Biography of General John H. Dickinson of San Francisco

General John H. Dickinson is one of the most conspicuous figures in the history of jurisprudence in San Francisco, having gained distinctive preferment at the bar of the central portion of his state. He entered upon practice in 1873 and his success came soon, for his equipments were unusually good, he having been a close and earnest student of the fundamental principles of law. Nature endowed him with strong mentality and he developed that persistent energy and close application without which there is no success. His advancement has been continuous and commendable, and today he is recognized as one of the leaders of his chosen profession in his adopted city.

General Dickinson was born April 8, 1849, in Parkersburg, Virginia, and is a son of Josiah S. and Mrs. (Jackson) Dickinson. The father was a merchant and came to California in pioneer days in the development of this state, arriving in the year 1850. The following year he removed to Oregon, where he engaged in merchandising and in agricultural pursuits. He attained the advanced age of eighty-three years, but his wife died when the subject of this review was only about nine months old.

General Dickinson was in his infancy when brought by his father to the Pacific coast. His education was acquired almost entirely by studying at home, his going to school being all comprised within a period of one year. In 1868 he located in Benicia, California, and there became military instructor and teacher in St. Augustine’s College. He occupied that position until July, 1873, and in the meantime took up the study of law, which he pursued so assiduously that he passed the supreme court examination and was licensed to practice in the spring of 1873. In August of that year he entered upon his professional career in San Francisco and gradually worked his way upward until he has now a distinctively representative clientage.

The interests which have made claims upon the time and co-operation of General Dickinson have been those for the betterment of mankind, and the improvement of his city or the welfare of his state receives his endorsement and assistance. In April, 1871, he became a member of the National Guard of California, joining Company B of the First Regiment, at which time he was made captain. He was chosen colonel of the First Infantry on the 28th of June, 1880, and was twice re-elected to that position, continuously serving in that capacity until 1891. In 1891 he was made brigadier general of the Second Brigade and was retired as such in May, 1895, and in February, 1898, was appointed major general, commanding the entire National Guard of California, a position which he still holds. He has been equally prominent in political circles and in 1879 was elected state senator, serving during the first two sessions held under the new constitution. He was also elected to represent Marin and Contra Costa counties in the sessions of 1895 and 1897.

On the 1st of January, 1875, General Dickinson was married to Miss Annie Shipman, a daughter of Mrs. S. O. Putman, of San Francisco. To General and Mrs. Dickinson has been born one son, Reginald H., who is now conducting a ranch at Skagg’s Springs, California.

General Dickinson is prominent in the Masonic fraternity, being past-master of California Lodge No. 1, F. & A. M., and also belonging to Golden Gate Commandery, K. T., and also to the Mystic Shrine. His political allegiance has ever been given to the Republican party, and as the promoter of its interests he has left the impress of his individuality upon the political history of his adopted state. He took an active part in the incorporation of Sausalito and was president of its board of trustees during the first eight years of its existence. In the various positions of prominence in which he has been found his course has been characterized by a masterful understanding of the problems presented and by a patriotic devotion to those measures which he has believed conducive to the public good. He is popular among the political leaders of the Golden State, and at the same time in professional circles in San Francisco he occupies a position of distinction.

Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.

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