Born: November 15, 1807 in Nashville, TN
Died: May 17, 1895 in San Francisco, CA
Married: Harriet Rogers on August 20, 1828 in Bolivar, TN
Political Party: Independent Democrat
Peter Burnett spent his youth in Missouri. He returned to Tennessee where he worked as a hotel clerk and as a clerk in a country store. Burnett purchased the store in 1829. In 1830, Peter returned to Missouri with 62 ½ cents in his pocket. Burnett took up the study of law and by 1839 was working as one of the defense counsels for Joseph Smith, Jr., and several other Mormon leaders who were under indictment for treason, arson and robbery. Defense counsel moved for a change of venue and while transporting the prisoners, they escaped to Illinois.
In 1842, after reading a congressional report on Oregon, Burnett decided to move his family there. He quickly organized a wagon train, which left for the Oregon territory on May 8, 1842 and arrived in the territory in early October of the same year. Burnett tried his hand at farming, but was unsuccessful. He turned to politics and was elected to 1844 Legislative Committee of Oregon tasked with the organizing a provisional government.
As a legislator in Oregon, Burnett proposed that all free blacks be forced to leave the state. Any who failed to leave were to be arrested and flogged every six months until they did leave. There was much public outcry
Burnett was elected governor of California in 1849 -- before California had even become a state. After his first annual address received criticism from the legislature, he abruptly resigned from office. Burnett is honored with a memorial in the church at Mission Santa Clara.
Father: George Burnett
Mother: Dorothy Hardeman
Wife: Harriet Rogers
Children: Dwight, Martha, Romeetta, Armstead and Sallie
Governor Burnett wrote a book about his conversion to Catholicism
On February 18, 1850, Burnett signed into law the creation of the state's 27 original counties.
Burnett, Peter H., Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer, Biobooks, 1946
Melendy and Gilbert. The Governors of California: From Peter H. Burnett to Edmund G. Brown, Talisman Press, 1965.
Schaechtele. The Governors of California and their Portraits, California State Capitol Museum Volunteer Association, 1995.