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Colorado stagecoach stations

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Title:
Colorado stagecoach stations
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Peterson, Heather King
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English
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256 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm

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Stagecoach stations -- History -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Stagecoach stations ( fast )
Colorado ( fast )
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History. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
History ( fast )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 241-256).
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Heather King Peterson.

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University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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Resource Identifier:
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ocm51805805
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Full Text
COLORADO STAGECOACH STATIONS
A.
B. S
by
Heather King Peterson
A. A., Northeastern Junior College, 1984
A. S., Arapahoe Community College, 1985
, Metropolitan State College of Denver, 1989
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
History
2002


2002 by Heather King Peterson
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Heather King Peterson
has been approved
by
Pamela W. Laird
Date


Peterson, Heather King (M.A., History)
Colorado Stagecoach Stations
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
ABSTRACT
In the annals of the American West, few vehicles are as misrepresented as
stagecoaches. Stagecoach travel and stagecoach stations are often overlooked or
portrayed as romantic images in Hollywood films and western novels. Neither
western historians nor literary critics have explored stagecoach stations as a symbol
for community development in the early American West. This thesis is a history of
Colorados stagecoach stations and their significance from 1859 until the early
2000s. This research examines the multiple purposes stagecoach stations served,
other than the obvious. Additionally, it will document the importance of stagecoach
stations to Colorados transportation history and early communities. Lastly, it will
survey some surviving stagecoach stations and discuss their historic preservation
and recycled uses for the twenty-first century.
Colorados vast deserts and mountain barriers isolate settlements.
Transportation has been a key component to its development. The first Coloradoans
relied on stagecoaches as the only means of public transportation. Although
Western promoters frequently gave railroads credit for establishing communities and
resolving Colorados transportation impediments, to a great extent stagecoaching
and stagecoach stations accomplished the same result earlier. Stagecoaching
became the cornerstone for future development.
Railroad builders often transformed stagecoach trails into railroad beds.
Stagecoach stations became oasis for settlers and travelers providing livestock feed,
IV


travel necessities, entertainment, nourishment, shelter, and camaraderie. Stagecoach
stations often served as the nucleus for the communitys gathering place and
provided a sense of community. After railroads became the prominent
transportation mode, stage lines often continued passenger service to remote
communities and newly formed suburbs.
Historic preservation efforts for stagecoach stations have been minimal.
Most Colorado stagecoach stations have fallen victim to weather and time.
Foundations or wells remain as the only remaining evidence of some stations. With
others, nothing remains except the stories pioneers shared of the stagecoach stations
they found on their trips to Colorado. Surviving stations are often the oldest
buildings in Colorado towns. Preserved stagecoach stations celebrate the pivotal
role they played in Colorados transportation history.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. 1
recommend its publication.
v


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
To Betty Jo Cardona, former historian of the Cliff House, my utmost
appreciation for an enlightening interview. Thank you to Clarice Crowle of the
Cherry Creek Valley Historical Society for her assistance with the mile house
archives and copies of photographs. To Gladys Ellerman, of the Virginia Dale
Community Club, 1 thank for her interview and tour. I would like to thank Susan
Ellis of the Cozens Ranch Museum for her tour and interesting interview. I thank
Johanna Harden of Douglas Public Library District, Local History Collection, for
her tremendous assistance and time in locating archive collections. To Allan
Nossaman, of the San Juan County Historical Society for his time and assistance in
locating photographs and providing an interesting interview, I am most grateful. I
gratefully thank Glenn Scott for an insightful interview and for discussing his
unpublished and published maps. Also, thank you to Ray Thall and Scotty Wilkins
of the Four Mile House for their informative interviews.
Additionally, I thank the Colorado Historical Society Library staff assistance
in locating manuscript collections and photographs. As well, thank you to the staff
at the Denver Public Library, Western History Department for their assistance in
locating manuscript collections, photographs, and newspaper articles. To the
Colorado Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, thank you for help in


locating files. Also, I thank the Penrose Public Library Collections staff for their
assistance in locating newspaper articles and manuscripts.
Thank you to my thesis committee, Dr. James E. Fell, Jr., Dr. Pamela W.
Laird, and committee chair, Dr. Thomas J. Noel. I am most grateful for their
readiness to serve on my committee, their expertise, and their ongoing support, now
and in the future.
A special note of appreciation goes to committee chair, Dr. Thomas J. Noel,
for his continued support, encouragement, availability, and kindness.
Lastly, I gratefully thank my husband, parents, siblings, and friends for their
ongoing patience, support, and encouragement.
Vll


CONTENTS
Figures.........................................................xiii
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION...................................................1
Stagecoaching History and Design...........................2
Trans-Mississippi West Stagecoaching.......................5
Stagecoach Travel..........................................8
Stagecoach Stations.......................................10
2. THE OVERLAND ROUTE AND THE
REPUBLICAN ROUTE.............................................13
The Pikes Peak Gold Rush Attraction.......................14
Initial Routes............................................16
Leavenworth & Pikes Peak Express Stations and Travel......22
The Platte Route or Overland Route
Stagecoaching and Stagecoach Stations.....................25
Platte Route Stagecoaching.............................25
Sand Creek.............................................34
Revenge................................................35
The Overland North Route..................................39
La Porte Stagecoach Station............................40
Latham Stagecoach Station..............................42
viii


Virginia Dale Stagecoach Station......................43
3. SOUTHEASTERN PLAINS STAGECOACHING...........................49
The Santa Fe Route.......................................49
Bents Fort Stagecoach Station........................54
Booneville Stagecoach Station.........................57
Iron Springs Stagecoach Station.......................58
Smoky Hill Route.........................................60
Cheyenne Well Stagecoach Station......................64
Gradys Stagecoach Station............................67
Lake Stagecoach Station...............................68
The Cherokee Route (or Denver-Santa Fe Route)............70
The Twenty Mile House Stagecoach Station..............71
The Twelve Mile House Stagecoach Station..............74
The Four Mile House Stagecoach Station ...............79
4. STAGECOACH STATIONS WEST OF
DENVER AND IN SOUTH PARK....................................83
Routes and Stagecoach Stations West of Denver............83
Guy House Stagecoach Station..........................87
Churchs Ranch Stagecoach Station
(The Twelve Mile House)...............................93
IX


Routes and Stagecoach Stations
from Denver to South Park................................100
Mount Vernon Stagecoach Station
(R. W. Steele Home)...................................102
Bergens Ranch Stagecoach Station.....................104
Kenosha House Stagecoach Station......................110
Hamilton Stagecoach Station ..........................112
5. SOUTH CENTRAL AND SOUTHWESTERN
COLORADO STAGECOACHING.......................................114
South Central Colorado Stagecoach Routes.................115
Canon City Route......................................115
Colorado Springs to Leadville Route...................125
Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek Route...............134
Southwestern Colorado Stagecoaching......................139
Early Settlement......................................139
Land Negotiations.....................................139
San Luis Valley.......................................141
San Juan Mountain Stagecoaching..........................145
Early Stagecoaching...................................147
Stage Lines...........................................148
Kalamazoo House and Stagecoach Station ...............151
x


Pine River Stagecoach Station.......................155
6. NORTH CENTRAL AND NORTHWESTERN
COLORADO STAGECOACH STATIONS...............................160
Routes and Stagecoach Stations to Empire,
Georgetown, and Leadville..............................160
The Peck House Stagecoach Station ..................162
Georgetown to Leadville Route.......................169
Middle Park Routes and Stagecoach Stations.............172
Middle Park Routes..................................172
Cozens Ranch Stagecoach Station.....................173
Ganson House Stagecoach Station/Stagecoach Inn .....180
North Park and Northwestern Colorado Stagecoaching.....182
The Meeker Massacre.................................182
Pinkhamton Stagecoach Station ......................184
Rock Creek Stagecoach Station.......................189
7. COLORADO STAGECOACH STATION
PRESERVATION...............................................192
Rehabilitated and Recycled Stagecoach Stations with
Uses for the Twenty-First Century......................192
Cozens Ranch Stagecoach Station.....................192
Four Mile House Stagecoach Station .................196
Preserved, Restored, and Reconstructed Stagecoach Stations.200
xi


The Peck House......................................200
The Cliff House.....................................205
Conclusion..........................................210
ENDNOTES
Chapter 1 ..................................................213
Chapter 2.....................................................215
Chapter 3.....................................................221
Chapter 4.....................................................226
Chapter 5.....................................................229
Chapter 6.....................................................234
Chapter 7.....................................................237
BIBLIOGRAPHY....................................................241
xii


FIGURES
Figure
2.1 Map of the Leavenworth & Pikes Peak Express Route.................21
2.2 Map of the Platte Route or Overland Route........................29
3.1 Map of the Santa Fe Trail, Mountain Branch........................51
3.2 Map of the Smoky Hill Routes......................................65
3.3 Sketch of Gradys Stagecoach Station..............................69
3.4 Diagram of the Twelve Mile House..................................76
3.5 Photograph of the Twelve Mile House...............................77
4.1 Map of the St. Vrain, Golden City &
Colorado Wagon Road...............................................86
4.2 Photograph of the Guy House Stagecoach Station...................88
4.3 Map of the Route to Churchs Ranch Stagecoach Station............94
4.4 1860s Photograph of the Churchs Ranch
Stagecoach Station................................................97
4.5 Map of the Routes to Mount Vernon and Bergen Park................101
4.6 Photograph of the Mount Vernon House.............................103
4.7 Drawing of the Mount Vernon House................................105
4.8 Map of Routes to South Park......................................Ill
5.1 Map of Route to Canon City and Oro City..........................117
xiii


5.2 Map of Route to Bales Stagecoach Station.....................120
5.3 Map of Route to Marshall Pass.................................124
5.4 Map of Route to Manitou Springs and Ute Pass..................128
5.5 Photograph of the Cliff House..................................129
5.6 Photograph of the Cliff House Additions
and Overflow Tents.............................................130
5.7 Map of Route to Wades Place on the Old Stage Road.............137
5.8 Map of Routes in the San Luis Valley............................144
5.9 Photograph of the Del Norte Stagecoach Station..................146
5.10 Photograph of a Stagecoach with Ski Runners.....................150
5.11 Photograph of a Stagecoach with a Team of Six Horses............152
5.12 Map of the San Juan Mountain Stagecoach Routes................156
6.1 Map of the Routes to Empire and Georgetown.....................163
6.2 Photograph of the Peck House Stagecoach Station.................167
6.3 Map of Routes to Middle Park....................................174
6.4 Photograph of the Cozens Ranch Stagecoach Station...............178
6.5 Map of the Route from Laramie to Teller City...................187
xiv


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Nestled in Colorados mountain valleys, urban neighborhoods, on historic
main streets, and alone on vast prairies are the survivors (or surviving components)
of Colorados stagecoach stations. Stagecoach lines used main routes and stations
from 1859 until at least 1915 providing access to growing communities and initially
carving the states transportation industry. These routes and stations paved the way
for many railroad and road builders. The stations often became the nucleus of the
surrounding area, providing a sense of community to the sparsely populated regions
of Colorados early white settlements. Additionally, the travelers found community
at the stagecoach stations. According to historian Daniel J. Boorstin in his National
Experience, American pioneers moving to the West fostered community wherever
they went.1 According to Robert V. Hine in Community on the American Frontier, a
sense of place is an ingredient common to almost all definitions of community.2
This chapter will explore stagecoaching history as a developing aspect of Colorados
community stagecoach stations.


