Silas Sanderson

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Silas Woodruff Sanderson (April 16, 1824 – 1886) was the 7th Chief Justice of California.

Born in Sandgate, Vermont, Sanderson attended Burr Seminary, Williams College, and Union College, graduating from the last in 1846; he was soon admitted to the bar in New York state. He then moved to Florida where he went into practice with his older brother John in Jacksonville. In 1850 he sailed to California via the Strait of Magellan and settled in Coloma.

As a Democrat, Sanderson was elected district attorney in El Dorado County. Dismayed at the secessionist sentiment in the Democratic party, he became a Republican and backed Leland Stanford for Governor of California in the next election. In 1862 he was elected to the state legislature; the following year he was elected to his first term on the Supreme Court of California, where he served until resigning in 1870 to become a legal advisor to the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Sanderson married Margaret Beatty Ormsby in 1858; they had four daughters, including Sibyl Sanderson, a notable operatic soprano.


  • The Sibyl Sanderson Story: Requiem for a Diva, Jack Winsor Hansen, 2005, Amadeus Press, p. 1-5.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Warner Cope
Chief Justice of California
Succeeded by
John Currey