I concentrate on stories of northern California, and this isn’t one, but who can resist a good dog story? It’s the story of Dorsey, a dog who carried the mail in the mining camps of San Bernardino County.
Dorsey was a stray dog in the Calico mining camp until he was adopted by the town’s postmaster, Everett Stacy. The dog accompanied Stacy on visits to his brother Alwin, who ran the general store in nearby Bismark, another mining camp about a mile and a half away. One day Everett had an urgent message for his brother but didn’t want to make the three-mile round trip himself, so he tied a note to Dorsey’s collar and told Dorsey to “Git!” The dog headed out on the steep and rugged trail alone. When Dorsey returned to Calico with a reply from Alwin the following day, his career as the official mail carrier between Calico and Bismark began.
Dorsey was outfitted with a mail bag with two straps that buckled around his neck and chest and delivered the mail to the miners at Bismark every day. According to a news article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1885:
Every day, just about the time the stage is due, Dorsey wakes up from his nap, stretches himself and walks into the Post office. When the stage has arrived and the Bismarck letters have been put into Dorsey’s mailbag, the Postmaster says, ‘The mail is ready,’and Dorsey soberly walks up to have the bag fastened on. Then he starts off’ on a little trail which he has worn for himself over the hills. If he meets a stranger he makes a long detour, for he knows that he is engaged on important business and he don’t want to run any risk of having trouble. He stays in Bismarck over night and returns with the mail the next day in time for the outgoing stage. He has never missed a connection, lost a letter or been behind time. He is immensely popular with the miners, whose mail he carries so faithfully and every evening at Bismarck the miners order an extra beefsteak for the canine carrier.San Jose Mercury-News 8 October 1885, reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle
Dorsey’s mail-carrying career only lasted about a year. Everett Stacy gave Dorsey to W. W. Stow, the owner of the Bismark mine. Dorsey lived out his retirement years in canine comfort at the Stow mansion in San Francisco.
Today Calico is a park and a ghost town, officially designated as “California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town.” If you are ever near Barstow, you can visit it. Dorsey has also been the subject of a song by Kenny Rogers and a picture book by Susan Lendroth.