Skip to main content

It Started with a Family

Photos: Stanford University Archives

When Leland and Jane Stanford’s only son died of typhoid fever at age 15, they decided to build a university in his memory on their Palo Alto Stock Farm. Leland Stanford Junior University, nicknamed The Farm, opened on October 1, 1891.

Jane Lathrop and Leland Stanford, both born and raised in New York, married in 1850. Leland Stanford prospered as a merchant during the Gold Rush and became a railroad magnate. He was California’s governor during the Civil War and later became a U.S. senator. 

This tranquil area memorializes a family that valued work and innovation. It highlights Stanford University’s origin as a working ranch and farm where 8,180 acres continue to sustain university endeavors today.

The children of California shall be our children. It is our hope to found a university where all may have a chance to secure an education such as we intended our son to have.


A Beloved Son

Leland Stanford Junior was born at his family’s mansion in Sacramento, California, on May 14, 1868. He was 8 when his father purchased the Palo Alto Stock Farm and their countryside home became the boy’s favorite. Leland Junior enjoyed traveling, painting, and building. He knew Latin and French and had a tutor preparing him for college on what would be his last trip to Europe in 1884.

Remembrance and Renewal

The Stanford family is interred in the nearby Mausoleum, which is surrounded by the Arboretum. The Arboretum was described by Jane Stanford in 1903 as a beautiful park with shaded avenues and was a favorite project of her husband. Leland Stanford imported tens of thou-sands of plants from all over the world for the Arboretum. Nearby is the Angel of Grief sculpture — a memorial to one of Mrs. Stanford’s brothers, Henry Clay Lathrop.