Stagecoaching History and Design
Although Hollywood and western novels depict stagecoaching as
synonymous with an untamed American West, Europeans used passenger coach
travel as early as the thirteenth century. By the time the stagecoach entered the
American West, it had centuries of technological advancements and numerous body
changes. Great Britain already considered stagecoaching obsolete for transporting
British mail by the 1840s, when railroads became more reliable. Even with the 1849
California mineral discoveries and commerce in the American Southwest, Utah, and
the American Northwest, it was a political struggle to obtain a transcontinental
stagecoaching system in the American West. This chapter will provide an overview
of stagecoaching history and design, transcontinental stagecoaching, stagecoach
travel, and stagecoach stations.
Middle Easterners and Europeans built chariots and passenger carrying
wagons as early as 2000 B. C. and 500 B. C. respectively. However, the passenger
carrying coach or carriage, from which the stagecoach evolved, did not appear until
the late thirteenth century. Italian and French coachbuilders were the first known
builders of a short journey passenger carriage drawn by horses. Researchers
speculated that the word coach evolved either from a fifteenth century coach
builder named Kotze, who initiated much of the eras technology, or from the small
town of Kocs, Hungary where Kotze lived. The word became kutsche in
2


Germany, cocchio in Italy, coche in France, and coche in Spain and Portugal.
This translated into the English word coach.
By the early sixteenth century, European builders produced horse drawn
passenger coaches primarily for royalty and highly affluent families, as they
remained primarily for short journeys and were slower than horse travel. Walter
Rippon built the first English coach in 1555. Queen Elizabeth I commissioned
Rippon in 1566 to build a coach with windows enabling her subjects to view her
from all four sides. Regardless of the advances in the coaches, traveling by
horseback proved to be much more comfortable and faster. After riding in one
particular coach, Queen Elizabeth I was unable to sit for several days and claimed
she would never again ride in that coach. Spanish coachbuilders produced the first
long distance passenger coach during the 1540s.
With the advent of long distance passenger coaches, the next significant
development in stagecoaching history was the creation of a series of post houses
that provided a fresh team of horses. Since traveling in stages between frequent
stops was necessary for long journeys, the coaching industry adopted the term
stagecoaching. The first passenger service stagecoach in England ran in 1610. By
the end of the century, stagecoach travel and stage routes were common throughout
England. Technological changes provided passengers a more comfortable ride by
using iron springs and axles patented in England in 1625. A coach built for Mary,
3


Infanta of Spain, in 1661 debuted glass windows. During the same era, increased
power resulted from the development of iron tires on spoked wheels allowing a
higher speed, reduced wheel wear, and better turning ability. These developments
afforded coaches larger teams of horses resulting in more power.3
The English introduced a stagecoach called the coach and four to America
in the late seventeenth century. By the Revolutionary War, stagecoaches served all
thirteen colonies.4 In 1813 a Concord, New Hampshire company, Abbott, Downing
and Company, began producing coaches. The Concord coach, first built in 1826,
became the most popular stagecoach available in the nineteenth century. The
Concord, considered the most comfortable coach, with leather-upholstered seats,
contained three bench seats inside accommodating nine passengers. Favorable
weather allowed an additional four to six passengers on the roof. The drivers bench
seat was large enough for two passengers and the driver if a guard or conductor was
not along. The price of a Concord coach, depending on the style, often reached
$1,500. Another popular coach was the Troy stagecoach produced by Eaton, Gilbert
and Company at Troy, New York. This was not as luxurious as the Concord and
was more rectangular in shape. The Celerity coach, made by several manufacturers
and known as a mud wagon, had no upholstered seats, was smaller, lighter, and
more maneuverable than the Concord. It was popular in mountain and muddy
areas.5
4


Trans-Mississippi West Stagecoaching
Stagecoaching enterprises in the trans-Mississippi West arrived concurrently
with the rapid conversion in the eastern United States from horse power to steam
power. Steamboats and steam locomotives became the popular mode of
transporting eastern United States passengers and freight. Due to limited navigable
waters connecting western settlements, steamboats were not an option.6
Additionally, railroad entrepreneurs had little motivation to build railways in the
American West since so few settlements existed to support a railroad.
Paradoxically, it often required railroads to promote settlements. Stagecoaching
became the most viable transportation mode in the American West, making it a local
and trans-regional business. Isolated western communities not only required
stagecoaching and wagons; they demanded that the federal government provide
local mail, freight, and passenger transportation services along with similar services
between eastern railroad and steamboat connections with west coast cities.
With exorbitant costs involved with starting and operating a stage line, some
stage operations found federal government support through United States Mail
contract awards.8 A few small Texas stage lines first obtained regional mail
contracts. In 1851, the first trans-regional western United States Mail contract
provided monthly mail services between the Missouri River and Salt Lake City. By
the mid 1850s it extended to Sacramento. However, state representatives from
5


California and New Mexico appealed to Congress for more services through a
transcontinental stage route. The proposed bills failed, prompting California
Democratic Senator, John B. Weller, to declare to Congress,
You have refused to give me the railroad. You have given me a
wagon road, and I say to the Senators, that creates sort of a moral
obligation to give me coaches or wagons to carry the mail over that
road.9
Due in part to sectional interests and biases among Congressional representatives,
Congress did not pass any proposed transcontinental stage route bills until February
1857, when it passed the Post Office appropriations bill. This bill called for a mail
route with an eastern terminal on the Mississippi River and a western terminal at
San Francisco. President James Buchanan signed the bill into law requiring the mail
service to be performed "with good four-horse coaches, or spring wagons suitable
for the conveyance of passengers, as well as the safety and security of the mails and
that the service shall be performed within twenty-five days for each trip.10
The transcontinental service began on September 16, 1858, at two eastern
terminals-Saint Louis, Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee. The two routes joined at
Fort Smith, Arkansas, continued deep into Texas, crossed the desert to Los Angeles,
and finally traveled north to San Francisco. It was known as the Oxbow Route.
Although the United States government contracted with the California Stage
Company to operate the route in 1857, John Birchs stage line company succeeded
the California Stage Company by the time the transcontinental service actually
6


began in 1858. Birch called his company the Overland Mail Company. Locals
called it the Butterfield Overland Mail for John Butterfield, the companys
president. It operated the section between San Antonio, Texas and San Diego,
California for a yearly contract fee of $600,000.11
The designation of the Southern Route disappointed Northern California
businesses. The Sacramento Daily Union expressed the businesspersons
perspectives and doubts that the route would benefit them at all.
Four-horse stages cannot be driven from San Francisco, across the
seven deserts ... in twenty-five days-nor in forty days-nor at all.
It never has been done. It never will be done.12
The Overland Mail exceeded the required timeliness by averaging a delivery time of
twenty-one days, fifteen hours rather than twenty-five days. Regardless of its
success, the establishment of the Southern Route roused bitter sentiment among
many Northerners. For example, the Chicago Tribune called the whole operation,
One of the greatest swindles ever perpetrated upon the country by the slave-
holders.13 Northern opposition to the Oxbow Route continued rising until an 1861
bill introduced in the United States Senate directed moving the route to a central
trail. Congress approved the bill March 12, 1861. It provided for a route from Saint
Joseph, Missouri, directly west to Sacramento. The Central Route was the
designated name for the new trail.14
7


Stagecoach Travel
Although stagecoach builders advanced the coaching technology for nearly
six hundred years, by the 1850s and 1860s most travelers called it anything but
comfortable. In Ben Holladay the Stagecoach King, J. V. Frederick described
stagecoach travel vividly.
They were banged, beaten, and jolted, their heads were swollen and
their faces bruised. Heads ached, nostrils were choked with sand, limbs
were stiffened and bent with cramps. Sometimes the disheartened
travelers would leave the stage to rinse their mouths and dip their heads
in some little creek, the water of which they did not dare to drink. Then,
walking several miles ahead of the stage, they felt like new men again
and forgot the discomforts of their ride in the brisk morning air while
they looked on the beautiful prairie scenery.15
By contrast, in Roughing It, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) facetiously compared
the ride to a cradle, Our coach was a great swinging and swaying stage, of the most
sumptuous description-an imposing cradle on wheels.16 On Twains initial
stagecoach ride west, he was one of only two passengers riding with several bags of
United States mail in the coach. By positioning the mailbags, the two passengers
made beds from the mailbags that supposedly cushioned them from the jolts.
Since the Central Overland route required stage lines to complete their routes from
the Missouri River to Sacramento in twenty-five days, stages ran on a twenty-four
hour schedule. The stages maintained a speed of approximately eight to ten miles
per hour to achieve their destination goals. Most stage lines adopted the twenty-four
hour schedule for all long distance stagecoach journeys regardless of the route.17 If
8


the stagecoach was full, passengers not as fortunate as Twain quickly learned how to
sleep while sitting. Theodore Davis, a journalist for Harpers New Monthly
Magazine, described his experience in a July 1867 article.
The first night in a stage-coach is undoubtedly the most uncomfort-
able. .. .The drowsy god soon spread his wings among us, knocking
the pollen of the poppy into our eyes to an extent that caused a general
remark of bedtime. What a misnomer under the circumstances!
Sleeping in a stage-coach is not the most desirable method of passing
the night.
Passengers referred to the stage drivers as a breed of their own. For a
monthly wage of $40, the daring drivers braved the heat, cold, and dangers of the
prairies and mountains, all to do it again on their next run. Passengers accounts
generally described the drivers as positive and having very distinctive personalities,
only occasionally complaining that all drivers told similar stories. Some accounts
labeled the drivers as happy and friendly whips or jehus. Others noted that the
drivers frequently indulged in alcoholic beverages before and during their run.19 In
his article, Theodore Davis gave his description of stagecoach drivers.
Men of fair education and some property may be found driving coaches.
They have left the Atlantic coast, given up by physicians as in the last
stage of consumption, a fact that would never be mistrusted from their
present robust condition. There seems to be a strange fascination in
stage-driving. Though it is one of the most toilsome of lives, a man
once located on the box of a coach seldom or never leaves it for any
other employment.
Driving coaches required great skill and quick discernment to handle six lively
horses or mules over rough terrain that easily changed with rain, snow, or wind.
9


