush

Stanford, Leland, senator, was born in Wateryliet, Albany County, New York, March 9, 1824; son of Josiah and Elizabeth Stanford, and a descendant of early settlers in the Mohawk Valley. His father, a prosperous contractor, engaged in the construction of the Albany Central, one of the earliest railroads in the United States. Leland attended the county schools, and Cazenovia college, New York, and studied law with the firm of Hadly and Wheaton, and practiced in Albany, New York, and at Port Washington, Wisconsin, 1847-1852. He was married, September 30, 1850, to Jane, daughter of Dyer Lathrop of Albany, New York. He abandoned his profession in 1852 and joined his brothers in the mercantile business in California. He founded an independent business in Sacramento, California, and became one of the most successful merchants on the Pacific coast. He was a delegate to the Republican convention held in Chicago that nominated Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency in 1860, and in 1861 he was elected governor of California and served till 1863, when he resigned. He was president of the Central Pacific railroad company, and in 1869 he drove the last spike of the road from Ogden to San Francisco, thus making a continuous route across the continent. He was also president of the Occidental and Oriental Steamship company which ran in connection with the Central Pacific system. On the death of his only son, Leland, in Florence, Italy, in 1884, he set apart $20,000,000 for establishing the Leland Stanford Junior university at Palo Alto, California, to his memory. He was elected U.S. senator from California in 1884 and re-elected in 1890, serving, 1885-1893, and upon his death in 1893, George Clement Perkins was appointed to his seat, taking it, August 8, 1893. Senator Stanford was chairman of the committee on public Buildings and public grounds and a member of six other committees. He died at Palo Alto, California, June 21, 1893.

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