Placer County









            Much of the early history of California centered in Placer, Nevada, and surrounding counties, and during the gold rush it was in this locality that the romantic episodes of pioneer days kept accumulating, and went down through the fifties and sixties, both as to early mining activities and also in exciting events brought on by the rough, and often dangerous, characters who were attracted here by the mines and kindred pursuits.  Thus it was that many brilliant legal men were prominent here during the three decades making up early state history, and their names became well-known throughout the country.  Among these Gen. Jo. Hamilton must be mentioned; one of the most noted attorneys in California, he was prominent in politics and a brilliant jury lawyer with a gift for oratory which made him feared by opposing counsel.  A native of Kentucky, he was admitted to the bar in Georgia, and in 1858 sold his horse, saddle and bridle to secure money to come to California.

            First settling in Placer County, at that early date, he then wore, like all true Southerners, a silk hat and Prince Albert, but this did not deter him from accepting work chopping wood on a ranch.  He also worked in the mines for a time at Forest Hill.  His first case at law was defending a man accused of murder, with a fee of one hundred dollars, which looked big to him and gave him encouragement to continue practicing.  He located in Auburn in 1860, and began practicing law and that same year was elected district attorney of Placer County.  He was reelected in 1862 and served until 1865.  During this time he prosecuted a man, as district attorney; the trial was delayed and when he went out of office he defended this same man and acquitted him!

            General Hamilton continued the practice of law in Auburn until 1899.  He was twice elected Attorney General of California, the first time in 1871, under Governor Haight’s administration, and reelected in 1874, during Governor Irwin’s term.  He served a number of years as trustee of the State Library, and was at one time slated as a candidate for governor of the state, but was taken with a severe illness and could not carry out his plans; this was at the time of the election of Governor Stoneman.  During his many years of law practice the General was pitted against some of the most prominent lawyers of the state.  He had offices at Oroville, Colusa and Sacramento, and was very successful.  General Hamilton owned and operated for twenty-five years a 2,500-acre ranch in Colusa County, known as the Hamilton Ranch.  He retired from practice in 1899, and in 1909 his death occurred.  His marriage had united him with Miss Nancy Blair a native of Georgia, and seven children were born to them, five of them now living:  Mrs. M. W. Ward, of Woodland; Mrs. George N. Dyson, of San Francisco; George W., of Auburn; Mrs. W. A. Shephard, of Auburn; and Mrs. Mary H. Wallace.

            George W. Hamilton, the only son of General Hamilton, was born in Auburn July 27, 1865, was educated in the public schools and the Sierra Normal College of his native city, and studied law in his father’s office; he was admitted to the bar on his twenty-first birthday, July 27, 1886.  After a number of years spent on the home ranch in Colusa County, he returned to Auburn in 1901, where he has since practiced law; he has served as district attorney of Placer County, and also as a member of the state legislature.  His marriage occurring at Placerville on December 21, 1891, united him with Ella J. Dimon, born in Placerville, and one son has blessed their union, Jo., a resident of San Francisco.





Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: “History of Placer & Nevada Counties, California”, by W. B. Lardner & M. J. Brock. Pages 468-469. Historic Record Co., Los Angeles 1924.

© 2013  V. Gerald Iaquinta.




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