John F. Chellis

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John F. Chellis (1792-1883) was a Republican who became the ninth Lieutenant Governor of California from 1862 to 1863.

Chellis was a businessman, and owned several ventures in northern California, including a water powered gristmill in Sebastopol, California. In 1852 and 1853, Chellis was the primary contractor responsible for constructing the Trinity County. From 1853 to 1854, he served as County Treasurer.[1]

Because the state had recently taken control of the prison system, his position as lieutenant governor carried a dual role placing him as warden of San Quentin State Prison.[2]
On the evening of July 23, 1862, there was a prison breakout by up to 300 inmates,[3] later regarded as one of the biggest and bloodiest in American history, with Chellis being taken hostage.[4] The previous few years had seen an increasing number of prison escapes with the resulting manhunts ending in violence. This escape was no exception and a large posse tracked down the escapees; Chellis was released relatively unharmed in the process.[5]

Chellis died September 17, 1883 in Myrtle Creek, Oregon.[6] According to a letter to the California Secretary of State from a resident of Myrtle Creek, Chellis, who was unknown to him, had appeared at his house on September 9.[6] Chellis was suffering from a urinary stricture and other health problems, which made him nearly unaware of his surroundings and unable to care for himself.[6] The letter writer, David Scott Kinnear Buick, further indicated that he had procured a nurse and volunteers to care for Chellis, but Chellis did not recover and died eight days later.[6] He was buried in the Myrtle Creek Odd Fellows Cemetery on September 18.[6] In his letter, which was published in several California newspapers, Buick indicated that Chellis had about $12 in cash with him when he died, but no other property.[6] He had no information with him indicating whether he had any relatives, and if so where, so Buick asked for the Secretary of State's assistance in attempting to notify Chellis's family.[6]


  1. ^ "Local Intelligence: Ex-Lieutenant Governor Chellis". The Record-Union. Sacramento, CA. October 11, 1883. p. 3. (Subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ Warden
  3. ^ "Full Particulars of the State Prison Emente". Marysville Daily Appeal. Marysville, CA. July 24, 1862. 
  4. ^ John Boessenecker (11 October 2012). Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 96–. ISBN 978-0-8061-8316-9. 
  5. ^ Shelley Bookspan (1991). A Germ of Goodness: The California State Prison System, 1851-1944. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 20–. ISBN 0-8032-1216-X. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Local Intelligence: Ex-Lieutenant Governor Chellis".
Political offices
Preceded by
Pablo de la Guerra
Acting Lieutenant Governor
Lieutenant Governors of California
Succeeded by
Tim N. Machin