to find a buffalo. Stansbury says that the Pawnee Indians were very troublesome between the Blue and Fort Kearney, so that a force had been sent from the fort to drive them off. A great many of the travelers became discouraged before they had entirely crossed the Missouri plains, and Stansbury relates that "wagons could be bought from them for from ten to fifteen dollars apiece and provisions for almost nothing at all." The party forded the south fork of the Platte one hundred and eighty miles west of Fort Kearney in this way:
   One of these wagons, as an experimental pioneer, was partially unloaded by removing all



Frontiersman, pioneer freighter, under whose direction the pony express was inaugurated

articles liable to injury from water, and then driven into the stream; but it stuck fast, and the ordinary team of six mules being found insufficient to haul it through the water, four more were quickly attached and the crossing was made with perfect safety and without wetting anything. In the same manner were all the remaining wagons crossed, one by one, by doubling the teams and, employing the force of nearly the whole party wading along side to incite and guide the mules. The water was perfectly opaque with yellow mud and it required all our care to avoid the quicksands with which the bottom is covered . . . Both man and beast suffered more from this day's exertion than from any day's march we had yet made.
   Published accounts of this California travel seem to be confined to the lower route -- from Independence, St. Joseph, and Fort Leavenworth. In the year 1849 one William D. Brown had a charter for operating the Lone Tree Ferry across the river from Council Bluff to accommodate this class of emigration. The upper routes, however, did not come into general use until the Pike's Peak discoveries of gold about ten years later.

   THE OVERLAND STAGE. The "Overland Mail" and the "Overland Stage" to California are justly famous as factors in the vast enterprise of opening up the western plains and of traversing them for communication with the Pacific coast. The simultaneous development of the California gold fields and the successful founding of the great Mormon settlement at Salt Lake City led to the establishment by the federal government of the "Overland Mail," and the first contract for carrying this mail was let in 1850 to Samuel H. Woodston of Independence, Missouri. The service was monthly and the distance between the terminal points, Independence and Salt Lake City, was twelve hundred miles. Soon after this time this mail route was continued to Sacramento, California. The service was by stagecoach, and the route was substantially the same as the Oregon trail as far as the Rocky mountains, and thus passed through Nebraska. Fort Kearney, Fort Laramie, and Fort Bridger were the three military posts on the route. When serious trouble with the Mormons was threatened in 1857, General Albert Sidney Johnston was sent with five thousand soldiers into the Salt Lake valley, and the mail service was soon after increased to weekly trips. In 1859 this mail contract was transferred to Russell, Majors & Waddell, who afterward became the most extensive freighters in Nebraska from the Missouri river. The firm's original headquarters were at Leavenworth, but when it took the contract for carrying sup-



plies to Johnston's army in 1858 Nebraska City was chosen as a second Missouri river initial station, and the business was conducted by Alexander Majors, who thus became a very prominent citizen of the territory. He states that over sixteen million pounds of supplies were carried from Nebraska City and Leavenworth to Utah in the year 1858, requiring over three thousand five hundred wagons and teams to transport them. This firm controlled the Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express, and after taking the mail contract in question the two stage lines were consolidated under the name of the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express. The new contractors abandoned St. Joseph as an initial point, and started only from Atchison and Leavenworth. After the subsidence of the Mormon trouble the mail service to Salt Lake City was reduced -- in June, 1859. The first through mail line to the Pacific coast was opened by the postoffice department September 15, 1858, and it ran from St. Louis through Texas via Fort Yuma to San Francisco. It was operated by the Butterfield Overland Mail company, John Butterfield being the principal contractor. The main objection urged against the northern route was that on account of deep snow and severe weather the mail could not be carried regularly and the trips were often abandoned during a considerable part of the winter season; but southern wish and political power were doubtless the real father to the thought of the change. The mail left St. Louis and San Francisco simultaneously on the 15th of September, 1858, to traverse for the first time a through route from the Missouri river to the Pacific ocean. The trips were made semi-weekly with Concord coaches drawn by four or six horses, and the schedule time was twenty-five days.
   On account of the disturbance of the Civil war the southern route was abandoned in the spring of 1861, and a daily mail was established over the northern route, starting at first from St. Joseph, but a few months afterward



from Atchison, Kansas. The consolidated stage line which carried it -- the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express -- was in operation for about five years, or until it was superseded in part by the partial completion of the trancontinental (sic) railway. The first through daily coaches on this line left the terminal points -- St. Joseph, Missouri, and Placerville, California -- on the 1st of July, 1861, the trip occupying a litttle (sic) more than seventeen days. The stage route followed the overland trail on the south side of the Platte river, while the Union Pacific railroad, which superseded it as far as Kearney in 1866, was built on the north side of the river. "For two hundred miles -- from Fort Kearney to a point



