John Howard Watson came to California during the gold rush and was elected as an Assembly member soon after his arrival. Only a year after being elected as an assemblyman he resigned from his position. Later, John Howard Watson was appointed as a third district federal judge, of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Contra Costa Counties. Yet again, his work for the government, in a different position, was short lived as he resigned the year after he was appointed.
John Howard Watson was sold the Rancho de los Rodriquez, a village which became the city of Watsonville. Watson lived within the land he purchased for nine years before moving to Mountain City, Nevada.