Sunday, December 2, 2007

John J. Valentine and Family - Wells Fargo President

[Valentine gravesite photo by Michael Colbruno; Valentine photo from Wells Fargo archives]

Plot 33

Born November 12, 1840, John J. Valentine was the classic story of advancement. He became President of Wells Fargo & Company only after working his way all the up the corporate ladder. His first job with the company was as an agent, then a route agent, cashier, general manager, vice-president and finally president.

It was Valentine who hired the famous western legend and friend of Wyatt Earp, Fred Dodge as an undercover man for Wells Fargo & Company. Wyatt Earp, with the insistence of Dodge, was also employed by the company as someone to look after Wells Fargo's interests like being a Shot Gun Messenger and to guard heavy shipments of bullion and money.

In Tombstone, Arizona, lived the most famous of Wells Fargo agents: Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Marshall Williams and Fred Dodge. Dodge's most famous case, which spanned from November 26, 1892 through April 25, 1895, was the "Brown Paper Case." A cash shipment of two bags left New York carrying $35,000. Both bags were destined for Galveston, Texas, but to two different banks. After many stops, the bags arrived at the banks, but to the clerk's amazement instead of money he found brown paper cut to the size of bills. Dodge threw himself into the case, but to no avail. The case is also known as the Hardin Case. Hardin was one of the agents who handled the bags in transport, but unfortunately not enough evidence was gathered for his conviction, thus the case was never solved. Fortunately, Dodge received a lovely gold watch from Valentine, for all his hard work on the case.

When the mining industry attempted to resurrect hydraulic mining through federal lobbying in 1892, a miners association asked Wells Fargo & Co. to contribute to its cause. John J. Valentine declined, standing alone among major corporations in its refusal to support efforts to resume the practice.

He was a member of the Advent Episcopal Church in Oakland and Vice President of the local YMCA.

Mary "Muffie" Valentine the last surviving grandchild of John J. Valentine died on Oct. 30, 2007. Muffie graduated from Piedmont High School and from Stanford University in 1938. She was married to Douglas Albert for 66 years and a Piedmont resident for 42 years. She was a member of the Piedmont Garden Club, Children's Hospital in Oakland and the Piedmont Bridge Club.

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