opposite old Julesburg -- the early stage road and railroad were in no place more than a few miles apart; and in a number of places a short distance on either side of the river and only the river itself separating them." As the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railway lines approached each other from the west and from the east, the stages adapted their starting point from time to time to the termini of the railroads. The Concord coaches used on this greatest stage line ever operated, and so-called because they were built in Concord, New Hampshire, accommodated nine passengers inside and often one or two sat beside the driver, Sometimes an extra seat was built on the outside behind the driver, and not infrequently as many as fifteen passengers rode in and on a coach.
   Until 1863 the passenger fare by this stage line was $75 from Atchison to Denver, $150 to Salt Lake, and $225 to Placerville. The fare was increased soon after when the currency of the country became inflated. Ben Holladay, who was the transportation Morgan or Hill of those days, controlled this great line. In 1865 he obtained the contracts for carrying the mail from Nebraska City and Omaha to Kearney City. The Western Stage Company was another large transportation organization which operated stages in Iowa; and from the latter '50's until it was taken over by Holladay, quite after the fashion of present day combinations, it operated stage lines from Omaha and Nebraska City to Fort Kearney. There was a good deal of friction between these two lines during the times of heavy travel, owing to the fact that the through passengers on the Overland route from Atchison filled the stages so that those coming from Omaha and Nebraska City on the Western Stage Company's lines were often obliged to wait at Fort Kearney a tedious number of days.

   The famous Pony Express, which was put into operation in 1860 between St. Joseph and Sacramento, was the forerunner of the present great fast mail system of the United States.
   In 1854 Senator W. M. Gwin of California rode to Washington on horseback on the central route by way of Salt Lake City and South pass; and over part of the route B. F. Ficklin, superintendent of the firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell, was his companion. The idea of the famous Pony Express grew out of this trip. Senator Gwin introduced a bill in the Senate to establish a weekly mail on the pony express plan, but without avail, and then, through Gwin's influence, Russell organized the scheme as a private enterprise through the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express company. No financial aid was extended to the company by the government. Ordinary letters were carried by the slower service and were barred by the high toll from this fast express. "The charges were originally five dollars for each letter of one-half ounce or less; but afterwards this was reduced to two dollars and a half . . . this being in addition to the regular United States postage.
   The originators of this great enterprise evidently knew that its regular revenue would amount to but a small part of the operating expenses, and counted on receiving a subsidy from the federal government. But the subsidy of a million dollars was reserved for the slower daily mail which superseded the pony express. This brilliant pioneer object lesson in fast transcontinental service cost the demonstrators some two hundred thousand dollars in loss. By an act of Congress of March 2, 1861, the contract of the post-office department with the Overland company of the old southern route for a daily mail over the central route included a semi-weekly pony express. The original company continued to operate the Pony Express under this contract by arrangement with the Overland company until it failed in August, 1861. The Express was continued by other parties until October 24th of that year when the through telegraph line had been completed.
   In 1860, according to the report of the postmaster general, there was a tri-monthly mail by the ocean to California, and a semi-monthly mail from St. Joseph to Placerville, but during the year this was increased to a weekly between St. Joseph and Fort Kearney, "for the purpose of supplying the large and



increasing populations in the regions of the Pike's Peak and Washoe mines." There were two other mail routes to San Francisco -- a weekly from New Orleans, via San Antonio and El Paso, and a semi-weekly from St. Louis to Memphis.
   By the ninth section of an act of Congress approved March 2, 1861, authority is given to the postmaster general to discontinue the mail service on the southern overland route (known as the "Butterfield route") between St. Louis and Memphis and San Francisco, and to provide for the conveyance, by the same parties, of a six-times-a-week mail by the "central route," that is, from some point on the Missouri river, connecting with the east, to Placerville, California. In pursuance of this act, and the acceptance of its terms by the mail company, an order was made on the 12th of March 1861, to modify the present contract so as to discontinue the service on the southern route and to provide for the transportation of the entire letter mail, six times a week on the central route, to be carried through in twenty days eight months in the year, and in twenty-three days four months in the year, from St. Joseph, Missouri (or Atchison, Kansas), to Placerville, and also to convey the entire mail three times a week to Denver City and Salt Lake, a pony express to be run twice a week until the completion of the overland telegraph, through in ten days, eight months, and twelve days, four months in the year, conveying for the government free of charge five pounds of mail matter. . . The transfer of stock from the southern to the central route was commenced about the 1st of April, and was completed so that the first mail was started from St. Joseph on the day prescribed by the order, July 1, 1861 . . . The overland telegraph having been completed, the running of the pony express was discontinued October 26, 1861 . . . At the commencement of threatening disturbances in Missouri, in order to secure this great daily route from interruption, I ordered the increase of the weekly and tri-weekly service, then existing between Omaha and Fort Kearney, to daily . . . By that means an alternative and certain daily route between the east and California was obtained through Iowa, by which the overland mails have been transported when they became unsafe on the railroad route in Missouri. In sending them from Davenport, through the state of Iowa, joining the main route at Fort Kearney, in Kansas [Nebraska] the only inconvenience experienced was a slight delay, no mails being lost so far as known.42