Stage lines required drivers to be very confident in their driving ability. An
Englishman traveling on a California stagecoach commented that the Western
stage-driver was a man of iron nerve, recklessness, and daring character.21
Stagecoach Stations
Similar to Englands post houses, stage line companies established
stagecoach stations in the trans-Mississippi West. Since horses and mules generally
tired after running ten to fifteen miles, stage lines established swing stations,
occasionally referred to as living stations, approximately every ten to fifteen miles
to exchange the tired stock for a fresh team. One to two men generally tended these
stations, which usually contained modest shelter and a corral. In Roughing It,
Mark Twain claimed that the stage tenders changed a team of horses in about the
90
same time it took for the passengers to get out of the stage and briefly stretch.
Home stations provided ticket sales for passengers and were the destination points
for passenger arrivals and departures. Additionally they served as a place to
exchange the livestock teams and typically signaled the end of a drivers run.
Normally, a rested stage driver assumed the duties for the next run. The distance
between home stations was approximately forty to fifty miles and called a drive by
stage lines. A stop at a home station lasted approximately thirty to forty-five
minutes. The home station manager, usually accompanied by his family or a cook,
10


prepared meals to sell to the passengers during their stop.24 The cost of a meal
ranged between $ 1 and $2.50. Some passengers questioned the edibility. Other
passengers did not mind the food so much as they did the monotony of it from
station to station. Samuel Bowles traveled by stage from Missouri to California in
1865. He commented on the food in a letter.
Our meals at the stage stations continued very good throughout the
ride; the staples were bacon, eggs, hot biscuits, green tea and coffee;
dried peaches and apples, and pies were as uniform; beef was
occasional, and canned fruits and vegetables were furnished at least
half of the time. Each meal was the same; breakfast, dinner and
supper were undistinguishable save by the hour. '
Stage line companies that doubled in the freight line business established a third
type of station, called cattle stations. These stations, usually combined with home
stations, provided a fresh team of oxen and a different driver. Several drives made
up a division, which was typically between 150 to 450 miles long. The stage lines
employed a division agent or superintendent to administer the stations along a
particular portion of the stage route.27
Wayside homes for travelers were common in the American West.
Sundowning was the term used when a traveler stopped at days end and stayed at
homes open to travelers, including wayside homes, roadhouses, or simply inns.
Guidebooks to the West provided names and locations of homes that offered
accommodations. Travelers frequently relied on others they met on the trails for this
information. Occasionally, wayside homes coincided with the stage route. Some
11


stage companies commissioned wayside homeowners to serve as home stations on
stage routes. Passengers who wanted to rest overnight and catch another stage paid
the homeowner between fifty cents and one dollar for lodging. Stage companies
used the terms stage houses and station houses interchangeably with stagecoach
stations w'ith respect to the dwelling occupied by the stock tenders, or in the case of
a home station, the dwelling occupied by the managing family.
Although it took patience and many political attempts and maneuvers, the
trans-Mississippi West thrived with help from the transcontinental stage route.
Stagecoaching became a vital piece of the American Wests settlement,
communication, and commerce. It provided individuals who may not have
otherwise traveled west an opportunity to view the West during its early settlement
years, for instance families of wealthy western businessmen, entrepreneurs, and
foreign travelers. At last an organized means of routing the United States mail
provided a pipeline between the eastern United States and the western United States.
Historian Oscar Winther remarked in The Transportation Frontier that although the
passengers did not experience the greatest comfort, the goal of transporting people,
mail, and express by stagecoach had one redeeming feature: it worked.29
12


CHAPTER 2
THE OVERLAND ROUTE AND
THE REPUBLICAN ROUTE
Although the 1861 transcontinental stage route opened communication
channels between the eastern United States and the western United States, its arrival
did not initially assist travelers to present day Colorado. It arrived over two years
after the Pikes Peak gold rush began and its course was approximately 100 miles
north of Denver. Passenger service transportation such as steamboats, trains, and
coaches, common in the East were still foreign in the Rocky Mountain area.
Without navigable water for a steamship, a Pikes Peak emigrants limited
transportation choices included horseback, a horse and wagon, or walking (with or
without a handcart). Early emigrants traveling to Salt Lake City, Oregon, and
California during the 1850s shaped routes later used by Colorado emigrants,
including the Overland Route and the Republican Route. These routes became an
integral part of the early white settlement of Colorado Territory and formed the first
stagecoach trails into Colorado. Stagecoach stations emerged dotting the routes and
impacting the settlement of Colorado.


The Pikes Peak Gold Rush Attraction
Although early French and Spanish explorers, in what is now Colorado,
reported in their diaries finding small quantities of gold and silver, it was not until
1858 that William Green Russell organized an exploration group to learn of the
areas mineral possibilities. Russells party found small deposits of scale gold (a
very coarse gold) in and around Cherry Creek. On a return trip from Fort Laramie
to Kansas City, Missouri, John Cantrell stumbled upon Russells party. With the
groups permission, he took sample gravel with him where he panned out a small
amount of color in Kansas City. His statement prompted merchants and newspaper
journalists to sensationalize it as a find better than that of Californias 1849 gold
rush.1 He published a newspaper affidavit regarding his sample indicating it was
gold from the Rocky Mountains. This attracted many distraught individuals
impacted by Americas 1857 depressed economy. By the fall and winter of 1858,
masses of gold seekers traveled to the Cherry Creek area. Although prospectors
found no gold on or in the immediate vicinity of Pikes Peak, guidebooks of the time
used Pikes Peak as a reference point as to the location of the purported gold first
found seventy miles north of Pikes Peak. The rush that followed became known as
the Pikes Peak gold rush and the area that was later Colorado, was known as the
Pikes Peak region.2
January 1859 was an auspicious month for Pikes Peak gold seekers in three
areas west of Denver. George A. Jackson found significant gold on the Idaho bar of
14


South Clear Creek (where Clear Creek intersected with the mouth of what was
eventually Chicago Creek), near present day Idaho Springs. He marked his find and
returned in the spring to develop a very significant discovery. Six men prospected
an area, in what is now Boulder County, called Gold Run near Gold Hill in late fall
of 1858. By January 1859 they found large quantities of gold, although less
significant than Jacksons discovery. John Hamilton Gregory found the third
significant mineral discovery that month. He traveled to the Cherry Creek area in
the fall of 1858. After prospecting without success along the South Platte River and
Cherry Creek, he followed Clear Creek (the Vasquez Fork of the South Platte),
northwest of Golden (near where Black Hawk is today), where he found significant
placer gold in January of 1859. With winter conditions and deep snow, Gregory
postponed further investigation of the site. When he returned with supplies in the
spring, Gregory found the first vein of gold in the Pikes Peak region. The find,
recorded on May 6, 1859, became known as Gregory Diggings, Gregory Gulch, and
the Gregory District. It initiated growth of a mining camp called Mountain City, the
predecessor to Central City and Black Hawk. These discoveries prompted
thousands of Pikes Peak gold rush prospectors to scour the Rocky Mountains and
the emergence of settlements throughout the area. Although estimates vary,
between 25,000 and 100,000 people came to the area from 1858 to 1859 and
settlements emerged throughout the Pikes Peak region.
15


Initial Routes
The Overland Route, referred to as the Platte Route, began at Saint Joseph,
Missouri, came west through the eastern portion of Kansas Territory, then turned
north to follow the North Platte River in Nebraska Territory. The Route followed
the South Platte River briefly at Upper California Crossing before moving
northward again along the North Platte River. This was a well-established trail
previously used by 1850s emigrants drawn to Californias gold fields, Salt Lake
City, and Oregon. Another popular and well-established route was the Santa Fe
Route that crossed the southeastern comer of what is now Colorado into New
Mexico and on to California. Additionally, emigrants followed the Santa Fe Route,
then continued west to what is now Pueblo to find the Cherokee Trail that they
followed north along the foothills into what is now Wyoming.
Promoters of a new route, the Smoky Hill Route, claimed it was the most
direct to Cherry Creek. Although it did shorten the travel time, definite paths did
not exist and few individuals risked traveling the route initially. Guidebooks listing
the Smoky Hill Route led the Pikes Peak pilgrims to the edge of what is now
Colorado and from there left them to wander aimlessly without good directions.
Eager for riches, many adventurous individuals outfitted themselves with mules,
provisions, and printed map cards directing them over the Smoky Hill Route. One
account told of a group of individuals who left Saint Louis on March 2, 1859
following clear directions to Junction City, Kansas Territory. However, from that
16


point the map cards were absolutely worthless, providing fictitious information
every step of the way. For two days the individuals followed what appeared to be
wagon tracks, however they disappointedly learned later that the tracks were Indian
lodge pole tracks. Eventually, the group found Bents Fort after surviving on
prickly pear and wild onions for nine days.4
The Blue party was not as fortunate. The party consisted of three brothers
(Alexander, Charles, and Daniel Blue) and two other individuals. They left Illinois
for the Pikes Peak region on February 22, 1859 packing provisions on their one
horse and on their backs. By March 6, 1859, they reached Kansas City where they
continued their trek on the Smoky Hill Route. Later, a statement from Daniel Blue
indicated that by the time the party was within 150 miles of Denver City, they used
nearly all of their food supplies and lost their packhorse and provisions, save a
shotgun. They survived on what little game was available, a few hares, and ravens.
They felt too exhausted and weak to hunt large game. Before dying of starvation,
one man in the group advised the others to nourish themselves with his remains if
necessary. Finding no other source of food, the others, against their feelings,
consumed their companions remains. Wandering aimlessly in the midst of
Colorados eastern plains with little or no water and little food, all except Daniel
Blue perished; each authorized the survivors to partake in his remains. Daniel
Blue's statement best described the rest of the journey.
17


I was found by an Arapahoe Indian, and carried to his lodge, treated
with great kindness and a day and a half thereafter (. the fourth
day of May) brought to encampment of the Leavenworth and Pike's
Peak Express companies train, en route to Denver City,... where
I was received and taken care of, and left at station 25, to recover... ,5
Before traffic defined the route, many more emigrants traveled this route in
wagons or walked pushing handcarts; many more died along the way. General
William H. Larimer, Jr. wrote of his concerns to his wife in April 1859,
It is supposed that fourteen men have starved to death on the Smoky
Hill route.... The trouble with this route is that after they leave the
Smoky Hill, there has been no direct road and they wander off in every
direction.6
Smoky Hill travelers often deserted their property and broken wagons and continued
the journey on foot. Dead horses and oxen along with unmarked graves cluttered
the route.7 The route commonly became known as the Starvation Route.
The rumored and realized riches from the Rocky Mountains not only piqued
the interests of gold seekers, but it captivated entrepreneurs foreseeing goods and
services necessary for the emigrants livelihood. Denver City town promoter
General William H. Larimer, Jr. aimed to attract essential enterprises to Denver City
drawing business away from its larger, more established rival, Auraria Town
Company, located on the opposite side of Cherry Creek. Larimer realized the
leverage and influence a stage line generated to an infant community. He discussed
a proposition of running a stage line from Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, to Denver
City with William Hepburn Russell, a veteran freighter. Larimer enhanced the
18


proposition by offering fifty-three Denver City lots to the freighting firm of Russell,
Majors and Waddell express company (a freight line of which William Russell was
a principal) and six lots to William H. Russell, if Russell agreed. Additionally,
Larimer gave the stage line two city lots strategically located in the heart of Denver
City.8
William H. Russell, known to embark on new and profitless enterprises,
joined with John S. Jones, a pioneer government contractor of the West, to organize
the first passenger service from the states to Denver City. They called their stage
line the Leavenworth & Pikes Peak Express Company (L & PPE). Russell and
Jones invited Alexander Majors and William Bradford Waddell to join them in the
new venture. However, both Majors and Waddell agreed that engaging in a stage
line was premature and risky in an undeveloped area with an unknown future.
Russell, Majors and Waddell provided the L & PPE a ninety-day loan for most of its
origination costs, which were nearly $79,000.9
The route began at Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, followed the Republican
and Solomon Rivers staying between the Platte Route and the Smoky Hill Route
then converged with the Smoky Hill Route approximately seventy-five miles east of
Denver City. Russell and Jones intended the route to decrease travel time while
providing ample fuel, water, and grass. Colonel William J. Preston surveyed the
route and marked the location of twenty-seven future stagecoach stations, each
approximately twenty-five miles apart. A well-traveled road existed for the first
19


