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Del Norte's Wells Fargo Bank and Express

The Darby building was one of the first permanent  buildings in Crescent City, constructed in 1854 on the corner of Front and F Streets. The first floor housed the Wells Fargo Express office. (Photo courtesy of Del Norte County Historical Society).
The Darby building was one of the first permanent buildings in Crescent City, constructed in 1854 on the corner of Front and F Streets. The first floor housed the Wells Fargo Express office. (Photo courtesy of Del Norte County Historical Society).

By Michelle Radison

Special to the Triplicate

In 1855, the Township of Crescent City had mushroomed into a booming area with more than 300 buildings. The gold rush of the North Coast was in full swing. Crescent City also became a major trade port on inland and sea routes. With the town booming, Wells Fargo Company established a branch in the area.

The bank and express company was already a reputable bank and stage in San Francisco. The first branch was launched in 1852 to support the gold rush of California. The office was located on Montgomery Street.

The Del Norte Wells Fargo office was housed in the Darby Building on Front Street, also the home of the Darby Theater. Agent D.W. McComb arrived to operate the branch, but he perished in the Brother Jonathon disaster and was replaced by Henry Smith in 1865. Smith remained at the post until 1867 when Dugan and Wall joined the Wells Fargo agents.

The duo remained for dozens of years. The Dugan and Wall Northern Express was established with its main branch in Crescent City. The route lay between Crescent City and Jacksonville, Ore., also running through Del Norte County. A customer could receive and forward their treasures, freight and cargo to all parts of Oregon, and with the connection to Wells Fargo, to all parts of the United States and Europe.

Besides the overland routes, the Wells Fargo Company and Hobbs & Wall used steamers to transport gold, mail and goods along the West Coast. Voyages were often made to and from Crescent City and San Francisco.

The Wells Fargo Company typically used a Concord Coach for transportation. The coach carried nine passengers on its seats and six more on the floor.

There were a list of tips given to stage travelers, such as, "The best seat on the stage is next to the driver." "In cold weather do not ride with tight fitting boots, or gloves. Also in cold weather, abstain from liqueur on the road, you will freeze twice as quickly."

Another rule geared for the ladies were, "Do not swear, and do not discuss politics or religion," and "Do not point out where murders were committed along the route when women are present."

The luggage of riders was placed on the roof. The coach not only carried passengers but treasures as well. Often beneath the seat would be gold that was carried all over the West. Naturally with the shipments, an outlaw's attention was drawn to the stage. Wanted posters and large rewards were offered quickly for the return of goods or the capture of an outlaw.

Joseph Wall, the founder, remained at the company past the turn of the century and added Del Norte County supervisor to his resume in 1883. In the 1870s, the gold rush had slowed in Del Norte County¬óthe times when miners struck it rich were ending. 1903 was the last file for the Del Norte Wells Fargo Bank and Express, as it used to be was written.

Although many records at the San Francisco headquarters were destroyed during the earthquake and fires of 1906, the story of Wells Fargo, Joseph Wall and their Del Norte ties to the company, live at the Wells Fargo history room in San Francisco.

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