Col. William Jefferson "Jeff" Gatewood

Jeff Gatewood, 1830-1888

William Jefferson “Jeff” Gatewood is remembered as one of the co-founders of the San Diego Union newspaper as well as for a duel which he fought in San Andreas, California. He was born in Gallatin County, Illinois, the oldest son of Elewisa Hubbard and William Jefferson Gatewood, an attorney, a state legislator and a colleague of Abraham Lincoln. His parents had come from Warren County, Kentucky to southern Illinois in the early 1800s when Illinois was just beginning to be settled. The family was living in the town of Equality in Gallatin County when Jeff’s father, a state senator at the time, died suddenly of a heart attack in Springfield, the state capital. Jeff was about twelve and the oldest of the four surviving children. His mother, Elewisa, remarried in 1845 to Jarvis Pierce, a widower. The family was living in Harrisburg, Saline County, in 1850 but Jeff had left home by then. In 1847 he enlisted in Shawneetown, Gallatin County, in Capt. Lawler's Independent Company, Illinois Mounted Volunteers, serving during the Mexican-American War. He mustered out in 1848 as a bugler. How he came to be called "Colonel" is a mystery.1 By 1850 he had headed West to California and was living in Sacramento. In 1856 he was in San Andreas, a gold mining town in the Sierra foothills in Calaveras County. He had a law practice there and served as the District Attorney for Calaveras County from 1856 to 1864.2

When and where he met Mary Crosthwaite is unknown, but she and Jeff were married in San Francisco in 1857. On 17 September 1859 Jeff was involved in a duel with another San Andreas resident, Dr. Peterson Goodwyn. They had argued the day before in a saloon on Main Street and Goodwyn had called Gatewood a “damned old abolitionist.” They met the next morning. along with their seconds and others, near Fourth Crossing, a few miles outside of town, where Jeff Gatewood fatally shot Dr. Goodwyn. Gatewood extended his apologies, to which Goodwyn replied, ““I am glad to know that you acted like a gentleman.” Goodwyn died a few hours later and Gatewood was exonerated.3

Jefferson Gatewood was also the publisher of The San Andreas Register from 1863 until 1868 when he left San Andreas for San Diego. Philip Crosthwaite, a San Diego pioneer and Mary’s brother, came to visit her that year in San Andreas and convinced Jeff Gatewood to come to San Diego and start a newspaper since San Diego had no newspaper at that time. Jeff went down to San Diego, was impressed with what he saw and returned to San Andreas where he convinced Edward W. Bushyhead to become his partner in the enterprise. Bushyhead was not as enthusiastic but, in the end, had all the printing equipment sent by the steamer Orizaba to San Diego in September. On 10 October 1868 the first edition of the San Diego Union was published, all of four pages long. It was a weekly newspaper at the time.4

The first office of The San Diego Union newspaper, Old Town, San Diego. The first issue was published on 10 October 1868. The building was constructed in Maine and shipped by sea to California in 1851. It later became the first office of the San Diego Union. The building is still in Old Town and visitors can view the original print room.

Gatewood did not remain a publisher long, selling out to Charles P. Taggart in 1869. He continued his law practice in San Diego with his office located at the downtown Horton Bank Block at 3d and D Streets. His obituary noted that "he was a brilliant speaker, and as a lawyer he ranked with the best."5 In 1871 Jeff and Mary celebrated their fourteenth wedding anniversary in Old Town at the home of Mary's brother, Undersheriff Crosthwaite.6 In the 1880 census Jeff was 50 and his wife, Mary, was 47. They had no children. They lived in Old Town for many years, later moving to "New Town" - downtown San Diego. Mary died in 1881 and Jeff died in 1888. The San Diego Union obituary noted that he was aboard his schooner, "Rosita," when he died from heart problems. The Daily Bee reported his death aboard the yacht "Queen" at the foot of F Street. Mary and Jeff Gatewood were buried in the Mt. Hope Cemetery in San Diego in unmarked graves not far from the spire marking the burial of Alonzo E. Horton, called by many the father of San Diego.7 Jeff Gatewood is remembered in the town of San Andreas with a street named after him - Gatewood Avenue. The small lane goes westward off of Highway 49 and is near the cemetery.

Related Links
Hubbard and Gatewood families
Hubbard descent report, with sources
Gatewood descent report, with sources
Record of marriage: William Jefferson Gatewood and Elewisa Hubbard
Obituary: William Jefferson Gatewood, 1842
Obituaries: Col. William Jefferson Gatewood, 1888, and his wife, Mary Crosthwaite Gatewood, 1881

The photo of William Jefferson Gatewood, above, is from the San Diego Police Historical Association webpage and has no source documentation:
The photo of the historical building in Old Town comes from Wikimedia Commons website and was taken by Joe Mabel.
See more information on the San Diego Union Building on the California Department of Parks and Recreation webpage for Old Town San Diego.

  1. "Gatewood was Private in War with Mexico," newspaper article by Joe Stone. No date nor name of newspaper. From the Gatewood File, San Diego History Center, Research Library, Balboa Park, San Diego, California. The article was probably in the San Diego Union.

  2. Letter from J.A. Smith in San Andreas, CA, to Francis P. Farquhar in San Francisco, 3 May 1937. Gatewood File, San Diego History Center, Research Library, Balboa Park, San Diego, California.

  3. "A Fatal Duel at San Andreas," Newspaper article, San Andreas Independent, San Andreas, Calaveras County, California, Saturday, 17 Sept 1859. Accessed at Newspaper Abstracts, Goodwyn challenged Gatewood on Thursday night and the duel took place early Friday morning.

    Goodwyn is also referred to as Dr. P. Goodwin, Preston Goodwin or Goodwyn and Dr. Gooding. His name, Dr. Peterson Goodwyn, can be found in Students of the University of Virginia: A Semi-centennial Catalogue with Brief Biographical Sketches. Charles Harvey & Company, 1878, accessed June 2015 at the website.

  4. "Early Journalism in San Diego: The San Diego Herald and The San Diego Union," by Teri Thorpe, The Journal of San Diego History, San Diego Historical Society Quarterly, Summer 1982, Vol. 28, no. 3. Accessed online at the San Diego History Center website,

    "Chief Edward W. Bushyhead," Biographical sketch of Edward. W. Bushyhead, co-founder, with Jeff Gatewood, of the San Diego Union, and later Police Chief in San Diego. San Diego Police Museum website,

    "The San Diego Union Building, California Department of Parks and Recreation webpage for Old Town San Diego:

  5. "Colonel Gatewood Dead," Obituary of William Jefferson Gatewood, San Diego Union, Tuesday, 27 March 1888, p.5, col. 4.

  6. "Wife Died in 1881," Newspaper clipping, undated, name of newspaper not noted. Gatewood File, San Diego History Center, Research Library, Balboa Park, San Diego, California.

  7. "Wife Died in 1881," Newspaper clipping, undated, name of newspaper not noted. Gatewood File, San Diego History Center, Research Library, Balboa Park, San Diego, California.

    Mt. Hope Cemetery Office in San Diego confirmed, 21 July 2015, that the Gatewoods are buried in the cemetery, Division 3, Section 9, Lot 27, Mary in grave 1 and Jeff in grave 2.

Anne Healy's Genealogy, Created October 2002
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14 June 2015
Updated 8 Aug 2015

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