Welcome to Backcountry Explorers
Backcountry Explorers Old Timer Tales
Copyright © 2015 Laymon International LLC 21143 Hawthorne Blvd. #418 Torrance, Ca 90503
The express lines were the communication lifeline to the outside during the early gold rush days. People in those early days depended on the express for all their mail needs since post offices would not be established for several years. Those who came to the gold country in 1850 left behind all thought of receiving any letters, except for the occasional letter brought from the last outpost by a friend who came later or once in a while from the occasional pack mule train.
The method of carrying express in the early 1850’s was by mounted messengers on a mule. There were no roads only trails through the mountains. At first, they made one or two trips per month; but as competition sprang up between rival companies speed became a great consideration, and the messengers made every effort to complete their delivery as quickly as possible. Letters, newspapers, small parcels, and gold-dust were carried by the express men.
S.W. Langton started his express from Marysville to Downieville, California in 1850. His business grew to the other camps in the area until he had a near monopoly. Letters for this region were sent to the Marysville post-office, and the messenger, armed with a list of patrons, was permitted to go the post-office and from there carry the mail over the trails for delivery. Langton had a list of thousands of miners with their locations and he charged one dollar for each letter delivered and newspapers were taken up for fifty cents. Letters were taken down to be mailed for half-price. The letters the messenger received from his patrons in the mountains he paid the postmaster in town twenty-five cents each to mail on to their final destination.
The expressmen had a hard time of it in the winter and many times were compelled to leave their mules and fight their way on foot through the snow. Snowshoes were unknown at the time, and the luckless messenger had to wade through the deep snow as best he could. Later on, the snow-shoe was introduced, and with these, and his backpack of letters, the expressman made it over the snow when it was too deep for mules.
The Langton & Co. Pioneer Express was replaced by the Wells, Fargo & Co. Express in 1866