twenty-five miles from Leavenworth. The remaining 600 plus miles required the
stage driver to trust stakes, piles of stones, buffalo bones, and dung placed along the
route by the surveying party as guide indicators. The L & PPE positioned stations
Twenty through Twenty-Seven in what is now Colorado. (See Figure 2.1).
Ironically, the second set of Denver bound coaches found Daniel Blue at Station 25
and provided him a free fare into Denver.10
Henry Villard, a newspaper journalist for the Cincinnati Daily Commercial,
accepted an assignment to investigate the Pikes Peak region and its rumored riches
in March 1859. On April 18, 1859, the first set of L & PPE coaches left
Leavenworth. Over one thousand spectators cheered as Villard boarded one of the
coaches he described as
red-painted, canvas-covered vehicles, with three inside seats for three
passengers each, known as Concord coaches, with four fine Kentucky
mules attached that started on a full run.11
Even more excited to see the coaches were residents of the Cherry Creek area when
the coaches arrived on May 7, 1859.
Just as the setting sun was gorgeously illuminating the range, the
stage made a final halt in front of the log-house in Denver that
represented the headquarters of the stage company. Our coming was
not expected, but the glad intelligence that the first overland stage
was arriving spread instantly on both banks of Cherry Creek, and the
whole population quickly turned out to see it. 12
With the announcement that hundreds of letters and newspapers arrived, the crowd
belted three cheers for the new stage line.13
20


21


Larimer realized his goal with the arrival of a stage line into Denver.
Emerging businesses established themselves close to the stage companys office,
jockeying for the newcomers business. With the L & PPEs regular mail service,
Auraria and Denver City residents anxiously waited in line for a letter from the
states six to seven days old. Previously, Fort Laramie was the closest United States
mail connection to Auraria and Denver City. Jim Saunders created the first express
line from Denver City to Fort Laramie in November 1858, retrieving the newly
formed communities mail, often six weeks old, and sending mail for the
townspeople. He charged fifty cents for letters and twenty-five cents for
newspapers; this was in addition to the three cents United States postage for a letter.
Since the L & PPE was not an official United States mail carrier, it too charged a
private carrier fee of twenty-five cents for letters and ten cents for newspapers.
Although these were steep prices, the recipients and senders willingly paid the price
to communicate with the states. By the spring of 1860, Auraria Town Company
merged with Denver City creating one town called Denver.14
Leavenworth & Pikes Peak Express Stations and Travel
Prior to the first departure of coaches, a large wagon train left Leavenworth,
Kansas Territory carrying provisions, equipment, and materials to establish the
stations. Rather than spend the initial start up time building stations though, the
22


Leavenworth & Pikes Peak Express supplied each station with Sibley tents to
accommodate employees and passengers. The company planned to erect permanent
structures after the line was fully operational.15 Henry Villard described the stations
as ... simply small camps of one large and several small tents manned by three
persons the station-keeper, an assistant.. and a male cook.16 The station
tenders assistant cared for the twelve mules, a number sufficient for the stage coach
relays. The large tent provided the passengers a dining room and sleeping quarters.
Villard indicated that the passengers were expected, as all travelers on the plains
did, to carry with them their bedding that is, buffalo robes or blankets rolled up in
a waterproof sheet.17 Unlike stations in later years, several L & PPE home stations
provided overnight passenger accommodations resulting in a travel time of ten to
twelve days over the 687 miles. The stage line anticipated a reduction in travel time
equal to eight days once it built the stations and fully established the route with
known cut-offs.18
Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune traveled on the L & PPE
six weeks after its inception to find little improvements to the stations. At Station
21, near what became the Tuttle community with the Tuttle stage stop and store,19
Greeley noted the conditions.
Water is obtained from the apology for a river, or by digging in the
sand by its side; in default of wood, corrals (cattle-pens) are formed
at the stations by laying up a heavy wall of clayey earth flanked by sod,
and thus excavating a deep ditch on the inner side, except at the portal,
which is closed at night by running a wagon into it. The tents are
23


sodded at their bases; houses of sod are to be constructed as soon as
may be. Such are the shifts of human ingenuity in a country which
has probably not a cord of growing wood to each township of land.20
Paul Miller, who grew up in eastern Colorado at the turn of the twentieth century,
located many of the station sites over several decades with help from other eastern
Colorado residents. On the site of what he believed to be Station 21, he found a
deteriorating sod ditch that he speculated reached eight feet at one time. His notes
indicated that the trench was shoulder deep from which an individual could easily
fire a rifle if necessary.21
Albert Richardson, a newspaper journalist who was a correspondent for
Horace Greeleys New York Tribune in 1860, accompanied Greeley on the
L & PPE journey west and maintained a journal with more positive impressions
than Greeley.
At Station Twenty-one where we spent the night, we first encountered
fresh fish upon our table. Here the enormous cat-fish of Missouri and
Kansas has dwindled to the little homed-pout of New England, lost its
22
strong taste and regained its legitimate flavor.
Many early emigrants traveling the undefined Smoky Hill Route to Cherry Creek by
foot or horseback made a common, sometimes perishable, error at the site of the
L & PPEs Station 22. They frequently continued their travels northwesterly across
a dry, barren, and isolated plain with no water for miles. If they traveled
23
southwesterly, as the L & PPE route did, they found water.
24


Not only did the stage stations along this route serve the stage company and
its passengers, they provided an oasis for travelers of other modes of transportation.
Greeley witnessed this reception and captured it in his notes.
I found every one of the western stations of the Express company
beset by gangs of half-starved men mostly of the handcart and
walking gentry that had consumed their last, days ago, and were
now driven to appeal to the feelings of compassion of the employes
[s/c] of the Express company. And heartily and humanely was this
appeal responded to in most cases. Otherwise, the road would be
covered with the bleaching bones of such as had breathed their last in
the merciless wilderness, for want of the means of physical subsistence.24
The L & PPEs presence along the Republican and Solomon River route
successfully carved a safer route for travelers and created, for the time, an
upstanding reputation for itself. Greeleys report of his journey in the New York
Tribune left little question to easterners that the Pikes Peak gold rumors were not
humbug. The Rocky Mountain News indicated that during 1859, the L & PPE was
one of the most important and influential institutions of Colorado.25
The Platte Route or Overland Route
Stagecoaching and Stagecoach Stations
Platte Route Stagecoaching
On May 11, 1859, not even one month after the L & PPE coaches started
running, Jones, Russell & Company purchased the United States mail contract from
John M. Hockaday & Co. Hockaday and John Liggitt began the government
25


contract in 1858 to transport mail from Saint Joseph, Missouri to Salt Lake City,
Utah. The contract required mail service to Forts Kearney and Laramie, which left
Jones and Russell with what they believed to be one choice. A United States mail
contract provided security of income along with passenger and express fares, an
opportunity difficult to ignore. They transferred the L & PPE line and operations
north to the Platte Route.26
Once operational on the Platte Route, newspapers made the change public.
The Rocky Mountain News praised the new route in August 1859 and quoted the
papers owner, William Byers, when he indicated that he and his family
... found stations along the South Platte, fitted up in the best style
possible.... Houses have been erected, wells dug, and the conventions
of life are rapidly being gathered around points along a distance of a
hundred miles, where two months ago there was not a fixed habitation.
Passengers by this line get their regular meals on a table and smoking hot.27
The article indicated that independent travelers on horseback, in wagons, or on foot
easily found shelter at night and two meals a day. Later accounts speculated that the
newspapers published the accounts, based partly on truth, as a promotion of the line
and to encourage the company.
No amount of positive publicity, however, resolved the unpaid debts the
L & PPE continued to incur. Although the line ran a regular schedule, operating
costs exceeded passenger fare receipts and the mail contract rate. By October 28,
1859, the line owed creditors $525,532. Russell, Majors and Waddell, a creditor of
approximately $100,000, bought the L & PPE rescuing its own investment. The
26


L & PPEs largest indebtedness was for buying and more fully equipping the
Hockaday mail line. William Russell organized a new company, the Central
Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company (COC & PP) on November
23, 1859, and reclaimed the stage line from Russell, Majors and Waddell. The same
principals involved themselves along with several more individuals as incorporators
of the new entity. In August 1860, the Post Office Department awarded the mail
contract to the Western Stage Company with delivery sendee from Omaha,
Nebraska to Denver, only complicating the COC & PPs fragile business. The
COC & PP lost most of its mail and express business to and from Denver to its new
competitor.30
Although Russell reorganized the company, the debt followed. Due to his
financial mismanagement and other improprieties, the board of directors of the
COC & PP removed Russell as president in April 1861 and appointed Bela M.
Hughes, an attorney, to succeed Russell. Hughes explained in an 1892 letter, that
the line
. was poorly equipped, had few stations of small importance, and
was greatly embarrassed with debt, a fact I did not know when I
consented to take the position as president.31
When the corporate secretary revealed a complete financial statement to
Hughes in November 1861, Hughes saw no debt relief and promptly recommended
that the board of directors auction the company to the highest bidder. During the
difficult financial times, disgruntled stage employees not receiving timely
27


paychecks, interpreted the initials COC & PP as 'Clean Out of Cash & Poor Pay.
Ben Holladay, a creditor of $208,000, successfully bid $100,000 in March 1862.32
Holladay eventually changed the name to Holladay Overland Mail and Express
Company and operated it until November 1866 when Wells Fargo & Company
bought the line for $1,800,000. Wells Fargo operated the line until the Kansas
Pacific Railroad made its way to Denver in 1870.33
Establishment of Platte Route Stage Stations. The Platte Route stage lines
began their routes at Saint Joseph, Missouri traveled northwesterly to Fort Kearney,
Nebraska Territory, then followed the Overland Route and Oregon Trails along the
North Platte River. At the Upper Crossing near the mouth of Lodgepole Creek at
Julesburg, the stage route turned southwesterly for Denver following the South
Platte River. (See Figure 2.2.) Travelers on horseback, in wagons, and on foot used
the route extensively knowing that water, grass, and a few inhabitants existed on the
route. Realizing the masses of emigrants who traveled the route, entrepreneurs
established road ranches or roadhouses that typically doubled as trading posts
offering travelers meals, overnight accommodations, hay, blacksmith services, and
essential provisions for a premium price. Although the stage lines did not originally
use some of the road ranches as stage stations, at times the stage line contracted with
them for that purpose.34
The Platte stage lines built the stage stations all very similarly. Typically,
they were almost square, one-story, hand hewn cedar or pine log vernacular
28


