Stanford first came to California during the Gold Rush in 1852, with his wife Jane Elizabeth Lathrop. Childless for the first eighteen years of their marriage, they had their first and only son Leland Stanford Jr. when Jane was almost forty. At the tender age of fifteen, Leland Jr. died of typhoid while travelling in Europe. The parents were heartbroken, and, according to Stanford history, resolved that "the children of California shall be our children."
In Stanford's obituary, the San Francisco Call wrote about the university he and his wife opened just two years prior, and endowed with $20 million.
"Without doubt the Leland Stanford Jr. University will be the most enduring monument of Governor Stanford's merits as a man and a philanthropist. Even at this early day no person visits California without looking in at the University at Palo Alto. In the years to come when the magnificent endowment has come to full fruition and the green swards of Palo Alto are covered with the contemplated structures for the home of learning, there is no saying that the University will not be the chief attraction among California's many points of interest."