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Wells Fargo To Buy Wachovia

Rumors had been swirling that troubled Wachovia Bank was being eyed for a federally backed takeover by Citigroup, but instead it looks like it might be purchased by Wells Fargo for $15.1 billion, without government assistance. And what everyone in town wants to know is this: What’s the Buffalo connection?

Well, it all started back on May 20, 1818, in the small village of Pompey, New York, south of Syracuse. The boy born there on that date would have to support himself from the age of 13 on, working for a man named Daniel Butts, carrying village mail. Later, he worked as a grocery clerk.

In 1845, when he was still 25, railroads and canal boats only traveled as far west as Buffalo. That was the year an express carrying business running from Buffalo to Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Chicago was born. Daniel Dunning, Henry Wells, and our hero, William G. Fargo, formed Wells & Co. Later, the company would morph into a little enterprise called American Express.

When gold was discovered in California, Wells, Fargo and another partner in American Express named John Butterfield saw an opportunity to make a bundle transporting freight from the booming west to the business centers of the east. They formed a separate business in San Francisco called Wells Fargo & Company in 1852. From then until 1869, when the transcontinental railroad was completed with the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, Wells Fargo enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the transport business, running deliveries throughout the wild west while simultaneously creating a dramatic American image that has been used by Hollywood from its very beginning—the stagecoach. It remains the Wells Fargo corporate symbol.

Fargo built a huge mansion on 5.5 acres of land in Buffalo, bordered by Jersey, West, Pennsylvania, and…Fargo streets. Presidents and other luminaries like Mark Twain visited there. Inside, there was a fully functioning barber shop. One can imagine Fargo sitting down every morning to receive his daily shave, freshly steamed towels on hand.

Here's a photo of the place as it looked in 1900, shortly before it burned to the ground.

And here's a picture of the hall...

Fargo went on to become mayor of Buffalo from 1862-1866, during part of the Civil War.

Of course, the Wells Fargo that’s purchasing Wachovia is more than a few steps removed from this great American tycoon, but hey, it’s a connection all the same.

You can visit and pay your respects at his impressive obelisk in Forest Lawn Cemetery. His family rest in section AA. He has rested there since 1881.