Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Stanford, Leland

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

STANFORD, Leland, senator, b. in Watervliet, Albany co., N. Y., 9 March, 1824; d. in Palo Alto, Cal., 21 June. 1893. His ancestors settled in the valley of the Mohawk, N. Y., about 1720. When twenty years old he began the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in 1849, and the same year began to practise at Port Washington, Wis. In 1852, having lost his law library and other property by fire, he removed to California and began mining for gold at Michigan bluff, Placer co., subsequently becoming associated in business with his three brothers, who had preceded him to the Pacific coast. In 1856 he removed to San Francisco and engaged in mercantile pursuits on a large scale, laying the foundation of a fortune that had recently been estimated at more than $50,000,000. In 1860 Mr. Stanford made his entrance into public life as a delegate to the Chicago convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. He was an earnest advocate of a Pacific railroad, and was elected president of the Central Pacific company when it was organized in 1861. The same year he was elected governor of California, and served from December, 1861, till December, 1863. As president of the Pacific road he superintended its construction over the mountains, building 530 miles in 293 days, and on 10 May, 1869, drove the last spike at Promontory point, Utah. He also became interested in other roads on the Pacific slope, and in the development of the agriculture and manufactures of California. In 1885 he was elected to the U. S. senate for the full term of six years from 4 March, 1886. In memory of his only son, Mr. Stanford gave the state of California $20,000,000 to be used in founding at Palo Alto a university whose curriculum shall not only include the usual collegiate studies, but comprise instruction in telegraphy, type-setting, type-writing, journalism, book-keeping, farming, civil engineering, and other practical branches of education. The corner-stone was laid on 14 May, 1887, and the various structures were completed within three years, and the institution in successful operation. Ex-President Harrison delivered a course of law lectures there in 1894. Included in the trust fund for the maintenance of the university is Mr. Stanford's estate at Vina, Tehama co., Cal., which is said to be the largest vineyard in the world. It comprises 30,000 acres, 3,500 of which are planted with bearing vines. Mr. Stanford died suddenly at Menlo Park, his magnificent residence.