'CASSIE HILL' (Con't)
Wife, Mother, Telegrapher, Wells Fargo Agent
How Wells Fargo & Company became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad in
Roseville is also an interesting piece of California history, and it set the
background for Cassie's life story. When the two great railroad lines
joined at Promontory Point in 1869, stagecoaching was for all intents and
purposes over. The romantic, rough mode of travel had given way to a better
one. But would Wells Fargo & Company get the contract to handle express
aboard the new steam-driven coaches, replacing their horse-drawn Concords?
Since the stagecoach-banking firm had not been too friendly with the
railroads, a future alliance was questionable. Then, in September of 1869,
the Central Pacific Railroad granted the Pacific Express Company the
exclusive privilege of handling express over its new tracks. Such a
situation seemed ruinous to Wells Fargo, and officers of the company lost no
time in seeking arrangements with their competitors. A Joint meeting of
directors of both companies was held at Omaha on October 4. Representing
Wells Fargo were the powerful William G. Fargo, Charles Fargo, and A.H.
At this momentous conference Wells Fargo & Company was given, for a
consideration of $5,000,000, the privilege of handling express over the
Central Pacific, which later became the Southern Pacific Railroad.
A stormy meeting of Wells Fargo stockholders followed on November 25th to
discuss how to raise the necessary funds to conclude the transaction. It
appears that this huge sum of money was raised by increasing the capital
stock of the company from $10 million to $15 million. At the time the price
paid seemed like financial hijacking, but it proved later to be sound
banking indeed. For had Wells Fargo not made this investment, its express
service might well have gone the way of its stagecoach line.
Cassie Hill was soon doing an extraordinary job for the company, both as
express agent and as one of the first women telegraphers.
There is in the history room of Wells Fargo & Company the following personal
memoir written about another Wells Fargo agent, also a woman. It describes
a typical day for the express agent.
"She took the job as agent following the death of her husband to support
herself and her son. She would rise at 4 a.m. She always kept the outside
door of her bedroom open to permit the chill night air to enter. This was
the way, she felt, to keep one's self strong and vigorous. She would take a
sponge bath with cold water, again to remain vigorous, and then rub herself
with a coarse Turkish towel till warmth returned. Then, following the style
of the day, she would put on layer after layer of clothing. She would wrap
herself in a shawl and set out for the agency office which was also the town
s Post Office.
"The first thing she had to do was build a fire in the stove, then sort and
stamp letters and unlock the heavy iron safe where gold and other valuables
were stored. Following the arrival of the morning stage, she went back home
for breakfast and then devoted an hour or so to tutoring the school children
"Then it was back to the office again, which she had to sweep out, bring in
wood for the fire, bring her books up to date, and write her reports. She
remained in the agency until the evening stage arrived, usually around 8 p.m
So her working day for Wells Fargo and Uncle Sam ran from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m.
At the time of Cassie's appointment, there was a saloon run by John Louis
Buien at one end of the depot. The depot itself occupied the central
portion of the long building, and Cassie and her family continued to live in
the upper end.
Forrest Hill, one of Cassie's five children, later recalled a particular job
he had while the family lived there. As a small boy he had made a deal with
a certain Tom Royer, whose big house and vast grounds were on Vernon Street,
where the Bank of America building currently sits. He would sell grapes and
other fruits from the Royer ranch to passengers on the trains and split the
profits fifty-fifty. Hill remembered that this deal proved to be very
All the Hill children had various small jobs while they were growing up, and
by all accounts Cassie managed the family resources quite well. She
continued to make her home in the depot until 1907, when a new building was
completed below the railroad "Y", and the old building was dismantled. Part
of it was subsequently moved to Atlantic Street, where it was used as a
To Be Continued . . . Cassie's Poem...
Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert
September 27, 2005
'A Closed Mouth Gathers No Foot.'