Snowshoe Thompson (July 2000)
Thompson left his native country of Norway in 1837 when he was ten years old. He arrived in California in 1851 with high hopes of finding his fortune in gold. Instead of mining or panning, Thompson ended up ranching or cutting wood to make ends ...
In 1856 an article appeared in the Sacramento Union newspaper:
The greatest cry from the people is for mail. Congress passed a bill August 18, 1856 providing for a post route from Placerville, California to Genoa, Utah Territory. No one else wanted the job. Snowshoe, having traveled out west for the Gold Rush, was eager for the challenge.
In Telemark, Norwegians used snowshoes for winter transportation . So Snowshoe falling back on his Norwegian upbringing, constructed a pair of snowshoes from memory of green oak wood. The snowshoes were heavy and cumbersome. They weighed about 25 lbs and were 10 ft. long! Even for his 6-foot frame, they were difficult to maneuver. Snowshoe accepted the task to carry the mail over the Sierra in the dead of winter from Placerville, California, to Genoa, Nevada. Genoa, it seems, was cut off from civilization once the snow started falling, October to April. People living east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and west of Salt Lake lose contact with the outside world as winter snows cut off all communications. The new mail carrier was quickly nicknamed Snowshoe. He skied 25 to 40 miles a day to keep his delivery on schedule.
For 20 years ending in 1876, Snowshoe Thompson was Genoa's winter lifeline to the outside world. Nothing could stop Snowshoe Thompson. No blizzard was severe enough, no amount of cold frigid enough to make him call it quits. He was the only man to regularly carry the mail between Genoa, Utah and the foothill mining community of Placerville, California from 1856 and 1876, the year of his death.
Today, Snowshoe's grave is at the Genoa Cemetery but the "Friends of Snowshoe Thompson" just launched a fund-raising campaign to build a memorial to Genoa's most famous historical figure at Mormon Station State Park in Nevada.