Burnett, Peter H. (Peter Hardeman), 1807-1895

Alternative names
Birth 1807-11-15
Death 1895

Biographical notes:

Burnett was Governor when California was admitted into the U.S. in 1850.

From the description of ALS, 1851 January 3 : San Jose, to Thomas Fox Taylor. (Copley Press, J S Copley Library). WorldCat record id: 16951352

Peter Hardeman Burnett, the first American Governor of the state of California, was born in Tennessee in 1807. He was admitted to the bar in 1839. In 1843, he and his family moved to Oregon where he helped form the territorial government. In 1848, Burnett moved to California. Elected a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1848, he was also elected the first American Governor of California in December 1849. Burnett resigned the governorship in 1851 and returned to practicing law. He became a Catholic in 1846 and wrote several religious works including The path which led a Protestant lawyer to the Catholic Church.

From the description of Proclamation concerning the observance of Thanksgiving Day, 1850, Nov. 4. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 86129833

From the description of Oath on assuming office of Governor of California, 1849, Dec. 20. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122396935


Trader and lawyer in Missouri and Tennessee, Peter Hardeman Burnett came to Oregon in 1843. In 1848 he joined the miners in California where he acted as agent for Sutter. He was active in urging California to form a state government and was elected first constitutional governor of California in 1849. He resigned his governorship in 1851 to return to law practice, becoming supreme judge in 1857. From 1863 until 1880 he was president of the Pacific Bank of San Francisco.

From the guide to the Peter H. Burnett papers, 1849-1885, (The Bancroft Library)

Biographical note

Peter Hardeman Burnett was born on November 15, 1807, in Nashville, Tennessee. He arrived in California on November 5, 1848 via overland route. He served as the first Governor of California, from December 20, 1849 – January 9, 1851. Before becoming governor he worked as a lawyer and was elected Judge of the Oregon Supreme Court, member of the Oregon Territorial Legislature, and appointed to the Superior Tribunal of California. While governor, he encourgaed the development of California’s legal code, and faced challenges such as raising revenue for state expenses and quelling Native American uprisings. After resigning as governor, he continued to work in the legal profession until he became President of the Pacific Bank of San Francisco. In 1880, he wrote Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer. He died in San Francisco on May 17, 1895. Source: Gilbert & Melendy. The Governors of California: From Peter H. Burnett to Edmund G. Brown. (Georgetown, CA: Talisman, 1965.), 25-35. Print.

From the guide to the Burnett, Peter H. Daybook, 1849, (Society of California Pioneers)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Pioneers--Oregon
  • Oregon
  • Pioneers
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Governor
  • Land tenure
  • Gold mines and mining
  • Taxation


  • California. Governor (1849-1851: Burnett)


  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Sacramento (Calif.) - History - 19th century. (as recorded)
  • Oregon (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • San Jose (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • San Francisco (Calif.) (as recorded)