James McMillan Shafter

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James McMillan Shafter (May 27, 1816 – August 29, 1892) was an American politician who served in Vermont, Wisconsin, and California, and owned large ranches in Marin County, California.


Born in Athens, Vermont, Shafter graduated from Wesleyan University and Yale Law School, and was admitted to the Vermont bar.[1] In 1841, he served in the Vermont House of Representatives and from 1842 to 1849, Shafter was the Secretary of State of Vermont.[2] In 1850, he moved to Sheboygan, Wisconsin and was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly. In 1852, Shafter served as speaker of the Assembly.[3][4] In 1855, he then moved to San Francisco, California, where he practiced law with his brother, Oscar L. Shafter.[1][5]

In 1857, a complex real estate litigation resulted in the Shafter firm winning a victory for their client of 75,000 acres of farm land at Point Reyes in Marin County.[6] The client sold the property to the Shafters.[7] They leased it to dairy farmers who provided milk and butter to an ever-growing San Francisco and prospered.[8] The Shafter families owned most of Point Reyes from 1857 to 1919, when the land was sold in parcels.[9]

In 1862, Shafter served in the California State Senate and was its President Pro Tempore.[10] Shafter also served in the California Constitution Convention of 1878 and was on the University of California Board of Regents ex offico as President of the California State Agricultural Association.

In March 1888, Shafter survived a gunshot at close range.[11] His son, Dr. James Shafter, had sued for a divorce and the wife's brother, angry at the proceedings, confronted the elder Shafter in the San Francisco City Hall.[12] The brother fired four times at point blank range but missed his mark.[11]

In 1889, Governor Robert Waterman appointed Shafter as judge of the San Francisco County Superior Court to fill the vacancy from the resignation of Jeremiah F. Sullivan.[13][14][15]

Civic activities[edit]

In November 1885, he served as an original trustee of Leland Stanford Junior University.[16][1][17]

Personal life[edit]

In 1846, he married Julia Granville Hubbard (September 11, 1821 – February 11, 1871) in Montpelier, Vermont, who had studied at Troy Female Seminary.[18] They had at least four children: Payne Jewett Shafter,[19] James Chester Shafter, Chester Hubbard Shafter, and Julia Ruth Shafter.[20] His nephew was William Rufus Shafter, who was a general in the American Civil War and recipient of the Medal of Honor.[21]


  1. ^ a b c "Judge Shafter Dead". Los Angeles Herald (38 (142)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 31 August 1892. p. 1. Retrieved July 19, 2017. Judge Shaffer leaves an estate valued at about a million dollars.
  2. ^ "Regents of the University of California". University of California History, digital archives. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  3. ^ "1852 Wisconsin Act 258". Wisconsin State Assembly. Retrieved July 19, 2017. J. McM. Shafter, Speaker of the Assembly
  4. ^ 'Wisconsin Blue Book 1881, p. 184.
  5. ^ Life, Diary and Letters of Oscar Lovell Shafter, Associate Justice Supreme Court of California, January 1, 1864 – December 31, 1868 (1915). p. 237-240.
  6. ^ "Point Reyes Station, California: 1857-1919: The Shafter Empire". SeeCalifornia.com. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  7. ^ Tippin, Brenda L. (May 2016). "History Lesson: Past and Present: Pt. Reyes Morgan Horse Ranch" (PDF). National Park Service. p. 27. Retrieved July 18, 2017. Senior partner Oscar Lovell Shafter was, at that time, considered the foremost title lawyer in California
  8. ^ Pranka, Carol A. (Spring 2014). "Good as Gold: The Marin-Sonoma Artisan Cheese Cluster, a Ph.D. dissertation" (PDF). University of California, Berkeley. p. 20. Retrieved July 18, 2017. soon after a group of San Francisco lawyers, led by brothers Oscar and James Shafter and son-in-law Charles Webb Howard, acquired much of the land in the Point Reyes area
  9. ^ "Big Marin Estate Sold to Operator". Healdsburg Tribune (27). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 4 December 1929. p. 1. Retrieved July 19, 2017. The sale was made by Mrs. Julia Shafter Hamilton, daughter of the late Judge James McMillan Shafter, who bought the tract in 1876.
  10. ^ "Election History". JoinCalifornia.com. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Hon. J. McM. Shafter had a narrow escape from a violent death last Thursday". Marin Journal (27 (52)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 8 March 1888. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  12. ^ "A Narrow Escape, Judge James McM Shafter Barely Escapes Assassination". Sacramento Daily Union (59 (9)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 2 March 1888. p. 4. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  13. ^ "The Pacific Coast, Appointment of a Successor to Judge Sullivan". Daily Alta California (80 (164)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 13 June 1889. p. 5. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  14. ^ "Judge Shafter Dead". Sacramento Daily Union (84 (9)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 31 August 1892. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  15. ^ "Died. Shafter". Sausalito News (8 (30)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 2 September 1892. p. 2. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  16. ^ "Leland Stanford Jr. University". Sonoma Democrat (6). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 28 November 1885. p. 1. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  17. ^ Kyle, Douglas E. (2002). Historic Spots in California: Fifth Edition. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 192. ISBN 0804778175. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  18. ^ Fairbanks, Mary J. Mason (1898). Emma Willard and Her Pupils: Or, Fifty Years of Troy Female Seminary, 1822-1872. Mrs. Russell Sage. p. 189.
  19. ^ "Death at Wedding". Marin Journal (16 (25)). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 31 August 1876. p. 2. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  20. ^ "Looking Backward, Notes of Happenings in Marin County Twenty-Eight Years Ago as Told in the Journal". Marin Journal (8). California Digital Newspaper Collection. 19 February 1920. p. 7. Retrieved July 20, 2017. His two sons, Dr. J. C. Shafter, of San Francisco, and Payne J. Shafter, of Olema, and his daughter, Mrs. A. F. Hamilton, of San Francisco, were at the bedside when death came.
  21. ^ Forbes, Charles Spooner; Cummings, Charles R. (1897). The Vermonter: The State Magazine, Volumes 3-6. C.S. Forbes. p. 271. Retrieved July 18, 2017. An uncle of the general, the late Oscar L. Shafter...became a judge of the (California) Supreme Court.
Political offices
Preceded by
Alvah Sabin
Secretary of State of Vermont
Succeeded by
Farrand F. Merrill
Political offices
Preceded by
Speaker of the House Wisconsin State Assembly
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Irwin
President Pro Tempore California State Senate
Succeeded by
A.M. Crane