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Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Bank Rich - In History

I moved to Arizona in 1997. Even as a writer, words cannot describe how much I love this state. I love its geographic diversity from tall mountains to low desert, and I love its rich history. I could literally spend every waking moment from now till the time I die researching the various aspects of Arizona's past.

There is one institution in Arizona that thrives commercially today that has a hand in Arizona's past - Wells Fargo & Company. Every time I pass a Wells Fargo branch or ATM, it is like seeing living history in action. Sure, the role of Wells Fargo has changed quite a bit - they are no longer in the freighting and transportation business, bu they still have a hand in helping Arizonans manage their daily lives.

Wells Fargo's link to Arizona goes way back to 1858. The company was formed in 1852 in San Francisco (there is a Wells Fargo Museum there that I have not yet had the privilege to visit) and in 1858 Wells Fargo helped finance the first stagecoaches that rolled into Arizona with mail and passengers via the Overland Mail service.

By 1860, Wells Fargo had begun to open express offices in Arizona as well.

Wells Fargo, as well as Arizona residents, suffered large setbacks during the Civil War. Because of the war in the east, almost all the troops were withdrawn at the start of the Civil War and forts burned or abandoned - what little law and order that had been established was completely gone and residents either fled the territory or were forced to fend for themselves. So Wells Fargo had no choice but to cease operations as well.

But as mining interests picked up in the 1870's, Wells Fargo once again returned to Arizona where it continued to develop its services over the subsequent years. It continued to offer express service business until around 1912, when the federal government took over express operations and Wells Fargo left the state.

But like the hardy plant life, animals and people of Arizona, Wells Fargo could not be held back forever. Though absent from Arizona for several decades, the modern Wells Fargo re-emerged in the Grand Canyon state in 1996. And now, even in the midst of a metropolitan area that teems with what feels like gazillions of people in an atmosphere that feels so far removed from those pioneer days, all I have to do is locate the nearest Wells Fargo to once again feel connected to the rich history of this wonderful state.

1 comment:

Charles Riggs said...

Hi B.K. –

Thanks so much for your interest in Wells Fargo’s colorful past! Check out our blog, “Guided By History” ( and our history website at

But even better for you, visit our History Museum in downtown Phoenix at 100 W. Washington. (602) 378-1852. The exhibits are as awesome as our rich heritage!

Charles Riggs
Wells Fargo History
San Francisco