Before the 20th century, with its many innovations in firefighting and other preparedness, communities were often ravaged by fire and other disasters. Such a disaster in Iowa Hill, California, made one of the legends that adds to the fame of Wells Fargo. Here’s the story of a dog that remained steadfast in the line of duty.
In gold rush days, Wells Fargo agents sometimes had dogs to help guard Wells Fargo treasure. In Auburn, California, agent John Q. Jackson had a 128-pound Mastiff as “friend, counselor and safe guard.” Down the road at Iowa Hill, agent T.S. Hotchkiss also had a loyal canine. Wells Fargo’s office at Iowa Hill was prospering, with as much as $100,000 in gold passing weekly through the office. (That’s about $1.5 million today.) To enhance security, Hotchkiss got a powerful dog named Tiger. “Tig” was trained to lay by the safe and guard it from the hands of all but his master. Tig performed his duty without incident for several years.
In 1857, fire swept Iowa Hill and destroyed most of the buildings in town. The Wells Fargo office was among the structures destroyed; at the time of the fire, Tig was at his post. Agent Hotchkiss rescued him from the office twice, but in the excitement Hotchkiss did not have time to tie the dog securely and keep Tig from harm. Attention centered on the fire, which spread rapidly and enveloped the office completely. It was not safe in the street, and it was not possible to enter the buildings.
The following morning, Agent Hotchkiss found the charred remains of his heroic friend in the ruins.
Such faithfulness led dogs to become a universal symbol of security and service for the express business. A dog on the treasure box graced the cover of Wells Fargo’s Directory of Agents and Offices for 1883 with the legend “alert and faithful.” In 1893, a Wells Fargo employee posed his bulldog puppy on top of a Wells Fargo Treasure Box at the Midwinter Fair in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Thereafter, the image of Jack on the treasure box became a favorite of Wells Fargo offices around the country. “Jack” has become a part of Wells Fargo history and remains a favorite of Wells Fargo team members today.
But for Wells Fargo, it means more than just fierce protection of customers’ assets. Jack the Dog also remembers Iowa Hill’s Tig, a Wells Fargo legend for making the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
Immeasurable thanks to Marianne Babal, Wells Fargo Historian, whose core research and texts comprise this entry.
Note: This story was originally published on Dec. 11, 2006.