Sherman Otis Houghton

Sherman Otis Houghton (April 10, 1828 – August 31, 1914) was an American politician from California. He also married, in succession, two survivors of the Donner Party.

Sherman Otis Houghton
4th Mayor of San Jose, California
In office
Preceded byO.H. Allen
Succeeded byLawrence Archer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1871 – March 3, 1873
Preceded bySamuel B. Axtell
Succeeded byCharles Clayton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1875
Preceded byNew district
Succeeded byPeter D. Wigginton
Personal details
Born(1828-04-10)April 10, 1828
New York City, New York, United States
DiedAugust 31, 1914(1914-08-31) (aged 86)
Hynes, California
Resting placeAngelus-Rosedale Cemetery
Political partyRepublican
Eliza Poor Donner
(m. 1861)
Mary Martha Donner
(m. 1859)
Alma materCollegiate Institute
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Branch/service United States Army
RankUS-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/warsMexican–American War Civil War


Early life and educationEdit

Houghton was born in New York City, on April 10, 1828.[1] He completed preparatory studies and attended Collegiate Institute in New York.


During the Mexican–American War, Houghton enlisted in the 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers, in June 1846. He arrived in San Francisco, California in 1847 with the rest of his regiment after sailing around Cape Horn. The regiment garrisoned Santa Barbara, before capturing the city of La Paz in Baja California. He was honorably discharged as a lieutenant at Monterey, California, in October 1848.[2]

Houghton then proceeded to mine for gold during the California Gold Rush, and after about six months of mining, he moved to San Jose and entered various commercial businesses. He served as the deputy clerk of the Supreme Court of California in 1854, the same year he was elected to the San Jose Common Council. He was elected the fourth Mayor of San Jose, California from 1855 to 1856.[1] He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1857, and commenced practice in San Jose.[3]

During the Civil War he was commissioned as a captain and promoted to lieutenant colonel, and served successively as inspector and ordnance officer. After the war, he was elected as a Republican to the Forty-second and Forty-third Congresses (March 4, 1871 – March 3, 1875) and was the chairman of the House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures for the Forty-third Congress. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1874 to the Forty-fourth Congress.

He was appointed commissioner to investigate the affairs of the United States Mint at San Francisco in 1881, and moved to Los Angeles in 1886 and continued the practice of law.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1859, he married Mary Martha Donner, a survivor of the Donner Party; she died a year later, most likely from complications related to the birth of their only child, also named Mary. In 1861, he married his late wife's first cousin and fellow Donner Party survivor Eliza Poor Donner,[3] with whom he had an additional seven children.


Sherman Houghton died on August 31, 1914, aged 86, in Hynes, California.[3] He is interred in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles.


The Donner-Houghton House, an historic building in downtown San Jose, was built by Houghton in 1881. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. A number of proposals have been made to either restore or renovate it. The structure was almost completely destroyed by a fire on the morning of July 19, 2007.[4]


  1. ^ a b The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. VII. James T. White & Company. 1897. p. 122. Retrieved February 22, 2021 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "HOUGHTON, Sherman Otis - Biographical Information". Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Death Turns Bright Page in California History". Los Angeles Times. September 1, 1914. pp. 11, 12. Retrieved February 22, 2021 – via
  4. ^ "Historic home burns". The Modesto Bee. San Jose. July 21, 2007. p. A5. Retrieved February 22, 2021 – via


United States Congress. "HOUGHTON, Sherman Otis (id: H000815)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of San Jose
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by
New district Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by