The Journal of San Diego History
July 1958, Volume 4, Number 3
Jerry MacMullen, Editor

AMONG THE FAMOUS MEN who visited San Diego in the early days was Henry Wells, of the Wells Fargo Express. Under the heading “New Express Company,” the following item appeared in the San Diego Union March 12, 1875:

A meeting was held at the Horton House on Thursday evening at which were present Mr. Henry Wells, of Wells, Fargo & Co., Hon. H. S. Stevens, delegate from Arizona, Wm. Zeckendorf, of Tucson, J. C. Truman of Binghampton, New York, and several Eastern gentlemen of capital, temporarily sojourning in the city, and citizens of San Diego. Mr. Wells presided at the consultation, which was with reference to the formation of a company to carry on an express business between San Diego and Tucson, Arizona, with a view, we believe, to ultimate extension through New Mexico. After a thorough discussion of the project it was decided to organize an Express company, and stock to the amount of two hundred thousand dollars was at once subscribed. There is no doubt that the enterprise will be a paying investment from the beginning. With the father of the American express system at its head its success is assured.

And there the story ends. What became of the $200,000 company? Was the service ever put on? In San Francisco, Miss Irene Simpson, Director of the History Room of the Wells Fargo Bank, has turned up a stock certificate for the Arizona & New Mexico Express Co., issued at Cleveland, Ohio, on Jan. 12, 1876. Wells’ picture is on the certificate, and he is listed as president. Was this the company which was organized at the Horton House so long ago?

We are confronted with an intriguing gap in the history of our local transportation – unless, of course, this was just another “paper” company!

IN 1882 THE CONDITION OF SAN DIEGO as regarded tidiness and sanitation, apparently left much to be desired. On March 24 an open meeting was held at Horton Hall to discuss the situation. On the same day a letter to the editor of the San Diego Union appeared in print carrying the following recommendations:

Let each household take care of its own premises. Here are three practical ways of doing this:

1st. Bury your dead hens, cats and dogs at the foot of your trees. They make excellent nourishment for vegetation. The soil and roots dispose of them in a very thorough and cleanly way, and so make of a very bad thing, a very good thing. It is not only filthy, unhealthful and criminal to throw such things into the streets or back lots: it is absolute folly, since it is a great waste of excellent tree food.

2nd. Instead of making a drain above or underground for dishwater, where it becomes a source of filth and disease, dig up a small spot of soil in your garden or grounds, each day or so, and throw the bad water there. The loose soil will rapidly take it up . . . a few minutes will suffice to rake out the old spot and dig up a new one. The modern household sink and drain-pipe are a standing nuisance and peril. Abolish them. Don’t have them in your house. Carry all dishwater outdoors.

This writer, who called himself Another Citizen, went on to deal with even less savory aspects of local sanitation and its shortcomings. Oddly he missed mentioning a matter that troubled others at the time, the practice of Chinese fishermen of cleaning fish for
housewives and casually throwing the offal in the streets. The general reaction he helped arouse did not overlook them, however. The Chinese, unlike the housewives, were in no position to fight back in the California of the Eighties.

CELEBRATIONS OF OVERLAND MAIL SERVICE developments of a century ago have called forth a tremendous amount of
information on the subject. As in any other field of history, not all that is printed and spoken in this regard is correct. A most popular error is that the San Antonio to San Diego mail line of James Birch was the
first overland mail service because it was opened the year before the
Butterfield route’s inauguration. This is based on the premise that the
Butterfield line was thought to be important because it was believed
to have been first, which is not the case in any sense.

Actually the Birch, or “Jackass” Mail was not even the earliest transcontinental service to San Diego, let alone the whole state of California. The San Diego Herald for November 5, 1854, contained the following item:


The Salt Lake Mail arrived here on Saturday, the 29th ult., after we had gone to press. The mail for the Pacific will hereafter come direct to San Diego instead of the tedious and difficult route via Sacramento as heretofore. This is the nearest point on the Pacific, and besides it can be traveled at all seasons of the year.

The Herald goes on at some length about the news from the East, and gives attention to the fact that the connections from Salt Lake City eastward were inadequate. The first contracts for that part of the run had been let in 1850, but no one had had much luck to that time in keeping to the schedule. The contractor for the San Diego-Salt Lake section was George Chorpenning, who had transported the mails from Utah to Northern California in a commendable fashion since getting his first post office contract to do it in 1851. Shortly after the San Diego service was opened the terminus was changed to San Pedro. Chorpenning was allowed twenty-eight days en route. The compensation was $12,500. The service was continued until the Butterfield line provided better connections to Southern California from the East; then this line was moved north again to serve Central California, as it had in the beginning.

This one may have been the first overland mail service to California from the East, excepting the military mails, of course; however, it is risky to make sweeping statements. Does any reader have information as to an earlier line?

A VISITOR OF HISTORIC INTEREST came to San Diego in July of 1958. The yacht Angelita is the last four-masted barque ever built, having been launched at Kiel, Germany, by Krupp in 1931, as the Hussar. This ship is also the last vessel ever built to carry a skysail; most sailing ships built since the days of the clippers carried no sails above their royals. In addition, at 2,323 tons, she is probably the largest sailing yacht in history, and her 210 foot main mast, is one of the tallest masts ever stepped in any ship of any description.