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Unknown Stories of WNY: Wells Fargo, American Express, Pony Express all had roots in Buffalo

The financial giants were started by a partnership which included the future Queen City mayor.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Fargo: a Buffalo street, half of a well-known name in business and finances, and Buffalo's 27th mayor. Yep, they're all the same guy, William G. Fargo.

William Fargo came to Buffalo to work for the Auburn, Syracuse Railroad. He soon meet Henry Wells. The two went into business for themselves, forming the Western Express Company which became American Express. They also started Wells Fargo to offer delivery services to the new western frontier. The stagecoach and the Pony Express were both creations of Wells Fargo. Ultimately Fargo served as Buffalo Mayor from 1861 - 1867 and invested a large portion of his fortune into Buffalo. 

He built a 22,170 square-foot mansion, which covered 5 and a half acres of land, which is now occupied by homes and streets from Porter Avenue, south beyond Pennsylvania, Fargo and Jersey streets. Today, a historic marker sits near the corner of Fargo and Jersey to remind us of this neighborhood's proud past. Buffalo History Museum Executive Director Melissa Brown says the complex was a new level of wealth and luxury for the Queen City. 

"This was an iconic project. People were very well aware that was happening. They were very well aware of his wealth and the exuberance of this mansion." A mansion that cost $600,000, the equivalent of $15 million today. 

"It gives me pause to think that after he builds this, he's alive for less than a decade. After he dies his wife dies 2 years later." Brown says the house sat vacant for 10 years and fell into great disrepair. The family didn't have the resources to repair it, and nobody would buy it, so it was demolished.

By 1901, the estate, which covered a full city block, is subdivided into this west side neighborhood, leaving behind just a historic marker, a few pieces of the collection at the Buffalo History Museum, and another chapter in The Unknown Stories of WNY.

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