Remme’s Great Ride

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The thud of horses’ hoofs resounds through history, and occasionally a great ride is singled out for song or story—Paul Revere’s, Jack Jouett’s, and those fellows’ who brought the good news from Ghent to Aix, for instance. Louis Remme’s great ride was possibly more heroic than any of those, although it was not made for any lofty, altruistic purpose. It was made, quite simply, to save his fortune. We retell the story here as adapted from an account m the Portland Oregonian for February 12, 1882. This was drawn to our attention by Mr. Vern Hammond, of Marysville, California, who located it with the help of Mrs. Irene Simpson Neasham, director of the History Room of the Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco.

Sacramento City was a booming town in the spring of 1855. She had thoroughly recovered from the floods and the fires, and had half the gold of the Sierras dumped into her lap. At that time there were five banking institutions there, to wit, Adams & Co., Wells, Fargo & Co., John M. Rhodes, D. O. Mills & Co., and Harris, Marchand & Co. All these concerns not only received deposits and sold exchange but purchased gold dust also. One day a cattle dealer named Louis Remme came into Adams & Co.’s bank with $12,500 in fifty-dollar pieces, which he deposited and took a certificate for. A week rolled around, and Remme was down at San Francisco, having a good time, when, on the morning of Saturday, February 17, the good old steamer Oregon arrived from Panama with 540 passengers. She brought the news of the failure of the greatest banking house west of the Allegheny Mountains, the old and hitherto reliable firm of Page, Bacon & Co., of St. Louis.

A terrible financial panic sprang up in consequence of the receipt of this intelligence. Page, Bacon & Co. hadjust moved into their new banking house, and the bank had been open just twenty minutes when the steamer arrived. A “run” was started up that lasted till 4 P.M. , and then the bank closed till the following Monday, having paid out over four hundred thousand dollars. The run was resumed on Monday morning and began to extend itself to other banks. Page, Bacon & Co. closed its doors that afternoon, never to open again. Then at two o’clock on Tuesday morning, Delos Lake, judge of the Twelfth Judicial District, got up out of his bed and appointed Alfred A. Cohen receiver of the assets of Adams & Co., and that was the last the depositors ever saw of their money.

Louis Remme returned to Sacramento on Monday night’s boat and Tuesday morning called on the agent of Adams & Co. to get his money. He was told with a bland smile that the concern had gone into liquidation and if he wanted his money, he must get it through Cohen, the receiver, and share the expenses pro rata with other depositors. He stood stupefied a moment and then walked out into the street. He had less than a thousand dollars in the world, and something told him that to regain his money he must take some step outside of the usual mode of procedure. Should he go to Marysville? The branch bank there was already aware of the suspension. All hope seemed lost, and his brain began to reel. Broke, after five years of unceasing toil and self-denial. Stay, there was hope yet! Adams & Co. had a branch bank in Portland, but he must reach Portland ahead of the steamer, which was to sail the next day from San Francisco. It was already ten o’clock (for the banks opened at nine in those days), and as he walked toward the levee he saw a stern-wheel boat just getting ready to start for Knight’s Landing, forty-two miles above Sacramento. To jump aboard was but the work of a moment.

He knew that every mile of riding that he could save was so much gained, and forty-two miles was a great gain. Arriving at Knight’s Landing, he got a horse from Knight himself and rode to the head of Grand Island, where he got a fresh horse from old Judge Diefendorf. All through the Sacramento Valley he could borrow horses of his personal friends and was at no expense till after he got into the mountains. He finally got to where he had to buy a horse every thirty miles and change as often as possible. Every new horse cost him eighty dollars, and he did not know whether he would ever see it again; nordid he care whether he rode a horse to death or not. He went through Red Bluff after night and ate his breakfast at the Tower House on Clear Creek, thirteen miles above Shasta. Here ended everything that bore the semblance of a wagon road, and henceforth a narrow bridle path was all he had to go by. As the day wore along he reached the Trinity River and found himself in the vast knot of pine-clad mountains where the Coast Range ties itself to the Sierra Nevada.

The blinding snows of a February night began to darken his trail, but he kept his horse moving briskly till he reached Trinity Center. Here he found it impossible to purchase a horse, but a good-natured miner offered to lend him a fresh one provided he would return it in two weeks. The wind howled frightfully as he began the ascent of Trinity Mountain, but he pushed all but his purpose out of his mind. It was now forty-eight hours since he had closed his eyes, and his brow grew hot and feverish, notwithstanding the intense cold and whirling snow. The tall firs and tamaracks creaked with their fleecy burden, and every once in a while a great forest monarch would fall to the ground with a crash that made the hills ring out with its shivering boom.