29


structures containing one to three rooms and earthen floors. However, reports
indicated that a few sod stations existed on the route. If the station contained only
one large room, muslin partitions divided the area into separate eating and sleeping
areas. Cedar or pine logs created a gabled roof with small cedar poles placed
close together for rafters. On top of the poles, the builders placed a layer of
willows, a layer of hay, sod or earth, and finally a smattering of coarse gravel to
reduce the wind blowing the earth from the roof. Builders found cedar trees
growing in the canyons south and west of the Platte River, near Cottonwood Springs
in southwestern Nebraska. Groves of trees closer to Denver supplied many stations
west of Bijou Stagecoach Station (near Fort Morgan). Swing stations typically
consisted of the station tenders quarters, a bam, and a corral. The home stations
were much larger and contained several outbuildings in addition to the bam and
corral. In a 1910 account, J. J. Thomas recalled working for the COC & PP as a
relay stage station builder from 1859 to 1860. His work included building Lillian
Springs Stagecoach Station. In addition to constructing stagecoach stations, he
recalled building storehouses for com and horse bams.35
Julesburg. Jules Beni (additionally known as Jules Reni, Rene Beniot and
Rene Jules) established the best-known trading post along the Platte Route. At the
junction of the Oregon and Overland Trails called the Upper California Crossing, he
built his post one mile from the mouth of Lodgepole Creek and on the south side of
the South Platte River. Beginning in the 1 850s he offered travelers provisions for
30


their journeys to California, Oregon, and Utah. The stop later became known as
Julesburg and eventually had four different locations. Stage companies often
referred to it as Overland City, however, an actual name change never occurred. In
1860, the Pony Express kept a relay station at Julesburg on its route from Saint
Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento. The Pony Express, another William Russell and
associates enterprise, ceased in October 1861 with the completion of the
transcontinental telegraph lines.
By 1865, the Julesburg Stagecoach Station was one of the most important on
the route. It was the end of the supervisory division for that stage route section.
Besides a large home station, it contained a passenger eating house, large stable,
blacksmith repair shop, a granary, and storehouses. The stage line built the corral in
an enclosed sod wall. A large store, not a part of the stage company property, gave
travelers an opportunity to buy provisions. The Overland Telegraph Company
operated a telegraph office from the site. The three operations (the stage line, store,
and telegraph office) employed approximately forty to fifty men, including station
hands, stock tenders, drivers, telegraph operators, and a cook. The builder possibly
hauled the cottonwood log building materials from Cottonwood Canyon sixty-five
miles east of Julesburg to construct the frame station with a sod roof.36
Edward L. Berthoud and W. F. Wilder organized a second Julesburg in
February 1866 approximately two miles east of the original or Old Julesburg. It was
near the east boundary of Fort Sedgwick making it convenient for the soldiers to
31


buy whiskey and other provisions. The Union Pacific Railroad prompted a third
Julesburg in 1867 as its line veered south into Colorado Territory while avoiding
laying track through several miles of Nebraska sand hills. Some emigrants
continued using the second Julesburg stage station as a resting place although the
stage company relocated the station to the third Julesburg where the stage met train
passengers traveling to Denver. Once the train reached Cheyenne by way of
->7
Nebraska, stage travel on the Platte Route decreased considerably.
Stations along the Platte Route functioned in a variety of ways. Guidebooks
published in Missouri and Kansas noted many stations, the availability of
provisions, grass, water, and wood. Emigrants traveling by methods other than
stagecoaches revealed that they used the stagecoach stations as reference points.
Jonah Girad Cisne kept a journal of his wagon train trip to Pikes Peak country in
April 1860.
Thursday 15th started early, a calm clear day. Passed by the Station
as they was eating breakfast. Stopped for dinner by some Shiann fj/c]
Indians. Stopped 4 mi. below Lilions Springs [Lillian Springs] for
dinner.... Passed Valley Station at 4 oclock .... Sunday the 20th....
We did not drive. Washed some close [s/c] and laid over till Monday.
This Station is 3/4 of a mile below the cut-off, 75 miles from Denver.. ..
in
Passed the toll gate about 11 oclock, 8 miles from Denver.
Frequently, these emigrants and wagon trains camped near the stations not
only to buy provisions, if necessary, but as a sense of security. In Ez Stahls diary
entry for May 17, 1860, he noted that he and his party drove 17 miles, camped on
Platte past the stage station, and on September 16, 1862 that he got supper at
32


Fremonts (Fremonts Orchard Stagecoach Station on the Platte Route.)39 Another
emigrant, who left his or her name out of a journal, indicated the type of sleeping
accommodations that stations offered for travelers in 1863, June 9th, Rain -
stopped at Spring Hill Station in stable, slept in manger best bed since St. Joe.40
This traveler, not splurging for the home station meals, told of his or her variety of
food for lunch and supper, Bacon and crackers then crackers and bacon.41
Along with many others who migrated west and were unable to afford a stagecoach
ride or station meals, he or she appeared frugal. By June 11th the diary told that
they did not expect to eat again until they reached Denver, which was four more
days of travel. He or she wrote that at the Kiowa station, they bought one pint of
milk for dinner with hopes for bread at ranch and at Box Elder Stagecoach Station
that the Boys eating, Im fasting.42
Platte Route settlers and station tenders created their own communities in
isolated northeastern Colorado Territory. Settlers considered anyone within one
hundred miles their neighbors. To ward off loneliness, some home stations hosted
dances. The host sent a message along the line inviting everyone. Some settlers
traveled over fifty miles just to attend the dances. They arrived on horseback, in
wagons, and some rode the stage, depending on seat availability, and then caught
the return stage the next day. Although the stage lines did not originally contract
with Godfreys ranch, built approximately in 1860 (between what is now Sterling
and Fort Morgan, Colorado), it later replaced American Ranche as a home station.
33


Godfreys hosted occasional dances and made neighbors and travelers alike feel
welcome. The dances typically lasted all night with a large potluck held at
midnight. Mary Ellen Bailey from Latham, a stagecoach station near present day
Greeley, noted in her diary that she traveled to Godfreys ball, nearly 60 miles, just
to get up at the crack of dawn the following morning to return home. The sight of
so many women at one place, who traveled such a great distance, frequently amazed
travelers who stopped at the station during a dance.43
Sand Creek
As masses of emigrants poured over the prairies, it affected local Indian
tribes resources. Sheltering timber groves and large bison herds dwindled.
Historian Elliott West referred to wagon trains as great grass-gobbling machines
as they devoured much of the remaining forage along the major routes.44 While
Indians in the area were peaceful during the first few years of white migration,
government and continued white infiltration pushed the tribes into smaller areas
with fewer resources. Some tribes members became very resistant to the white
peoples invasion and became desperate as tensions built. The June 1864 murder
and mutilation of ranch manager Ward Hungate, his wife, and two daughters, was
the turning point. Testimony later revealed that four Northern Arapahoe held a
grudge against Hungate. Colorado Territorial Governor, John Evans, interpreted the
murders as all Indians declaration of a full war. He requested that peaceful Indians
34


report to specified military posts where the military offered food and safety to
them.45 Due to scant military provisions at Fort Lyon, in the southeastern portion of
Colorado Territory, the military turned away a peaceful group of Cheyennes
advising them to camp near Sand Creek, an area north of Fort Lyon, where they
were supposedly safe. Colonel John M. Chivington, commanding officer of the
First Colorado Regiment, believing he needed to teach the Indians a lesson they
would not forget46 took Evans interpretation to an extreme. At dawn, November
29, 1864, Chivington led his troops into the peaceful Sand Creek camp killing and
mutilating every man, woman, and child possible and burning the lodges the next
day. Some escaped and survived while approximately 150 lost their lives in this
needless massacre 47
Revenge
After mourning their loses, Indians sought reprisal beginning in January
1865. Sioux and Cheyenne leaders decided to attack Julesburg first. At dawn on an
early January day, close to 600 Sioux and Cheyenne waited in the sand hills near
Fort Sedgwick and Julesburg. A few Indians drew the soldiers out of the fort by
yelling and charging. Once the soldiers engaged in a fight, the remaining Indians
swooped down upon the station and store. Approximately fourteen soldiers died.
The remaining soldiers retreated leaving the Indians to plunder the station, store,
and warehouse the soldiers not interfering. In the sand hills, Indian women waited
35


with extra ponies onto which they loaded provisions. They secured all of the
groceries, including large sacks of flour, corn, and sugar, clothing, silks, and
hardware. Although they did not understand what the canned food was initially,
they quickly learned from George and Charlie Bent48 who found a new use for their
tomahawks opening the tin cans. The Indians found a moneybox supposedly not
knowing what the green paper represented and threw it into the air. George and
Charlie Bent knowing its purpose secured a large sum of the estimated $30,000.
Toward the end of January the tribes planned another strike. The plan was
that the Cheyennes hit all ranches and stations midway between Denver and the
Bijou Station (near Fort Morgan), the Sioux hit those east of Julesburg, and the
Northern Arapahoe strike in the middle. This time damages were more severe.
Between late January and February 2, 1865, the tribes attacked nearly every ranch
and station on the Platte Route. They burned the majority of them along with tons
of hay and ran off hundreds of cattle. Once again, the tribes greatly out numbered
the Fort Sedgwick soldiers who gave little resistance. Each rancher and stage tender
was on his own. Several settlers and stage tenders died from gun shot wounds or
the fires. Cut Belly, a Sioux, took American Ranche stage tenders wife Sarah
Morris and her two children captive. Additionally, the Indians destroyed the
telegraph lines to Denver.49
Holon Godfrey, owner of a ranch about two miles west of the American
Ranche and stage station, (located between what is now Sterling and Fort Morgan,
36


Colorado) was one of the few who defended his property with little damage. He
built his 1860 ranch to include a comer tower, containing portholes, in the corral.
He reportedly dug a well inside the dwellings. When attacked, he, his wife,
children, and at least one male visitor defended the location when they created a
firebreak by wetting the ground and the sod roof. Godfreys wife, Matilda, and the
Godfrey children molded bullets and reloaded guns. Finally, the Indians retreated.
The story told is that Cheyenne and Sioux Indians called Godfrey Old Wicked
due to Godfreys perseverance and defense strategies. He adopted the name Fort
Wicked for his ranch. The stage line contracted with Godfrey to tend a home
station, considering the American Ranche and most others on the line burned.50
Only a few Platte Route stations and ranches survived the 1865
depredations. Stage lines sending stages west advised passengers to bring at least a
three days supply of food since many home stations were not operational, if
existing. Travelers continued to use the burned and abandoned stations as reference
points and in at least one case as an oasis for a hot meal. Traveling on a very cold
day, a stage driver stopped at one of the pilfered and burned home stations hoping to
find at least some coffee. The driver and passengers found enough food remaining
to delight in their first hot meal in two days. They enjoyed a breakfast combination
of canned stewed tomatoes, stewed dried apples, bacon swimming in fat, biscuits
yellow with soda, and hot coffee.51
37


