In 1864, Senator John Conness of California introduced a bill to preserve the magnificent Yosemite Valley, and giant Sequoia trees, in Mariposa Big Tree Grove. Senate Bill 203 proposed granting the land to the State of California for preservation, public use, and recreation “inalienable for all time.” Conness’ legislation swiftly passed both houses of Congress, and President Lincoln signed the bill into law June 30, 1864.
Prior to his term in the U.S. Senate, John Conness had served as Wells Fargo’s express agent in the mining town of Georgetown, Calif. He came west in 1849 looking for gold, but found more success as a small business owner in Georgetown. He became Wells Fargo’s agent in 1856 ,sending and receiving gold, money and goods for local miners and merchants. Conness went to Washington in 1863, representing the Golden State until 1869.
In 1902, Willard E. Worden opened a photographic studio in San Francisco. He found much to capture on film, including the rugged splendor of the Yosemite Valley. Worden was widely known in Europe: His work was exhibited at the Louvre. Late in life, Worden bequeathed a large portion of his work to Wells Fargo Bank, having been impressed with its commitment to history. He died in 1946.