A.M. Winn was born in
Pumpkinville, Louden County, Virginia in 1810. His family moved
to Zanesville, Ohio, where he attended a one room school and,
at the age of 16, became a carpenters apprentice. In 1829
he married Catherine Gaffney in Zanesville, and they moved to
Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1832. Albert became a Lieutenant in
the local militia in 1835. He also became a member of the Fraternal
order of Oddfellows, and was a Jackson Democrat.
In 1836 he was promoted to the rank of
Major in the militia, and served as assistant quartermaster on
the staff of Gov. Charles Lynch. Winn was appointed Drill Master
in 1840, and on February 28, 1845 was made a Colonel in the First
Regiment of the Mississippi Militia. He was one of the judges
of an election board that elected Jefferson Davis as Colonel
of the First Mississippi Regiment of Volunteers who served in
the Mexican War. Winn was also the Secretary of the Phoenix Engine
Fire Company and President of the Master Carpenters and Joiners
Society of Vicksburg.
On February 2, 1849, at the age of 38,
Albert was bitten by the gold bug and leaving his wife and son
behind, journeyed to New Orleans where he joined the Company
under Major Kinney. This company traveled by steamboat to Corpus
Christi, Texas, and from there traveled overland to Durango,
Mexico, where some members of the company split off and continued
to Mazatlan, from which Albert took a bark to San Francisco,
arriving May 28, 1849.
Winn took a sailboat upriver to Freeport and walked from there
to Sutters Fort, where he arrived on June 15. Arriving
in Sacramento City on June 25th, he set up his carpenters
bench under the shade of an oak tree at the foot of K Street,
and commenced work on a coffin, which he immediately sold for
$50. He started to manufacture gold rockers which were in great
demand. On August 1st he was elected as a member of the Sacramento
City Council and became its President on August 25th. During
this time he became a partner with Baker and McGhee in a store
where he organized a meeting of Oddfellows on August 20th, for
the purpose of providing assistance and relief to brother Oddfellows
who were suffering from illness and distress from their overland
or ocean voyage, and to bury the dead. Winns first order
of business when he became President of the City Council was
to ensure that the dead were provided a coffin for burial. Prior
to then, the dead were buried in their blanket, in which they
Sometime during Fall of 1849, Captain John Sutter gave Winn power
of attorney to sell land and Winn, as Sutters agent offered
lots and farms on the Sacramento and Feather Rivers for sale.
Winn also borrowed $5,000 in Sutters name at 10% interest
per month and failed to notify Sutter or furnish an accounting.
Sutter learned of this indebtedness only when the Sheriff served
an attachment on him. By that time the debt had grown to $35,000.
He also was involved in the establishment
of Grace Episcopal Church in Sacramento during August of 1849
(it was a busy month!). Winn was an active member of the Freemasons
(Tehama Lodge). He was instrumental in establishing a hospital
for widows and orphans as a joint venture between the Oddfellows
and the Masons on land which he donated.
The flood of January 1850 ruined the entire stock of Winn, Baker
& McGhee and the business failed. Winn entered into a partnership
with A. C. Latson on February 28, 1850, advertising their business
as builders and lumber merchants. When Sacramento City became
chartered on February 23rd, an election was held for new city
officers. Hardin Bigelow was elected Mayor on April 1st and Winn
relinquished his position as Mayor. Winns previous military
experience in Mississippi led to his appointment as an officer
in the California State Militia. On April 10th, the California
Legislature passed a resolution appointing A. M. Winn as Brigidier-General.
Governor Peter Burnett approved his appointment and four year
later he was reappointed by Governor John Bigler.
During the Squatters Riots of 1850, Winn
issued a Proclamation declaring Martial Law and brought 500 members
of the State Militia to patrol the streets of Sacramento City
to guard against further civil unrest. In October, Winn participated
in raising a force during the Coloma Indian
troubles in El Dorado County. During the Cholera Epidemic of
October - November 1850, Winn used his entire stock of lumber
making coffins to bury the dead at his own expense.
Winn became a member of the Sons of Temperance
in 1853 and organized the Winn Division # 220 in Sacramento.
He became a member of the Sacramento Pioneers Association on
November 11, 1855. In 1857 Winn bought 1/5 interest in a syndicate
which had pruchased 3/4 of all land that John Sutter had claimed
in what became Sutter County. Winn owned 2,700 acres along the
Sacramento River in Sutter County, called Winns Ranch
where he built a landing where riverboats could stop which came
to be known as Winns Landing. While living
there he became the first president of the California Swamp Land
Commission. Winn took a run at political office but was defeated
in a bid for the California legislature, Shortly after, in 1860,
Winn and his wife moved to San Francisco where he engaged in
the business of real estate. His wife Catherine died in 1862.
On September 16, 1865, Alfred married Charlotte L. King, the
widow of the crusading editor of The San Francisco Bulletin,
James King of William, who had been shot to death by James P.
Casey in 1856.
Albert M. Winn was active in campaigning
for the early labor movement in the 1860s. He took the
lead in the Carpenters Unions effort to enact legislation
for an eight-hour workday in 1867. The Mechanics State Council
was formed in 1867 at Winns suggestion. He drafted their
constitution and bylaws, and served as their first President.
In 1869, Winn traveled to the eastern states where he spent several
month pressing for federal legislation for an eight-hour day.
A. M. Winn founded the Native Sons of the Golden West (NSGW)and
the Native Daughters of the Golden West. The NSGW was originally
organized for an Independence Day Parade in 1875. Winn called
the first meeting of the NSGW on July 11, 1879 at Anthonys
Hall on Bush Street. At this first meeting was adopted a Constitution
The following Fourth of July, Winn founded
the Sons of the American Revolution, originally the Sons of the
Revolutionary Sires, when he organized the descendants of the
Revolutionary War to march in the Independence Day Parade at
the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1876. This organization
elected Winn as their first President, an office he held for
In 1878, Winn moved to Sonoma where he
died August 26, 1883 on a ranch owned by his step-son near El
Verano, Sonoma County. He was buried at the Pioneer Plot in the
City Cemetery in Sacramento. The funeral Procession began from
Pioneer Hall on 7th Street and included members of every Fraternal
body and civic organization as well as the entire congregation
of Grace Church. This remarkable individual who had been instrumental
in the founding of so many civic, religious and fraternal organizations,
was memorialized by the city of Sacramento with the naming of
Winn Park at 28th and P Streets (dedicated by the NSGW August
8, 1917), and the A. M. Winn Elementary School at 3351 Explorer
Drive (dedicated by the NSGW and NDGW on April 8, 1962).
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