Ben Holladay threatened to abandon his the entire Platte Route if the federal
government did not protect it. The stages stopped running, prices soared for goods
coming to Colorado Territory, and the United States mail service sent Colorado mail
to Panama, then to California, and then east to Denver avoiding the dangers.
George Bent stated, All of this trouble was the result of Colonel Chivingtons
great victory at Sand Creek. The government sent extra troops and provided
military escorts for coaches traveling in pairs. By May 1865, the federal
government declared the route safe for travel. For those who could afford the coach
fare, the stage line attempted to recoup its losses by increasing the $100 coach fare
to $175. Although depredations and attacks continued regularly through 1869, none
measured in damages or deaths to the ones in early 1865.53
W. Lee Henderson came to Colorado Territory in 1872 with the intention of
settling near what is now Sterling, Colorado. At the deserted Fort Sedgwick,
located fifty miles from Sterling, he found building materials a door, a window,
and a frame, that he claimed were For our shanty.54 He took possession of the site
and the remains of Valley Stagecoach Station located three miles east of Sterling,
built his shanty, homesteaded the site, and raised cattle. Hendersons brother,
John, remembered that in the stage days the road over the sand hills below Valley
Station was paved with dobe, and for many years it was advisable to stick to the
old pavement.55 He remembered a family in a wagon that got off the pavement
38


and were hopelessly stuck until he and others helped pull them out with their
team.56
The Overland North Route
During the COC & PP occupation of the Platte Route, the route continued
over the Colorado Territory prairies stopping at stations including one near what is
now Fort Morgan, Greeley (called Latham in 1860), Fort Saint Vrain, and finally
south to Denver, the end of the line. In 1862, when Ben Holladays Overland Mail
and Express Company received the United States mail contract, he changed the
route to Denver by adding a short cut called the Fort Morgan Cut-Off. This
southwesterly approach from Fort Morgan to Denver made a more direct route that
reduced the travel time. For fares to Fort Laramie, the route continued from Fort
Morgan northwesterly to Latham, La Porte, and then north to Wyoming. In 1864,
the stage company changed the route to extend directly from Denver to Fort
Laramie via St. Vrain (the location of the Burlington Stagecoach Station), Big
Thompson station, La Porte, and on to Wyoming. When Wells Fargo and Co.
bought Holladays enterprise in 1866, not only did it continue the line from Denver
to Fort Laramie, it established a Denver to Cheyenne route that traversed the same
area north of Denver, then at La Porte veered northeasterly over an old trail that
traders used from Santa Fe to Fort Laramie during the first half of the nineteenth
century.57
39


The existence of stage travel and stage stations created new employment
opportunities for the emerging communities. Lucas Brandt arrived in Colorado
Territory on April 5, 1867. He worked on the Rist hay farm near the Big Thompson
River (three miles west of Loveland). Mr. Rist contracted with Wells Fargo for the
growing and delivering hay to stagecoach stations. Hay grew wild in the
bottomlands of the Big Thompson and the Cache la Poudre Rivers. Brandt assisted
in cutting, curing, and hauling the hay to the Little Thompson stage station,
Namaqua stage station, Spring Canyon stage station, and the La Porte stage station.
Brandt hauled the hay on racks made of logs, then tied and fastened them with
chains. Two and one half to three tons of hay equaled a load that Brandt hauled
with a team of oxen. Wells Fargo additionally contracted with Brandt to haul cut
lumber from Left Hand Creek to the Namaqua stage station to build a bam for
stagecoach stock.58
La Porte Stagecoach Station
Stage stations often became the community center for various events. Harris
Stratton married Elizabeth Parke Keays at the Poudre Valley Camp on December
29, 1866. The couples wedding celebration consisted of a horse ride to the La
Porte Stagecoach Station where friends hosted a wedding dance and party in their
honor.59 Charles E. Roberts recalled the John Robinson circus en route from
Denver to Cheyenne pitched its tents just east of the hotel or eating station on the
40


great Overland route in the summer of 1867.60 This unidentified home station may
have been either La Porte or Namaqua. La Porte was the largest community on the
Denver and Cheyenne route with a hotel, brewery, four saloons, a shoe shop, two
blacksmith shops, and a store all on the main route with the home station. The La
Porte stage station served as a post office by June 1862.61
La Porte was an important station during its time, serving as the Holladay
stage companys headquarters for Colorado Territory in 1862. Mrs. William Taylor
of the La Porte home station, was famous along the route for her neat and attractive
dining-room and her excellent table, where she
served various kinds of bread, coffee made to perfection and the
variety of things she knew what to do with beans and dried apples.62
In the fall of 1866, Colonel Silas Seymour, a consulting engineer for the Union
Pacific Railroad, General Grenville W. Dodge, chief engineer, and James A. Evans,
division engineer, accompanied the directors of the Union Pacific Railroad through
Colorado Territory and examined proposed railroad routes. Seymour wrote,
We reached Laporte, a distance of sixty-seven miles by stage road
from Denver ... and found most comfortable quarters at the stage
station kept by William S. Taylor.63
When William Taylor advised the group that his station did not offer sleeping
accommodations, Seymour asked Taylor of the possibility of one person sleeping in
the lounge in the comer of the dining room, while the others slept on the floor near
the stove. Upon this, the cook, a buxom middle-aged woman with a sucking child,
41


called out from the kitchen, in not very gentle tones, that lounge was her bed.64
The group found other accommodations in town.
Latham Stagecoach Station
Colorados 100-Day Volunteers camped at the Latham home stage station in
1864. Once Indian depredations along the Platte began, other companies
bivouacked on the station grounds. The Thirteenth Kansas Regiment Volunteer
Infantry stationed many soldiers there while escorting stagecoaches. Company B of
First Colorado succeeded the Thirteenth Kansas Regiment, and the 11th Ohio
Volunteer Cavalry succeeded Company B. Locals called the station Fort Latham
due to the number of soldiers camped there on a continual basis. Although the stage
line discontinued using this station in 1862, Mary Ellen Jackson Baileys diary
reflected that she continued to offer accommodations to travelers on their way to
Wyoming.65
Because most stages ran on a twenty-four hour schedule, the drivers only
stopped during the night to change horses. Most accounts confirmed that home
stations typically provided two or three meals during the day. However, one home
station served as a twenty-four hour cafe for a few prominent stage passengers. In
1868 Samuel Bowles, editor in chief of the Springfield Republican (Massachusetts),
William Bross, editor of the Chicago Tribune, Schuyler Colfax, Illinois Lieutenant
Governor, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and United States
42


Vice President nominee, and several relatives of these three, boarded an extra
stage in Cheyenne at ten oclock in the morning. In the middle of night, the party
decided they were hungry.
Our stage was an extra, and ran wild, and so came along
unawareness. It was a trifle rough, therefore, to rouse a lone woman,
at one oclock in the night, to get us some supper or breakfast, -
whichever you choose to call it. She could do it, she said, but she
didnt quite like to. But who could resist the gallant Vice-President
whether pleading for ballot or breakfast; or the offers of help from the
ladies; or the final suggestion of the driver? She wavered at the first;
the second operated as a challenge to her capacity; and the third was
irresistible.... So at two oclock in the morning, we sat down to ham
and potatoes, tea and coffee, bread and butter, pies, cakes and canned
fruits, not even the edges of the squareness of the meal rubbed off,
and good humor everywhere.66
Virginia Dale Stagecoach Station
The best-known station on this route was the Virginia Dale Stagecoach
Station located five miles south of the Wyoming border. It was well known for its
station tender Joseph A. Slade, Jack, who unknowingly created a reputation ideal for
the basis of many western tales. As with many stories associated with the western
frontier, the early reports often exaggerated and/or concealed the truth to promote
legends and sell stories. Slade began his career with the Overland Stage Company
as a division superintendent in Julesburg. His previous experience included work as
a train-master for a California bound wagon train, a stage driver for the
43


COC & PP and as a division agent at Fort Kearney. He held a reputation in the
West as a great Indian fighter and a skilled marksman. His job for the Overland
Stage Company included supervising stage tenders and accounting for company
property, including the company horses that mysteriously disappeared. Slade
believed Jules Beni, of the Julesburg stage station, stole company horses and
supplies. Based on Slades report, the company fired Beni for his alleged criminal
activities with various outlaws. The legend begins when revengeful Beni shot Jack
Slade several times. Slade survived with a mission to track down Beni. Not only
did he track him down, he purportedly tied Benis hands and feet, stood him against
a corral, cut off his ears, and nailed them to a fence. Slade finished the job by
dispensing several rounds of bullets into Beni. Slade left one ear on the fence as a
deterrent to future horse thieves and the other one, legend has it, Slade used as a
watch guard.67
Observing Jack Slades company loyalty, the stage company promoted him
to division superintendent for the Overland Stage route from Julesburg to Denver
and the north portion of the Overland route to Wyoming. Although it is unknown
whether Jack Slade actually built the headquarters and home station or if the
Overland Stage Company employed carpenters, Slade was the first to occupy and
named it. His wife, Marie Virginia Dale Slade, for whom he named the station,
Virginia Dale, accompanied him to Colorado Territory. Then he dawned the creek
near the station Dale Creek. They constructed the one-story, hand hewn, log station
44


using a method referred to as piece-sur-piece. This technique commonly known as
a mortise and tenon log construction, used vertically notched horizontal timbers ...
placed into the grooves of vertical timbers set at regular intervals.68 Divided by
vertical posts into three sections, clapboard covered the exterior middle and east
sections from which an open shed-roofed porch originally extended. On the west
section, a shed addition constructed of vertical boards extended to the depth of the
porch. The building had a low, side gabled roof. However, the east end of the
building contained a parapet that continued slightly above the slope of the roof.
From the parapet and the construction of the east wall, researchers speculated that
the architect originally planned a second story addition that never materialized. A
large stone chimney existed on the east wall. The stage company built a large bam
and a blacksmiths building in 1862 to complete the station.69
The Overland Stage Company had a reputation for hiring men with the
highest level of responsibility and trust. Slade did his job very efficiently ensuring
that the mail always made its destination on time, unless he was drinking. He
became violent when under the influence of alcohol to the point of shooting up
towns, riding his horse into saloons and stores, and even worse, shooting men.
Upon sobering, Slade always paid for the damages and apologized. When he killed
someone he withheld the apology. Once his bad habits gained control of his life in
1863, the stage line fired Slade for his misconduct. Stories reported that he killed
twenty-six men before vigilantes in Virginia City, Montana, hanged Jack Slade in
45


