The “Wire-Rope Express”

“James Street, Pacific Telegraph agent,  . . . had held several “confabs” with Shokup, chief of the Shoshones, and believed there was nothing to fear from the Indians in that vicinity.

The Alta California, July 9 1801 (quoted in the St. Louis Missouri Democrat, August 6), published the details of one of these meetings at Robert’s creek. Shokup was very friendly, but pointed out that before the white man arrived his tribe was happy and enjoyed plenty of game and roots; now the game had disappeared and the roots were almost extinct, making him unhappy, as his people were hungry. One of his wives was dangerously ill, and her doctor blamed the Overland Mail as the cause. The interpreter denied that this could be possible, and invited Shokup to ride on the stage to San Francisco. He accepted, but on arriving at Carson City resolved to return. He called the telegraph the ‘wire-rope express,’ and could not believe that, after arriving at San Francisco he could talk with his wife almost as quickly as if he were at her side. He supposed the Express to be an animal, and when told it consumed lightning, could not understand what sort of beast it was. He wired the ‘Big Captain’ at San Francisco that his Indians would not trouble the line, and wished to be the friends of the whites. General Carpenter, president of the Overland Telegraph, ordered presens sent to Sholrup and his tribesmen.”