Delivering Mail Over the Sierra Nevada

“Also in late 1858, Chorpenning attempted to dispel the prevalent attitude among congressmen and the postmaster general that scheduled service was impossible over the Sierra Nevada in winter. Accordingly, he negotiated a $2,000 contract with John A. ‘Snowshoe’ Thompson to maintain the road through the Genoa-Placerville passes. A longtime associate of Chorpenning, Thompson had carried mail to Carson Valley between 1854 and 1858. In 1858-59, he used snowplows and sleighs to conduct regular weekly crossings of the Sierra Nevada. When storms closed the passes to sleighs, ski couriers carried the mail across the mountains. To the surprise and disappointment of Chorpenning’s rivals, the Sierra Nevada posed no insurmountable obstacle during a particularly miserable winter.”