1864. Legends of the notorious Jack Slade grew across the West, making it difficult
for one to know the accurate details.70
In addition to its use as a stage station, wagon trains traveling west used the
Virginia Dale stage station as a refuge. The Overland Trail was the only route open
to travelers of the Oregon Trail by order of the United States military during Indian
scares. Military troops frequently camped in the valley below the station. When
Slade tended the station, stories indicated that he permitted desperadoes to hideout
in the nearby hills and at the station. The stories claimed that Slade was not a
stranger to the unlawful activity of which the criminals were guilty, and possibly, a
participant.
The Union Pacific Railroad completed its route from Denver to Cheyenne in
1867. The lack of stage travelers forced the stage line to abandon the Denver to
Fort Laramie route in 1868. However, Seymour C. Leach, the third station agent,
along with other settlers decided to homestead the area. Leach and his wife
purchased the stage station that housed the first post office in the area. The
designation as a post office came on January 9, 1868, ceasing service on September
28, 1868, and beginning again September 14, 1874. A small cemetery near the
station is the burial place for Mrs. Leach and two others who have unmarked
71
graves.
The station and property changed hands several times over the next thirty
years. In 1909, Emil Hurzeler, built another log cabin next to the station to use as
46


his home. In 1914, the Lawson family owned the station and used it as a store,
community building, and post office, living in the log cabin. The Virginia Dale
Home Demonstration Club formed in 1921 and used the station for its meetings and
events. Lawson built a gas station on the property and an outside dance floor
extending on the west side of the station for the communitys summer events.
Similar to the early emigrants, Lawson allowed overnight camping in the meadow.
In 1932, the Colorado State Highway Department rerouted the main
thoroughfare from the Overland route two miles west to what is now state highway
287. The stage station was no longer a convenient stopping place for travelers. The
owners of the station built a new store and post office next to the highway. During
the late 1940s, station owners Fred and Maude Maxwell gave the station to the
Virginia Dale Home Demonstration Club to continue hosting community events.
When the Maxwells died, their estates deeded six acres along with the stage station
to the club. Maude Maxwells last will and testament provided that the club
preserve the station and maintain its historical merit while continuing its use as a
community building. The club, now called the Virginia Dale Community Club,
maintains the station, the log cabin built in 1909 (now called the club house), the
outhouse, and the acreage (now totaling ten acres) continuing to provide a
community gathering place as the stage station originally did.
Although the Overland Route, comprised of the Platte Route and the
Cherokee North Route, and its stage stations hosted several stage companies and
47


their difficulties, was the target of Indian depredations and dangers, the benefits to
the settlement of Colorado are innumerable. The stations sites not only provided
meals and resting places for passengers and other travelers alike, but served as safe
havens, reference points, camping grounds, military posts, cemeteries, dance halls,
post offices, and telegraph offices. Equally important, they provided a notion of
community, providing a place of bonding to those daring residents and travelers
willing to face dangerous, isolated, rugged, and extreme conditions together.
Additionally, the advent of stage lines promoted towns and communication between
the eastern United States and the western United States.
48


CHAPTER 3
SOUTHEASTERN PLAINS STAGECOACHING
Although the Platte Route carried the bulk of Colorado Territorys emigrant
traffic, two other routes were equally important in transporting gold seekers from
the states to Colorado Territory. The Santa Fe Route, or Arkansas Route, was an
extension of an old trapping and trading trail in southeastern Colorado Territory. It
followed the Arkansas River to Bents Fort. A connection from the Santa Fe Route
continued to Pueblo then north to Denver following portions of the Old Cherokee
Trail. Locals commonly referred to this as the Denver and Santa Fe Route rather
than the Cherokee Trail. The other major eastern Colorado Territory trail was the
Smoky Hill Route, considered the most direct route from the states to Denver.
Located between the Platte and Santa Fe Routes, the Smoky Hill Route consisted of
three trails (nearly one for each company that operated it) that often overlapped one
another, resulting in a north branch, middle branch, and south branch.
The Santa Fe Route
Traders hauled goods and supplies over the Santa Fe Trail by the mid 1820s.
Traveling from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, commerce
wagons, trappers, and traders crossed the very comer of what is now Colorado,
49


called the Cimarron Cutoff. By the mid nineteenth century, wagons carried the
United States Mail from the states to Santa Fe using this route. With the 1859 rush
to Pikes Peak riches, the War Department became concerned with emigrants safety.
It established Fort Wise in 1860 (later known as Fort Lyon) west of the cutoff near
Bents New Fort. The Post Office Department approved a mail route change in
February 1861 to include Fort Wise and the Pikes Peak gold diggings. The route
followed the Arkansas River into Colorado Territory and became known as the
Santa Fe Trail, Mountain Branch. (See Figure 3.1). Arkansas Route promoters
labeled it the greatest natural road in the world. The Missouri Stage Company
began carrying mail and passengers along the route to Colorado City then north to
Denver in February 1861.1
During the initial years, the stage companies changed frequently along the
route. Replacing the Missouri Stage Company, Slemmons, Roberts and Company
operated its Kansas, Santa Fe and Canon City Fast Line from April 1861 until June
28, 1862. Beginning on July 5, 1862, Cottrill, Vickroy and Company (a partnership
of Mahlon Cottrill, George Vickroy, Bradley Barlow, Harvey Vaile and Thomas
Bamum) operated the stage route that included a private letter carrying service from
Denver to Pueblo. Cottrill changed the line name slightly to the Kansas, Santa Fe
and Canon City Express Line. After Vaile and Vickroy left the firm in 1863,
Cottrill and Company continued the line and the name. However, deviations of the
50


51


name became common, including the Santa Fe Stage and Express, the Santa Fe
Stage Company and the Santa Fe Stage.
Sources speculated that Jared L. Sanderson, an associate of Cottrill and
Company for several years, was a non-managing partner. With the 1864 death of
Mahlon Cottrill, Bradley Barlow became the controlling manager. Although
Sandersons title was unknown, sources believed that he held a high level position
below Barlow. In 1866, the Post Office Department opened bidding for a new
contract on the Santa Fe route (not including the route from Denver to Pueblo). The
Post Office Department accepted Sandersons bid April 13, 1866, and five days later
mandated that Bradley Barlow partner with Sanderson for the contract. It is
unknown whether Barlow and Sanderson planned this coincidence or if it was an
incident of collusion referred to as straw bidding.
While Cottrill, Vickroy and Company held the United States mail contract
over the Mountain Branch, Harvey Vaile stopped at Burlingame, Kansas to meet
with Mr. Niles, a farmer. Vailes visit was to seek farmhands willing to work for
the stage company. Vaile specifically wanted a farmhand as a stage driver believing
they were not coward of the rough staging life as those he currently employed.
William Ryus worked for Niles at the time as a young farmhand. Ryus accepted a
stage driving position over what the stage company referred to as the Long Route,
240 miles from Fort Lamed, Kansas to Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory. At the time,
there were no stage stations between the Forts. One set of mules pulled the stage
52


the entire distance, stopping periodically for grazing. While the mules grazed, the
passengers and driver prepared meals over a campfire. They camped at night,
sleeping either on the ground, wrapping themselves in buffalo robes, or if they
desired, in the parked coach. Stage companies holding United States mail contracts
not only carried the mail for the government. The United States Government
required that the stage lines deliver various government publications to western
states and territories. One set of government publications facilitated Ryus
maneuvering the stage over an impediment and prevented a late stage arrival.
Although the Red River in New Mexico was only nine feet wide and two and one
half feet deep at the crossing, on a spring run Ryus found it very icy, muddy, and
treacherous due to spring thaws.
I was in a quandary just how I would cross it. After climbing down
off of the coach, looking around for an escape, a happy idea possessed
me. I was carrying four sacks of patent books which would weigh
about 240 pounds a sack, the sacks were eighteen inches square by
four and a half feet long, so I concluded to use these books to make
an impromptu bridge. I cut the ice open for twenty inches, wide
enough to fit the tracks of the coach for the wheels to run on, then
placed four of these sacks of books in the water and drove my mules
across the Red River. I was fully aware that the books were government
property, but from past experience I knew they would never be put to
use. I knew they might serve the government better in a bridge than
otherwise. Knowing this I felt that I had a remedy at law and grounds
for defense.4
During Cottrill, Vickroy and Companys occupation of the route, it
established seven stage stations over the Long Route. The sites measured eighty by
forty feet with adobe walls nine feet high and two feet thick.3 The stage line
53


employed, among others, Robert M. Wright to build these stations. In his 1907
reminiscences, he recalled the methods he used in building them.
The stations were dugouts. I would select a bank, cut the face straight
down, and make a square excavation about 14 or 20 feet square, make
a chimney of sods in the back, level up the sides and fill in the front
with sods and put on a roof with poles, hay & dirt. The stable would
be made the same way. As the stations were all on the north side of
the river they faced the south, the door and one or two windows in front.6
Dents Fort Stagecoach Station
The Bent brothers, Charles and William, and Ceran St. Vrain were
significant participants in the fur trade. The three built an adobe fort along the
Arkansas River in what is now southeastern Colorado, near La Junta, about 1833.
The fort played an important role as a trading post with Indians, Mexicans,
explorers, trappers, and traders along the Santa Fe Trail and in the region. The
Mexican War and an 1849 cholera epidemic, affecting the Indians who frequently
traded at the fort, prompted a decline in the fur and trade business. By the early
1850s, William Bent found that such a large trading operation was no longer
profitable. Although the United States War Department offered to purchase the fort
and convert it into a military post, its $12,000 offer insulted William Bent who
believed it was worth significantly more and refused to sell. Determined that the
government not own the fort, William Bent packed his wagons with as much of his
54


property as possible then set fire to the fort, abandoning it for good. He built Bents
New Fort thirty-five miles east of his abandoned fort in 1853.7
During Cottrill, Vickroy and Companys stage line operation over the
Mountain Branch Route, the line remodeled the surviving ruins of the partially
burned and abandoned Bents Fort to function as a home station, blacksmith shop,
and general repair shop for the stage line. The stage company made several
structural changes including raising the height of the fireplace hearths with
limestone fill. Although limestone was not a preferable material for a fireplace
hearth, since it had a great susceptibility to fracturing at high heat, it was an
inexpensive solution since the fort was near the Fort Hayes Limestone stratum.
Additionally, the stage line built plank and joist floors over the forts dirt floors. An
archeological study of the fort ruins completed in the early 1970s, revealed that the
second largest room in the fort had a very large fireplace that probably served as
either a passenger eating area or sleeping quarters for stage tenders. White plaster
o
remains were evident in the stage rooms.
Three medium to large sized rooms were habitable among the ruins William
Bent left, all of which the stage station used. One coach passenger called it quite a
complete and comfortable station.9 Bents Fort served as a post office beginning
in 1863 with Lewis Bamum, brother of stage line owner Thomas Bamum, as the
postmaster. Emma Boone Bamum (Thomas wife, Van Daniel Boones daughter,
and Daniel Boones great granddaughter) tended the station with her husband and
55


served what a Rocky Mountain News journalist called a regular pioneer supper.10
Once the railroad appeared in southeastern Colorado and the stage line disappeared,
a local cattle rancher used the old fort and stage station for cattle pens until the
1890s. Attaching cedar posts across the rooms, the archeologists speculated that the
rancher made holding pens for branding cattle.
One cowhand, General W. H. Sears, recalled that I lived alone in this old
fort for about three months, inspecting the cattle on the range every day, and
engaging in round-ups and cattle drives.11 During his stay in the summer of 1876,
he used the pens for milking cows. From the herd, Sears selected
... six milk cows and drove them inside the corral of the fort,
milking them two times daily. However, I had to rope them, snub
their heads close to a post and tie their hind legs together before they
19
would let me milk them.
He made butter and sold it, milk, and buttermilk to passing emigrants utilizing the
Santa Fe Trail. Second Lt. Homer W. Wheeler purchased the dairy products for his
soldiers at Fort Wise, one-half mile from the fort.
Artifacts dating from 1890 to 1905 revealed that travelers and cattle ranchers
continued to use the station ruins as a refuse against weather and fatigue. Gradually
the fort deteriorated. By 1912 portions of walls still stood four feet high, with the
weather continuing to crumble the walls. That year, the Daughters of the American
Revolution (DAR) erected a monument in recognition of the historical fort and
station. In 1920, DAR acquired title to the site and intended to preserve it. Over the
56


years it incurred damages from cattle, cattle ranchers, weather, and abuse by
treasure hunters. Before the DAR began its preservation efforts, the 1921 Great
Pueblo Flood, washed away all remaining walls.13
Booneville Stagecoach Station
The Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Route continued westward from
Bents Old Fort along the Arkansas River to Booneville, Colorado, Territory. Its
location was approximately fifteen miles east of Pueblo. When Colonel Albert G.
Boone, grandson of Daniel Boone, resigned as an Indian agent for the Upper
Arkansas Agency in the early 1860s, he decided to situate his family in Colorado
Territory. They settled on a 1400-acre tract, previously owned by Russell, Majors
and Waddell, whom Boone knew. The property became known as Booneville.
Joining his brother, Van Daniel Boone moved on the property with his family.
When Cottrill and Company terminated a contract with the nearby Haynes ranch as
a stage station, the stage line negotiated with Boone to use his ranch and home as a
home station. Seventeen log buildings arranged in a square created an open plaza in
the middle. The arrangement of the buildings afforded additional protection to the
Booneville residents. Eventually, Boone replaced the log dwellings with adobe
buildings providing winter warmth and summer coolness. Besides Boones wife
and an African American cook, Boones daughters, Maggie and Millie, assisted in
operating the station.14
57


