In early 1848, financiers and entrepreneurs from all over North America and the world flocked to California drawn by the promise of huge profits soon after gold was found at Sutter's Mill near the small Californian township of Coloma. Vermont native Henry Wells and New Yorker William G. Fargo, two major figures in the young and fiercely competitive express industry, watched the California boom economy with keen interest. On March 18, 1852, they organized Wells, Fargo & Company, a joint-stock association with an initial capitalization of $300,000, to provide express and banking services to California.
In 1866, Wells Fargo bought out the the expanding Overland Express network controlled by transportation tycoon Ben Holladay and combined it with the Pioneer and the Overland Mail stagelines to create the largest stagecoach empire in the world. Stagecoaches carrying the Wells, Fargo & Co. name rolled from Nebraska to California via Denver and Salt Lake City. From Denver, coaches served the mining towns of the Rockies, and from Salt Lake City, they carried mail and passengers to boomtown centers of commerce (and self vigilance) in Montana and Idaho.
In 1869 at Promontory, Utah, dignitaries hammered in a Golden Spike which joined the rails of the Transcontinental Railroad and ended an era of Wells Fargo overland stageline operations. However, stagecoaches continued rolling wherever the railroads did not. Wells Fargo contracted with independent stageline operators to carry treasure boxes and express, even into the early 20th Century.