John Mathiot was born February 18, 1820, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and left his home in February 1849, to seek his fortune in the California gold mines. He sailed to the Isthmus of Panama via Charleston, South Carolina, and Havana, Cuba, and then sailed on the barque Equator for San Francisco in May 1849. After his arrival in June, Mathiot traveled to the gold mines along the American River, but by August 1850, he had grown disillusioned with his chances of finding wealth in the mines. In September, Mathiot relocated to San Francisco, where he invested in a new restaurant. He stayed with this restaurant until November 1850, when he declared his intentions to return home in December. Before he could return to Pennsylvania, however, he contracted dysentery and cholera, and died on January 2, 1851.