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Robert Waterman (governor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Robert Whitney Waterman
Robert Waterman.jpg
17th Governor of California
In office
September 12, 1887 – January 8, 1891
LieutenantStephen M. White
Preceded byWashington Bartlett
Succeeded byHenry Markham
17th Lieutenant Governor of California
In office
January 8, 1887 – September 12, 1887
GovernorWashington Bartlett
Preceded byJohn Daggett
Succeeded byStephen M. White
Personal details
Born(1826-12-15)December 15, 1826
Fairfield, New York
DiedApril 12, 1891(1891-04-12) (aged 64)
San Diego, California
Political partyRepublican

Robert Whitney Waterman (December 15, 1826 – April 12, 1891) was an American politician. He served as the 17th governor of California from September 12, 1887 until January 8, 1891.

Early years

Waterman was born on December 15, 1826 in Fairfield, New York. He was born to John Dean Waterman and Mary Graves Waldo. His middle name derives from the second wife (Clarissa (Dwight) Whitney) of his maternal grandfather.[1] He had seven siblings, including James Sears Waterman, John Calvin Waterman, Henry Franklin Waterman, Charlotte Judith Waterman, Mary Waterman, Charles Waterman, Caroline Waldo Waterman, and Theodore Francis Waterman.


Waterman moved to Newbury, Illinois when he was thirteen to join his brother as a clerk. Until 1850, he was a store clerk and postmaster in Geneva, Illinois. In 1850, he sold his assets and headed to California. He traveled with F.A. Park, and befriended Brigham Young in Salt Lake City along the way. When he arrived in California, he joined one of his brothers prospecting near the South Fork of the Feather River on Oregon Creek. In 1851, Waterman returned to his family in Wilmington, Illinois and became a successful grain dealer. He returned to Illinois, and helped form the Illinois Republican party in 1854 and published the Willmington Independent newspaper.[2] In 1856, he was one of two Illinois delegates to the first Republican National Convention in Bloomington, Illinois. The other was Abraham Lincoln. In 1860 he played a key role in delivering Illinois to Abraham Lincoln.

Return to California

In 1873, Waterman returned to California and became a machinery salesman in Redwood City, California. In 1874, he moved to San Bernardino, California. He operated the Stonewall Jackson Mine which netted him $500 a day.

In 1880, while residing in San Bernardino, Waterman discovered a silver mine with John Porter a few miles north of Barstow, California, then called Grapevine. In 1881, he formed a mining partnership with John Porter called Waterman and Porter, with 3/4 of the interest owned by Waterman. A stamp mill settlement about four miles (6 km) away was named Waterman. The Southern Pacific Railroad came through Waterman in 1882 and 100 men were employed at the mill and mine. The mine produced 40,000 tons of ore worth US$1.7 million before it closed in 1887 after silver prices declined.

In 1886, he purchased Rancho Cuyamaca, including California's Stonewall gold mine. On the Cuyamaca Ranch, he raised cattle and helped build the San Diego, Cuyamaca, and Eastern Railroad.[3]

He was elected lieutenant governor in 1886 as a Republican, and he became governor in 1887 upon the death of Governor Washington Bartlett. The 1886 election was the first split between the two posts in California's history.

As governor, the "Waterman Rifles" militia was authorized for San Bernardino, California, named in his honor since he was a resident of the City prior to election. In 1889, possibly at Waterman's urging, the 300-acre (120 ha) Harlem tract in Patton, California was chosen for the first Southern California Insane Asylum. It opened in 1893 and would become Patton State Hospital in the Highland area of San Bernardino. He served on the U.C. Regents as an ex officio member as both lieutenant governor and governor. His administration suffered from his lack of elected office and poor advisory support. He strongly supported the Congressional Resolution creating Yosemite National Park.[4]

The question whether to divide California was a major issue in his term. His nickname was "Old Honesty", he would not tolerate drunkenness, overspending, nor dishonesty, and vowed to run the state as a business. He chastised the Legislature for having 228 clerks when only 35 were authorized.

Though he served out the remainder of the term, his poor health caused him not to seek re-election. He moved to San Diego, where he is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery. In 1891, he purchased for US$17,000 a Queen Anne-style house built in 1889 known as the Long-Waterman Mansion, now located at 2408 First Avenue, San Diego, 92101.[5]

Family life

Waterman married Jane Gardner (November 8, 1829 in Stanstead, Quebec – April 12, 1914 in Barstow, California) on September 29, 1847, in Belvedere, Illinois. His children were:

  • Frank G. Waterman (Born September 12, 1848 in Belvidere, Illinois, died on August 20, 1853)
  • Waldo Sprague Waterman (born February 1, 1860 in Wilmington, Illinois), married Hazel Emma Wood in Erie Villa, California on April 11, 1889, died February 23, 1903 in San Diego, California)
  • James Sears Waterman, (born August 22, 1853 in Wilmington, Illinois, died January 19, 1930), married Sarah C. Brown on December 15, 1902)
  • Mary Pamela Waterman-Rice (born April 9, 1850 in Belvidere, Illinois, died November 3, 1925), married to Hyland W. Rice, San Bernardino County's Public Administrator)
  • Helen Jane Waterman (born December 18, 1856 in Wilmington, Illinois, died October 14, 1945, Berkeley, California)
  • Anna Charlotte Waterman (b. April 2, 1866 In Wilmington, Illinois) married Irving M. Scott in San Diego, CA, Sept. 29, 1891
  • Abby Lou Waterman (b. February 21, 1869 in Wilmington, Illinois, died April, 1941)


After his death, on April 12, 1891, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Waterman v. Alden reported at 143 U.S. 196. That case involved the will of his brother, James S. Waterman of Sycamore Illinois, who died on July 19, 1883 without children or descendants. On May 14, 1881, Waterman gave his brother an agreement in writing to give his brother within 12 months on demand 24/100th of mining property in California. Waterman testified that the value was $1,000,000 at the time. James Waterman advanced $25,000 to $30,000 to the Waterman Porter partnership, part of which was repaid before James' death. James also held five promissary notes dated in late 1881, for $10,000, payable from February to March 1882 at 8 percent per annum interest. The notes were transferred by Robert Waterman to Philander M. Alden and George S. Robinson, citizens of Illinois and executors of James' estate. The Court ruled that the will did not include the notes.

Today, Waterman Avenue, Waterman Gardens, and Waterman Canyon are still named for him in San Bernardino, California, as well as Waterman Road at the western margin of Barstow, south of State Route 58 and north of the Mojave River.

Waterman's papers and photographs are in The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley and the San Diego Historical Society.


  1. ^ [1] Archived October 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "University of California History Digital Archives". The Regents of the University of California. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  3. ^ "Guide To The Waterman Family/Stonewall Mine Collection". San Diego History Center. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  4. ^ "Yosemite: The Cavalry Years". The California State Military Museum. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  5. ^ "San Diego's Victorian Homes". San Diego History Center. Retrieved 2011-08-10.

Further reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
John Daggett
Lieutenant Governor of California
Succeeded by
Stephen M. White
Preceded by
Washington Bartlett
Governor of California
Succeeded by
Henry Markham
This page was last edited on 4 December 2019, at 18:31
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