The Feb. 24, 1885, edition of the Sacramento Daily Union carried news of banking distress.

Six days and 665 miles: Louis Remme’s amazing bank run in 1855

When fears spread about the solvency of Silicon Valley Bank on March 9, depositors withdrew $42 billion in a single day. Scholars marveled at the swiftness of the bank run, which was turbocharged by mobile phones and social media. Not long ago, bank runs unfolded only after days or weeks of reports disseminated via television and radio. Longer ago, word of banking distress spread at steamship speed.

So in early 1855, as a financial panic began to engulf California’s banks, Louis Remme still had time. The cattleman had recently deposited $12,437.50 — his life savings — with the Adams & Company bank when the Sacramento Daily Union carried the news on Feb. 24, 1855, that Adams had “given way before the storm.”

“This monied calamity is unexampled in the history of California finances,” the newspaper reported.

The Adams & Company building in Sacramento, circa 1852. (California State Library)

Remme, as one version of the story goes, joined a crowd of fellow depositors outside the shuttered Adams branch in Sacramento and overheard a fellow lamenting that he wasn’t in Portland, where another branch remained open and unaware of the bank’s collapse.

“The steamer Columbia just left the Golden Gate this morning carrying the news up north,” the man said.

Remme’s mind raced: Could he beat the ship to Portland on horseback? He set off, galloping “as if the devil were after him.” He passed Red Bluff, Mount Shasta, and the Oregon line, through rain and darkness, stopping only to trade his tired horse for fresh ones along the way.

After six days, 665 miles, and just 10 hours of sleep, Remme arrived in Portland to find the local Adams branch still open. He stumbled through the door and presented his certificate of deposit. Minutes later, he had his money. The Columbia arrived later that day. The story of Remme’s run was told over campfires for years to come.

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