James F. Houghton (1862-66)

Photo of James F. Houghton

James Franklin Houghton was born on December 1, 1827, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He received a B. S. degree in Civil Engineering from Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, New York. At that time he returned to Waltham and took employment as an engineer. He also pursued advanced mathematical studies at Harvard under a professor eminent in that field. During this period, Houghton worked as Superintending Engineer on the construction of a portion of the Boston water system.

After working in a Boston mercantile firm and founding a lumber firm in California, Houghton was elected Surveyor General of California in 1862 and turned his attention to those duties. In 1868, upon the expiration of his third term in that office, Houghton returned to an active business life and once again turned his attention to a new field of commerce, the rapidly expanding field of insurance.

It is clear that Houghton was largely responsible for both the construction and final passage of a law which corrected many existing title difficulties in California. An enormous amount of patience and endurance - as well as a wide knowledge of previous law and current land practices in California - were required on Houghton's part. Thus, despite the less honorable deeds he was actively engaged in at that time and in years to come, Houghton's contribution to the stability and credibility of State title to its lands is noteworthy.

In 1887, Houghton became President of the San Francisco Dock Company, and in 1889 was elected to the Board of Regents of the University of California. In addition, during the 1880's he became President of the Central Land Company, headquartered in Oakland, and was deeply involved in the purchase and sale of government lands in California.

Houghton died on February 2, 1903, in San Francisco, survived by his widow and three of his children.

Annual Reports

Surveyors General

The following include a short biography, photo of, and the annual reports from each Surveyor General, documenting some of the activities and observations of the Surveyors General, and record the early geographical development of the new state.