Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com advises that these 19th Century
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FARGO, William George, Expressman, born in Pompey, New York, 20 May 1818; died in Buffalo, N. Y., 3 August 1881. He worked for his living from the age of thirteen, attending school for a few winters only. He was engaged for some time in mercantile business, but in 1841 removed to Auburn and became freight agent for the Atburn and Syracuse railroad company. He left this place in 1842 to become ruessenger for Pomerov and company's express, running from Buffalo to Albany, and was made resident agent of the company in Buffalo in 1843. Mr. Fargo, in connection with Henry Wells and Daniel Dunning, organized in January 1844, the first express company running west from Buffalo, under the name of Wells and company.
At first the line reached only to Detroit, but the business was gradually extended to Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. In 1845 the firm became Livingston and Fargo, and remained thus until 1850, when the American Express Company, uniting the interests of several firms, was organized. Henry Wells was president and William G. Fargo secretary of this company till its consolidation with the Merchants' union express company in 1868, when Mr. Fargo succeeded to the presidency. At the time of his death the corporation had a capital of $18,000,000, maintained 2,700 offices, and gave employment to more than 5,000 men, of whom 600 were messengers.
In 1851 he was associated with Henry Wells and others in the organization of a company that undertook the transaction of express business between New York and San Francisco by way of the isthmus, and also operated interior lines on the Pacific coast under the firm name of Wells, Fargo and company. This was continued until the completion of the transcontinental railways, when the management was transferred to western capitalists, but Mr. Fargo remained a director of the company and its vice president. Mr. Fargo was a director of various railroads, was largely interested in various Buffalo enterprises, and from 1862 till 1866 was mayor of that City.
His brother, James Dongdel Fargo, born in Pompey, New York, 5 May 1829, entered the employ of Wells and company in 1844 in Buffalo, and remained there until 1848. He was then transferred to Detroit, and a few years later to Chicago, where he became agent and manager of the American express company. In 1866 he came to New York City as the general superintendent and manager of the company's interests, which office he held until 1881, when he succeeded to the presidency of the company. Mr. Fargo is also president of the Merchants' despatch transportation company, and director of several important railroad and express corporations.
Another brother, Charles Fargo, born in Pompey, New York, 15 April 1831, entered the express business in Detroit in 1851. In 1853 he was made agent of the Toledo office of the American express company, and three years later returned to Detroit to take charge of that office. Much of the development of Michigan is credited to his energy in pushing the express into remote districts, making possible the ready transportation of produce to the markets. In 1866 he became assistant general superintendent of the company, with general management of the Chicago office, and after the death of William O. Fargo he became second vice president and general western manager.
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