John C. Fremont
Abraham Lincoln was not the first Republican presidential candidate. It was Georgia native John Frémont who ran four years before Lincoln.
Born in Savannah in 1813, Fremont graduated from the College of Charleston. South Carolina diplomat Joel Poinsett got Fremont appointed to the Army’s topographical engineers, and his life’s work was set.
Fremont surveyed and mapped the region between the upper Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. During the 1840s, he led three Western expeditions, including a winter crossing of the Sierra Nevada. Now a national celebrity, he earned the nickname “Pathfinder of the West.” He also earned millions in the gold rush and was one of California’s first U.S senators. In 1856, his popularity and opposition to slavery earned him the first presidential nomination of the fledging Republican Party.
Fremont remained popular despite a poor military record during the Civil War. He later served as governor of the Arizona territory.
The “Pathfinder of the West” who was born in Savannah died July 13, 1890, Today in Georgia History.