The name Leland Stanford Sr. might be a name that is unfamiliar to you. However, this person’s contributions and the highlights of his life date back to the 18th century.  His name is a part of American history because of his involvement in politics and being an entrepreneur. Leland Stanford’s life began on March 9, 1824, in Watervliet, New York. His parents were Josiah and Elizabeth Stanford. The Stanford family lived on the Elm Grove farm in Roessleville, New York.

As a child, Leland Stanford spent time in both a regular school and being homeschooled. After high school Stanford studied law at the Cazenovia Seminary and was admitted to the bar in 1848. After setting up his law practice in Wisconsin, he married. His new bride was Jane Elizabeth Lathrop. Together they had only one child, a son named Leland Stanford Jr., who died of Typhoid Fever at the age of 15.

Besides being an attorney, Leland was also a store owner selling goods, a Justice of the Peace and the president of the Central Pacific Railroad. His lifetime accomplishments also show him as the Governor of California and the director of the Wells Fargo company. Stanford was also a part of the team known as “The Big Four”, where he and three other gentlemen took an interest in railroad construction. Together, they formed the Central Pacific Railroad. With Stanford being an attorney and knowing the law, he was in charge of the legal affairs of the newly established railroad. The farm boy left his mark in history for his accomplishments and services. He had a strong belief in keeping the white race superior, and he was close friends with Abraham Lincoln.

When looking at the political side of Stanford, records show that Leland was the first Republican governor to be elected in California in 1861. After serving the term of governor, he went on to become Senator Leland Stanford of California in 1885. Another reminder of Stanford’s historical legacy is that of the Stanford Mansion, reconstructed in 1856. It took a year to finish the mansion updating project. Stanford bought the house for $8,000.00 and turned it into an upscale residence to hold government meetings by elected officials. While he ran the political side of the mansion, his wife was in charge of all the formal affairs like that of receptions, balls and eloquent dinner parties fit for the dignitaries and important people that she and her husband entertained.

During Stanford’s lifetime, when business and politics gave him a chance to have other outside interests, he took to producing wine and brandy as a result of owning a 59,000 acre vineyard. Other hobbies of his were raising race horses and collecting the best in paintings and sculptures. As you can see, Leland Stanford Sr., who was once just a farm boy became an important and rich man. However, one of his biggest accomplishments is the Leland Stanford Junior University which he and his wife founded and named in remembrance of their son. It was Stanford’s dream to help education other children since he was no longer able to educate his own.

Leland Stanford Sr. died on June 21, 1893. He is buried in the family mausoleum, located on the grounds of the university which he founded.

For more interesting information on the life of Leland Stanford, please see the following links.

The Birth of Stanford University

Leland Stanford’s Forgotten Vision

Leland Stanford, the Political Man

Our Hall of Fame: Leland Stanford

About Leland Stanford

About the Stanford Mansion

Founding of the Leland Stanford Junior University

Leland Stanford Jr.: A Man of Many Careers/A Book Review

Leland Stanford Mansion

The Big Four Investors