Coming of the Telegraph

This year, one of the events that our local Ridge Route Communities Museum is commemorating is the 150 th Anniversary of the arrival of telegraph service to our mountain area.

Fort Tejon as it was in 1860's when the Telegraph arrived
Fort Tejon as it was in 1860’s when the Telegraph arrived

It was June of 1860 when the Los Angeles Star newspaper reported on the long awaited telegraph. The article read:

“We have, for a long time heard of the construction of a telegraph line from the Pacific to the Atlantic . It’s progress, until lately, has been slow. The wires are already in working order to Visalia and the work is being pushed on rapidly thence to this place.”

Redwood poles were shipped from northern California to the harbor in San Pedro where they were then loaded onto wagons. Crews installed the poles as they moved along relieving the load as they climbed the mountains north of Los Angeles . Crews also continued down the San Joaquin Valley and our local telegraph station at Fort Tejon was finally established in October of 1860.

Hauling Poles
Hauling Poles

With the pending Civil War the need for communication between military posts was of great importance. For the few civilians of our area this was a great convenience as you might have had to only ride a half day to send a message of the need for a doctor who then might arrive from Los Angeles or Visalia a couple of days later.

There was no other convenience of the mid-1800’s that brought people closer together and streamlined life as much as did the telegraph. The mayordomo of Tejon Ranch, J. J. Lopez said:

A telegraph message being received or sent.
A telegraph message being received or sent.

“It was a great savings of time and horseflesh. “General Beale would always telegraph us when to expect him at the ranch, and after he arrived, I would have to send a messenger on horseback to the Fort with as many as a dozen telegrams at a time, come to St. Louis, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and other places.”

The distance to and from Fort Tejon to the old Ranch headquarters was over fifteen miles in those days – a considerable ride.

Visit the museum to see the display and try out a telegraph.