Calico Dorsey: The Miners Mail Dog

Dorsey became a famous dog in history for carrying mail over rough terrain between two mining camps.

The black and white collie who became known as Dorsey the Mail Dog was a stray in the town of Calico, a mining camp in the late 1800s that is now California's official silver rush ghost town. Sometime around 1885 Everett Stacy, the town's postmaster, adopted the scruffy dog and the two became best friends. When Everett went to visit his brother Alwin, who ran a general store at the Bismarck mine camp, Dorsey would accompany him on the mile and half trek along a very steep and rugged trail. One day Everett needed to get an urgent message to Alwin but was unable to make the trip. In a desperate attempt, he tied the letter around Dorsey's neck and pointed him toward the other town saying "Bismarck!" The dog hesitated at first but with added encouragement he started on his trip. The following day, Dorsey returned to Calico with a reply from Alwin.

Everett was impressed with Dorsey, who didn't seem to mind making the trip on his own, and thought maybe his dog could deliver the mail to the miners in Bismarck faster then the stagecoaches could. After a few more successful test runs, Dorsey became the official mail carrier for the two camps. The Stacy brothers even made a special pouch for Dorsey that could be strapped onto his back to carry the mail and leather booties he could wear to protect his feet from the rough terrain. Dorsey would carry the mail to Bismarck, be spoiled with treats and affection, and return the following morning with Bismarck's outgoing mail.

Dorsey was often mentioned in the newspapers for his dedicated work. In January 1886, the San Francisco Chronicle reported "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."

Dorsey's mail carrying days ended about a year after he begun his service when the Stacy brothers moved away. Everett gave Dorsey to San Francisco financier W.W. Stow who owned interest in the Bismarck mine, and Dorsey lived out his retirement years in comfort at the Stow mansion.

Dorsey's photo is on display at the Mojave River Valley Museum. In 1972, Kenny Rogers recorded an album called The Ballad of Calico with one song titled Dorsey, the Mail Carrying Dog. In 1977, his story was aired on The Wonderful World of Disney called Go West, Young Dog, and in 2010 his story was published in a children's picture book titled Calico Dorsey, Mail Dog of the Mining Camps.