African Americans joined the thousands of people who came to California from all over the world in search of gold. In the West, some found great opportunity, and often bought freedom for enslaved relatives through their earnings. As they settled into communities and professions during the 1850s, Wells, Fargo & Co. both served and employed African Americans.
William Robison drove for Wells Fargo between Stockton, California, and Sierra Nevada gold mines. Born in Virginia, Robison gained freedom serving with the U.S. Army; he arrived in California in 1847 during the Mexican-American War. While employed as a Wells Fargo wagon driver, Robison worked for civil rights in his community.
Photo courtesy The Haggin Museum, Stockton, California
A credit officer for Wells Fargo Bank in Sacramento, California, Colonel George S. Roberts was one of the renowned Tuskegee Airmen, the first African Americans to fly during World War II. He flew 78 combat missions over Europe.
Photo courtesy the Roberts family
Stagecoach driver George Monroe’s father was a ’49er from Georgia, and Monroe became the top reinsman for the Yosemite Stage & Turnpike Company. The passengers he carried into this gorgeous national treasure included three U.S. Presidents. Ulysses S. Grant, a fine judge of horses and driving, rode on the driver’s seat beside Monroe.