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A Renaissance woman: Cassie Hill

Cassie Hill not only served as an express agent for Wells Fargo in Roseville, California, from 1884 to 1908, she also served as a local agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad and her town’s telegraph operator.
A woman sits and looks at a book. To the right, an aged document says: Wells Fargo & Company Express and Banking Agency Appointment. This certifies that Mrs. C. Hill has been appointed agent of Wells Fargo & Co.’s Express Roseville, Cal.
Featured photo caption: Wells Fargo agent Cassie Tomer Hill and her agency appointment certificate. Photo Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives.

You could say Cassie Hill had a gift for multitasking. From her office at the busy railroad depot, Hill, who served as a Wells Fargo agent in Roseville, California, from 1884 to 1908, started her workday early and ended it late. As local agent for the Southern Pacific Railroad, she oversaw depot operations, confirmed schedules, sold tickets, and made sure the U.S. mail bags were ready to move on passing trains. Since Roseville was located at the junction of two main rail lines, with dozens of trains passing through daily, that one job would have been enough. But Hill also managed Wells Fargo’s office and served Roseville’s 400 residents as their local express agent.

A brown colored certificate-type document reads Wells, Fargo & Company Express and Banking, Agency appointment. Handwritten entries certify Mrs. C. Hill has been appointed agent of Wells Fargo & Co's Express at Roseville, California. Small print detailing agent's duties follows. Image is color.
Wells Fargo agents did not carry badges. Their authority came from agency appointment certificates, prominently displayed in their office. Cassie Hill’s appointment, dated May 14, 1884, listed her responsibilities as Wells Fargo agent in Roseville. Photo Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives.

Hill’s story reflects the experience of other women Wells Fargo hired as managers of its express offices in cities and small towns. Mary Taggart was the first known woman agent, hired in Palmyra, Nebraska, in 1873. By 1918, Wells Fargo had hired at least 382 women agents, including Hill.

Like all Wells Fargo agents, Hill helped customers send money, valuables, and goods over Wells Fargo’s network of express offices across the country. She sold Wells Fargo express money orders so neighbors could safely send money to far-off relatives, pay bills, or place orders with Sears Roebuck or other distant merchants. Whether they had a debt to collect, a deed to file, a watch that needed repair, or some other special task that needed personal attention, Wells Fargo customers could commission Hill to arrange to have that business taken care of by one of the company’s thousands of agents in other towns. Hill recorded and tracked every package, letter, and parcel that arrived in Roseville under Wells Fargo’s care and made sure customers received their goods as soon as possible. Outgoing express business received equally prompt attention, especially perishable fruit or livestock shipped by local farmers.

Hill was more than her community’s commercial link to the outside world — she was also the town’s telegraph operator, able to send or receive important messages night and day over the telegraph wire. Hill learned how to operate the telegraph while working side by side with her husband George. She assisted him in his duties as railroad and express agent, while keeping an eye on their growing brood of children. Hill became Wells Fargo’s agent in Roseville in May 1884. When her husband died suddenly a few years later, Hill became the sole provider for her family. She lived with her five children in a residence attached to the rail depot. Two of her sons helped out as telegraph operator and baggage clerk.

Yellow telegram to James Hume signed by Hill, Agent Wells Fargo and Co. Dated May 14, 1884.
Agents also assisted company special officers in investigations pursuing criminals. This telegram from Hill to James Hume reported that a witness did not arrive in Roseville as expected. She sent this message on her first day on the job. Photo Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives

Hill remained Roseville’s Wells Fargo agent for 24 years, from 1884 until her retirement in 1908. She continued to live in Roseville for three decades more, enjoying her growing family, investing in real estate, volunteering with community groups, and driving her own automobile until she was 85 years old. She lived to the age of 100 and died in May 1955. Wells Fargo opened an operations center in Roseville in 1995, named the Cassie Hill Center in her honor. Today, Wells Fargo continues to celebrate the work of its women in leadership.

Meet some of our other women agents

A black and white photo shows a woman wearing a blouse, skirt, and hat as she stands between train tracks and a building. Her hands are in her pockets, and full sacks are propped up against the building. A shadow is near her feet.
As part of her job, Cassie Hill probably spent time trackside waiting for trains to arrive. Wells Fargo agent Lillie Predmore did the same at the station in Predmore, Minnesota. Photo Credit: Olmsted County Historical Society, Rochester, Minnesota.
Group of people gather before the open doors of a store. A woman stands in the doorway.
Emma F. Howard (center), agent at Ashland, Oregon, from 1892 to 1897. In Ashland, Wells Fargo’s office was conveniently located inside a local grocery store. Photo Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives
Portrait of a woman, left. Woman stands outside of a depot reading a book, right.
Tilla Patterson spent 27 years as Wells Fargo agent in Winchester, California, from 1891 to 1918. She also had a part-time job as town librarian. Photo Credit: Public Domain.
A man and a woman stand in front of a wooden building next to train tracks. Another man is seen in the doorway. The building has the name Whitham painted in white letters.
Mae Millican sent her friend a postcard with this picture of herself and a message: “What do you think of this?… Here in the same old business.” She worked as the manager of the railroad station and Wells Fargo office in Whitham, Missouri. Photo Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives.
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