Californians and the Military
Major General Albert Maver Winn
by Mr. Ken Knott
Major Jeneral Albert Maver Winn 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 carpenter’s 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 Sutter’s Fort, where he arrived on June 15. Arriving in Sacramento City on June 25th, he set up his carpenter’s 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. Winn’s 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 were sewn.

Sometime during Fall of 1849, Captain John Sutter gave Winn power of attorney to sell land and Winn, as Sutter’s agent offered lots and farms on the Sacramento and Feather Rivers for sale. Winn also borrowed $5,000 in Sutter’s 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. Winn’s 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 “Winn’s Ranch” where he built a landing where riverboats could stop which came to be known as “Winn’s 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 1860’s. He took the lead in the Carpenter’s Union’s effort to enact legislation for an eight-hour workday in 1867. The Mechanics State Council was formed in 1867 at Winn’s 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 Anthony’s Hall on Bush Street. At this first meeting was adopted a Constitution and By-Laws.
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 five years.
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).
Search our Site!
Search the Web Search California Military History Online
Questions and comments concerning this site should be directed to the Webmaster
Updated 8 February 2016