    THE PONY EXPRESS. In the spring of 1860 an advertisement containing the schedule of the new enterprise was published in New York and St. Louis newspapers. It announced that the Pony Express would run regularly each week from April 3, 1860, that it would carry letter mail only, that it would pass through Forts Kearney, Laramie, and Bridger, Great Salt Lake City, Camp Floyd, Carson City, the Washoe silver mines, Placerville, and Sacramento, and that the letter mail would be delivered in San Francisco within ten days of the departure of the express. Telegraph dispatches were delivered in San Francisco in eight days after leaving St. Joseph .43 W. H. Russell,44 president of the Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express company, was the mainspring of this remarkable enterprise. About five hundred of the hardiest and fleetest horses were used; there were a hundred and ninety stations distributed along the route from nine miles to fifteen miles apart, and each of the eighty riders covered three stations, or an aggregate of about thirty-three miles, using a fresh horse for each stage. In the spring of 1861 the express left St. Joseph twice a week -- on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The maximum weight of the letters carried was twenty pounds. The schedule at first was ten days, but it was afterwards accelerated to eight days. The time occupied in making the first trip between St. Joseph and Sacramento was nine days and twenty-three hours, not much more than half the time of the fastest overland coach trip between St. Louis and San Francisco by the southern route. At Sacramento the mail was taken aboard steamers, which made as fast time as possible down the Sacramento river for the remaining one hundred twenty-five miles to San Francisco. Surefooted and tough Mexican horses were commonly used on the rough, mountainous stages.

   42 Messages and Documents, 1861-1862, pt. iii, pp. 560-561.
   43 They were carried by Pony Express to Placerville or Sacramento and telegraphed from there.
   44 General Bela M. Hughes, late of Denver, Colorado, succeeded William H. Russell as president of the Overland, in March, 1861.



Heat and alkali dust in summer, snow and torrential streams in winter, and hostile Indians the year round, made these trips exceedingly difficult and hazardous. Armed men mounted on bronchos were stationed at regular intervals along a large part of the trail to protect the riders from the Indians. These riders of necessity were distinguished for remarkable endurance and courage, and many of them afterward became famous as hunters and Indian fighters on the great Plains. The route of William F. Cody, who afterward became



Pioneer of Western Nebraska

a permanent citizen of Nebraska, lay between Red Buttes, Wyoming, and Three Crossings on the Sweetwater, a distance of about seventy-six miles, and one of the most difficult and dangerous stages of the whole line. Cody himself relates that in an emergency he continued his trip on from Three Crossings to Rocky Ridge -- eighty-five miles - and then back to his starting point, Red Buttes, covering the whole distance of three hundred and twenty-two miles without rest, making not less than fifteen miles an hour. The Pony Express was operated for eighteen months, or until it was superseded by the telegraph, which was completed in 1861. Considering its vicissitudes and hazards and its remarkable speed, so nearly approximating that of the steam railway train, the Pony Express was the most interesting and picturesque transportation enterprise of which we have any record. The Express followed the lines of the old Oregon trail in Nebraska, passing through Big Sandy and Thirty-two Mile creek, Cottonwood Springs, and O'Fallons Bluff to the lower California crossing then opposite the present Big Spring. It then followed the Julesburg route, reaching the north fork near Court House Rock via Lodge Pole creek and Thirty-mile ridge. On occasion remarkably quick time was made by the Express. For example, a copy of President Lincoln's first inaugural address went from St. Joseph to Sacramento, approximately two thousand miles, in seven days and seventeen hours, and the distance between St. Joseph and Denver, six hundred and sixty-five miles, was covered on this trip in sixty-nine hours.
   The Missouri and Western Telegraph company completed the first telegraph line from Brownville by way of Omaha to Fort Kearney in November, 1860, and the storeroom of Moses H. Sydenham of Kearney was used for the first office. This line was continued on to Julesburg by the same company, while Mr. Edward Creighton built the line west from that point to Salt Lake City, where it met the one coming east from San Francisco.
   The first mail from the east to the Pike's Peak gold mines was established between Fort Kearney and Denver in August, 1860. Fort Kearney was a very important point on the great Overland route, since there was the junction of travel from Kansas City, Atchison, and St. Joseph on the southeast, and from Omaha, Council Bluffs, and Nebraska City on the east.
   Fort Kearney, in 1863, was a rather lonesome but a prominent point. It was a place of a dozen or more buildings including the barracks, and was established by the government in 1849. Here it was that the stages, ox and mule trains west from Atchison, Omaha, and Nebraska City came to the first



