Buffalo’s Historical California Connection
At the corner of Fargo Avenue and Jersey Street on Buffalo’s west side you’ll find an historical marker on the spot where the Fargo mansion once stood. It took up the entire block of land and among the visitors were Presidents Grant and Cleveland and author Mark Twain. If you take a walk around the Erie Canal Harbor development downtown you’ll find a sign telling the story of William Fargo. He served as Buffalo mayor in the 1860’s, but he’s better known as the Fargo half of Wells, Fargo and Company.
When gold was discovered in California in 1849 – it created a huge demand for the shipping of freight across the country from the east coast. Mining companies spread across Northern California needed all kinds of supplies, so there was a great opportunity for anybody who could get those supplies there safely. Henry Wells and William Fargo drew up contracts with independent stagecoach companies and started advertising they could safely deliver whatever it was you wanted to send across the country and on time. They called their company American Express. If you had a special delivery message or package – they’d send a guy on horseback – Pony Express. They’d charge you extra for it – but people were willing to pay.
When the transcontinental railroad was completed, the company switched to the railroad to carry its freight. Eventually, its shipping network connected 6,000 locations from the east coast across the country to California.
Wells, Fargo and Company got its start in Buffalo. William Fargo delivered mail on horseback when he just 13 and became an agent for a shipping company for deliveries between Albany and Buffalo along the Erie Canal. He was a long-time resident of Buffalo and was elected mayor. Fargo Avenue is named after him and he’s buried at Forest Lawn.
Wells, Fargo and Company was launched on this day, March 18th, 1852.