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John White Geary (1819-1873)
Last Alcalde and First Mayor of San Francisco

John Geary was born December 20, 1819 in a log house near Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, and served in the Mexican War with the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment.

Photograph of John White Geary as a general of the Union Army. After the Mexican War, President Polk appointed him Postmaster of San Francisco, with powers to create post offices, appoint postmasters, establish mail routes, and make contracts for carrying the mails throughout California.

He was a member of the State Constitutional Convention at Monterey, and was elected San Francisco’s last American alcalde in August 1849, and became the city’s first mayor May 1, 1850. He served one year, then returned to Pennsylvania in 1852. As a parting gift, he gave the city the land that later became Union Square. He was governor of the Territory of Kansas in 1856, and resigned after numerous confrontations with pro-slavery forces.

He then served as a general in the Civil War and troops under his command were instrumental in repulsing the Confederates at Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg.

After the Civil War, he was elected governor of Pennsylvania and served two terms, from 1867 until his death in 1873.

He died February 8, 1873, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just three weeks after leaving office. He was 53 years old.

A battlefield statue of Mayor Geary, as a general in the Union Army, was erected in 1915 at Gettysburg. The State of Pennsylvania erected the monument, but it was never dedicated. The reason is not known.

Geary Street in San Francisco is named for John White Geary.

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