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Stephen Clark Foster

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Subject: Mayor of Los Angeles, Thomas Foster (Los Angeles), Antonio F. Coronel, Alpheus P. Hodges, Manuel Requena
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Stephen Clark Foster

Stephen Clark Foster
portrait of Stephen Clark Foster circa 1880
Stephen Clark Foster
5th Mayor of Los Angeles
In office
May 4, 1854 – January 13, 1855 &
January 25, 1855 – May 9, 1855
Preceded by Antonio F. Coronel
Succeeded by Dr. Thomas Foster
In office
May 7, 1856 – September 22, 1856
Preceded by Dr. Thomas Foster
Succeeded by Manuel Requena (acting)
Mayor of Los Angeles (pre-statehood)
In office
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Alpheus P. Hodges (post-statehood)
Personal details
Born Stephen Clark Foster
Machias, Maine
Died January 28, 1898
Resting place Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA
Citizenship American
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) María Merced Lugo
Parents Stephen C. Foster
Residence Los Angeles, California
Alma mater Yale University
Occupation politician

Stephen Clark Foster (1820 – January 27, 1898) was a politician, the first American mayor of Los Angeles under United States military rule. Foster served in the state constitutional convention, and was elected to the State Senate. He was elected as mayor of Los Angeles in 1856, and later elected for four terms to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.[1]


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career 2
  • Marriage and family 3
  • Political career 4
  • References 5

Early life and education

Foster was born in Machias, Maine, in 1820. He graduated from Yale College in 1840.[2]


He taught at a private academy in the South. In 1845 at age 25, he headed for California, like many other young single men, via El Paso and Santa Fe. While in Santa Fe, Foster served as an interpreter with the Mormon Battalion of Volunteers, then on its way to California to fight in the Mexican-American War.

In the stormy period when California was under US military rule after the defeat of the Mexicans, Governor Richard Barnes Mason appointed the 26-year-old Foster alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles to replace the dissolved ayuntamiento (government) of the Mexicans. For this reason, Foster often has been referred to as the first American mayor of the city. He served as alcalde from January 1, 1848 to May 21, 1849. For the remainder of that year, or until the city came under United States jurisdiction in 1850, Foster served as prefect.

Mason appointed José del Carmen Lugo, a prominent and mature Californio, as mayor following Foster.

Marriage and family

During his early years in Los Angeles, Foster made a marriage important to his standing in the community. He met and married María Merced Lugo, one of the sisters of José del Carmen Lugo above. Their father was a prominent Californio landowner. The Fosters had five children together.

Foster was elected a member of the 1849 California Constitutional Convention, which met in Monterey. The group framed the state Constitution and petitioned Congress for admission of California into the United States.

Political career

Foster achieved his first political office after statehood in 1850, when he was elected to the Los Angeles Common Council for a one-year term. In 1851 he was elected California state senator from Southern California, and served two years.

In 1854, Foster was elected mayor of Los Angeles. He is credited with authorizing construction of the first public school in Los Angeles.[3][4] Los Angeles was then said to be the toughest frontier town in the United States. It had a diverse population with simmering tensions after the war, as well as a "disorderly element".[3] The surrounding territory was overrun by bandits driven from the gold mines of northern California southward into the cattle ranching counties. Numerous gamblers and criminals drifted into the city to escape the vigilantes of San Francisco.[3]

Mayor Foster, like most of the city's prominent citizens, was a member of the local vigilance committee and of the Los Angeles Rangers, the mounted body of volunteer police. In early 1854, Foster resigned his official position to lead a lynching mob. After the lynching, the people held a special election and returned Foster to office for the remainder of his regular term. Foster was re-elected mayor in 1856. He resigned Sept. 22, 1856, to act as executor for the large estate of his brother-in-law, Colonel Isaac Williams.[4]

Foster next served as a supervisor on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for four terms. He was elected in 1856, 1858 and 1859. In 1857 he replaced Jonathan R. Scott, who resigned as county supervisor in March of that year.[3]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d Supervisor Stephen Clark Foster, Los Angeles County, accessed 26 Jun 2010
  4. ^ a b Chronological Record of Los Angeles City Officials: 1850—1938, Compiled under Direction of Municipal Reference Library City Hall, Los Angeles, March 1938 (Reprinted 1966)
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