telegraph station on the great military highway. It was a grand sight after traveling one hundred and fifty miles without seeing a settlement of more than two or three houses to gaze upon the old post, uninviting as it was, and see the few scattered buildings, a nice growth of shade trees, the cavalry men mounted upon their steeds, the cannon planted in the hollow square, and the glorious stars and stripes proudly waving in the breeze above the garrison. The stage station -- just west of the military post --was a long, one-story log building and it was an important one; for here the western stage routes from Omaha and Nebraska City terminated, and its passengers from thence westward had to be transferred to Ben Holladay's old reliable Overland line.

   RIVER NAVIGATION. Though there was some steamboat traffic on the lower Missouri river before 1830, the American Fur Company, under the control of John Jacob Astor and his son, William B. Astor, with headquarters at New York and a branch house at St. Louis, prepared for the first regular navigation, extending to the upper river, in that year. The company built the steamer Yellowstone, so named, doubtless, because its farthest objective point was to be the mouth of the Yellowstone river. But on the first trip, in the spring of 1831, it was impracticable to go farther than Fort Tecumseh, opposite the present city of Pierre. The following spring the Yellowstone reached Fort Union, and this first trip established the practicability of upper river steamboat navigation. Fort Benton soon came to be regarded as the head of navigation and retained that advantageous distinction as long as river navigation lasted. Missouri river steamboat traffic was largely cut off when the Northern Pacific railway reached Bismarck in 1873, and it was virtually abandoned when other railroads reached the river at Pierre in 1880 and at Chamberlain in 1881. It is probable that the last through commercial trip was made in 1878, and that the Missouri made the last trip for any purpose from St. Louis to Fort Benton in 1885. Though carried on for forty years with great difficulty, owing to the notoriously shifty and snaggy character of the stream, this navigation was the chief medium of freight and passenger traffic between the East and the western Plains, and was the right arm of the forces which began the structure of civilized society in Nebraska and of the first trancontinental (sic) railway whose beginning was also in Nebraska. Whether this greatest but ugliest -- in temper as well as appearance -- of all our great rivers will ever again be utilized for navigation depends upon the unsettled economic question whether future mechanical inventions and improvements shall constitute or reëstablish it as a practicable rival or coadjutor of the railway. At the present time the chances do not encourage expensive experiments upon the river to fit it for navigation, and in 1902 Congress abolished the useless and senecure Missouri river commission. But it is not improbable that this vast body of water will eventually be used for the irrigation of enormous areas of arid and semi-arid but otherwise exceedingly rich agricultural lands. Engineering authority in support of this view is not wanting.
   Until the introduction of steamboats the river traffic of the fur companies was carried on by keel-boats. They were usually from sixty to seventy feet in length, and, with the exception of about twelve feet at either end, were occupied by an enclosed apartment in the shape of a long box in which the cargo was placed. The boats were ordinarily propelled by a cordelle, a rope about three hundred yards long, one end being attached to a tall mast, while the other was in the hands of from one to two score men who traveled along the shore of the river and hauled the boat after them. When the wind was at all favorable a large sail was also used, and frequently the boat would make good progress against the current by the force of the wind alone. Poles and oars were used also as emergency required. It is not remarkable that by this clumsy and fearfully laborious method the ordinary voyage of the keel-boat from St. Louis to the upper river was not accomplished in less than four or five months. The mackinaw-boat was somewhat smaller than the keelboat and of comparatively temporary construction. It was propelled by four oarsmen but was used only in down-stream trips. The

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