When Santa travels by stagecoach, Wells Fargo stays open
Julia L. Jones, a Wells Fargo agent in Mariposa, California, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, provided a link for her customers to the outside world — and even stayed open on Christmas Day so they could receive their gifts.
From 1886 to 1909, Julia L. Jones and her sister, Lucy Miller, shared the job of Wells Fargo agent in the mining town of Mariposa, California. In that role, they became their town’s main link with the outside world.
Mariposa was a county seat, a supply center for gold miners, and a resting point for tourists headed to Yosemite Valley by stagecoach. Jones held the job of Wells Fargo agent from 1892 to 1902. As part of her daily duties for Wells Fargo, Jones loaded outbound stagecoaches with gold bullion and ore samples from local mines and received shipments of gold coins and packages of merchandise consigned to Wells Fargo customers in Mariposa.
The large volume of gifts passing over the Wells Fargo counter one December prompted a local newspaper to report, “Santa Claus travels by stage this year.” Jones was so dedicated to serving her customers she even kept her office open on Christmas Day to guarantee they received their parcels in time for the holiday. Just a few of the many items handled by Jones in her time as express agent included a bass drum, books, fruit, ice cream, a hobby horse, fireworks, cigars, shoes, and a telescope.
During her time in charge of Wells Fargo’s office, Jones also won the election as Mariposa County Superintendent of Schools in 1894 — beating a male opponent by winning 60 percent of the vote in an election in which she and other women could not yet cast a ballot. She had a decade of experience teaching in local schools when she took office. During her 18 years as superintendent, she oversaw school budgets, conducted teacher-training institutes, and visited 35 schools throughout the mountainous county.
When her educator’s responsibilities took Jones out of town, her sister filled in at the Wells Fargo office. Miller held multiple jobs as town postmaster and Wells Fargo agent from 1885 to 1892 and again from 1902 until 1909. While both sisters made an impact on the area, what some customers probably remember most were the packages they were able to receive during the holidays, thanks to Jones.