Donate to Hurricane Recovery

Rockfish Storekeeper Destined to be a Founder of California

An 1846 photograph of Larkin from the California Historical Society.On September 16, 1802, Thomas Larkin, the first and only U.S. consul to the territory that became the state of California, was born.

Though not a native North Carolinian, Larkin made his way to the small Duplin County community of Rockfish, where he operated a store, served as justice of the county court and as postmaster at age 19. After about 10 years in the Tar Heel state, he became dissatisfied with life in the South and boarded a ship for Monterey, the capital of Alta California, as it was known under Mexican rule. There he ran a dry goods store and operated flour and saw mills, trading with other Mexican communities and as far away as Hawaii.

In 1843, Larkin was appointed U.S. consul to California. He went on to play an important role in the Mexican War during the presidency of James K. Polk. and covertly worked to encourage secession from Mexico at the request of Secretary of State James Buchanan.

Following the war Larkin moved to San Francisco and represented that city in the 1849 California Constitutional Convention. Benefiting from the economic boom that followed the 1849 gold rush, Larkin continued to engage in land speculation.

He died of typhoid fever in 1858.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.