In 1863, the Post Office Department designated the Booneville stage station
as a post office. Henry M. Fosdick, an engineer who surveyed Colorado City and
Denver, moved to Booneville with his family and served as postmaster, where mail
came by stage three times per week. In the summer of 1864, the federal government
designated the stage station and ranch to serve another purpose in an experiment; it
appointed Fosdick as the director. His job was to teach local Indians Anglo farming
techniques. However, with Fosdicks busy schedule as postmaster and with other
station duties, he rarely had time for the experiment. Fosdicks schedule coupled
with the Indians resistance to the white mans attempt to covert them into Anglo
farmers, provided sufficient cause for failure of the experiment.15
Iron Springs Stagecoach Station
Iron Springs swing station was nothing more than a barricade that could be
used in case of an Indian attack according to Granville (Gus) Withers who as a
young boy lived at the station with his family. When the Missouri Stage Company
built the station it added a high adobe wall to completely enclose the small house.
This station served as the stage companys mule preserve for the mules the company
used in making the trip to Bents Fort station from Trinidad. This swing station
provided Granville his first paying job. Granville received $10 per month to care
for the mules.
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Mules have a peculiar habit of running away, and these mules always
headed for a place called Hole-in-the-rock. Whenever they began
wandering, my job was to go round them up. Work became boring
but I was rewarded by receiving a pony to keep track of the mules
more easily.16
Freighters traveling to Pueblo or Denver from Santa Fe, frequently camped at Iron
Springs to rest and graze their oxen.
The Iron Springs site additionally served as a common area to local Indians.
Granville occasionally heard and saw distant confrontations between Indians. In
December 1864, Granvilles father found a wounded Indian near the stage station,
took him to the station, and cared for him until he healed. Before the Indian left, he
told Granvilles father of his tribes plans to attack ranches and stations. To repay
the familys kindness, the Indian hoped to provide warning to the family before the
attacks. The Indian notified the Withers family the day prior to the planned attack.
Mr. Withers sent his wife and youngest children to Trinidad while he and Granville
stayed and packed a wagon. Granville and his father left the station at four oclock
in the morning. The family learned later that the Indians burned the station at dawn
17
and ran off any remaining mules.
The Santa Fe Trail stage stations did not escape Indians depredations and
attacks as revenge to the Sand Creek Massacre. However, the attacks were less
severe than on the Platte Route. Attacks occurred all along the Santa Fe Route, east
into Kansas, south into New Mexico, and west along the Mountain Branch.
Desperadoes accepted this as an opportunity to rob stations, coaches, and wagon
59


trains hoping the victims blamed the area Indians. One group of thieves later
admitted being Anglo Texans, however Kansas City and Santa Fe papers quickly
dismissed that idea, discredited the robbers statements, and blamed area tribes.18
Smoky Hill Route
After the L & PPE Company started and then abandoned the Republican and
Solomon River Route, that included a section of the Smoky Hill Route, no other
enterprises ventured over the Smoky Hill Trail for six years. The only travelers
were those on foot, horseback, and in wagons who still followed the Smoky Hill
River Route directed by many guidebooks. In 1860, individuals from Leavenworth,
Kansas hired William Green Russell, pioneer to the Cherry Creek gold rush, to
survey the Smoky Hill River Route to Denver. His job included providing a report
of the camping sites, water, grass, and fuel along the way. Many condemned the
idea, including the Rocky Mountain News, which stated that it
had been tried once over this fated Smoky Hell route with only too
lamentable success, and its instigators stand today, in the sight of
Heaven, guilty of manslaughter, to say the least.19
The News continued its skepticism by suggesting that the trail promoters travel over
the Smoky Hill Route before encouraging the idea to others. If they get through
without eating each other up, some adventurous individuals may be induced to
follow.20 Wanting an advantage over Missouri cities, several Kansas towns raised
60


money and hired Henry Green to build a road from Leavenworth straight through to
the gold fields using the Smoky Hill Trail. His job included building bridges, filling
ravines, moving large rocks, and creating markers. Green successfully concluded
his assignment and reported that although wood was lacking, buffalo chips burned
equally well, and water was sufficient except for a twenty-mile stretch. The
outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 dampened any hopes of the Leavenworth roads
readiness that year, or for the next few years.
Colonel David A. Butterfield, a New Yorker who owned a Denver grocery
and commission business, established the Butterfield Overland Despatch
(Dispatch) on July 5, 1864. The BOD, as most called it, was a freighting and
passenger line. With his vast number of eastern business friends, Butterfield learned
that a great freighting opportunity existed between the Mississippi River ports and
the Rocky Mountains. Based on the shorter, more direct, and relatively safe
conditions, he chose to utilize the previously surveyed Smoky Hill Road. The BOD
line planned to compete with and acquire Ben Holladays Platte stage business since
the Smoky Hill Route was a more direct route. Butterfield advertised his
proposition in eastern newspapers requesting monetary investors and received $3
million in response. Headquartered in New York City, Butterfield established seven
additional offices across the country, the furthest west being in Salt Lake City.
For safety reasons, Lieutenant Julian R. Fitch of the United States Signal
Corps, accompanied a survey crew on the Smoky Hill Route. Fitch was a member
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of the Smoky Hill Trail survey crew in 1860 and familiar with the road and dangers.
Isaac E. Eaton conducted the survey and led the crew in building stations, digging
wells, and providing information to Butterfield. Originally, the line built fourteen
stage stations. However, once the line began operating the line changed some
station names and moved some to slightly better locations. After two months of
work, the first passenger coach left Leavenworth on September 11, 1865 and arrived
in Denver on September 23, 1865.21 The Rocky> Mountain News had a different tone
regarding the Smoky Hill Trail as the BOD prepared the route.
In enumerating the signs which foreshadow the good times coming,
due prominence has not been given to this enterprise, which is
certainly entitled to be classed among the first. If any suspicions
existed at its first announcement that it would be a flash in the pan,
they have vanished before the evidences of solidity. So great an
enterprise. Next spring there can be no doubt but the first eight
day freight express will be in successful uninterrupted operation....
Colorado will not long be isolated from the rest of the world.22
Unfortunately, Butterfields inaugural business year was not as prosperous
as he hoped. For weeks at a time, the line shut down due to Indian depredations and
scares. As with the Platte and Santa Fe Routes, Indians took station supplies,
burned stations, and absconded stock. Rumors spread that Ben Holladay, the Platte
Route stage line competitor, hired Indians to raid the BOD line. Often, passengers
preferred the Platte Route or the Santa Fe Route since military protection escorted
those coaches having United States mail contracts. As a proactive competitive
strategy, the BOD proposed a new mountain stage route extending from the Denver
62


end of the Smoky Hill Route over Berthoud Pass and on to Salt Lake City, making it
the shortest route to Salt Lake City. Additionally, it explored the possibility of
installing a telegraph line from the eastern Colorado Territory border to Central
City. Its proposals directly threatened Ben Holladays Platte Routes success.
Holladay learned that the three related express companies, Wells Fargo, American,
and United States Express, proposed to stock and open a stage line of their own
between Denver and Salt Lake and operate on the BOD line. After reading the
prospectus of the BOD, Holladay reportedly hired investigators who found that the
stage line was financially desperate. He met with Edward Bray, president of the
BOD in New York, and offered to purchase the entire line. Knowing that regaining
the companys financial strength presented a difficult challenge, if not an impossible
one, Bray sold the company at a discount.23
The Holladay Overland Mail and Express Company took over the Smoky
Hill Route in March 1866. It made some station location changes that required
building new stations and a new trail slightly north of the former trail, joining the
south trail periodically. The location changes created a Smoky Hill North Trail on
which fourteen stations existed according to Wells Fargo and the U.S. Express
Company station lists. Some stations overlapped with the ones created on the south
branch. The north branch decreased the distance to Denver to 465 miles compared
to 588 miles on the south BOD trail.24 With the purchase of the BOD, Holladay
quickly found himself in a financial crisis. Wells Fargo took control of Holladay's
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Smoky Hill North line late in 1866. The name change became official on December
10, 1866. The United States Express Company, an affiliate of Wells Fargo,
operated the line beginning in 1867 until 1870 when the Kansas Pacific railroad
completed its tracks to Denver. Holladays successor continued using the north
branch of the trail and revamped certain stage stations. (See Figure 3.2)
Cheyenne Wells Stagecoach Station
For many years before whites settled the area, Indians first inhabited the
home station west of the Colorado Kansas border. The station called Indian Wells
originally, located five miles north of the current town of Cheyenne Wells, became
known as the Cheyenne Wells Stagecoach Station. The station is mostly intact
today, as the stage company did not build this station from sod or timber. Rather,
natural caves created a very unique stage station larger than most, measuring thirty
by fifteen feet. The caves served as a home station along which the Smoky Hill
26
River ran on the northeast side with a natural spring near the river.
Because most of the stage station communities did not have an accurate
method of recording information, much information about the Cheyenne Wells
Stagecoach Station is gone. The stage companys use of the caves differs between
sources. Sources agree that Johnny (or Johnnie) White was the station tender who
operated a saloon opposite the large cave. One source indicated that the stage line
used the large cave as a horse stable and that Johnny White built a small fortress
64


65


beside the cave as a lookout and his residence.27 Bayard Taylor, a passenger on the
BOD and author of travel books, wrote a different account regarding the use of the
large cave in his book Colorado: A Summer Trip.
At Cheyenne Wells we found a large and handsome frame stable for
the mules, but no dwelling. The people lived in a natural cave,
extending for some thirty feet under the bluff. But there was a
woman, and when we saw her we augured good fortunes. Truly
enough, under the roof of conglomerate limestone, in the cave's dim
twilight, we sat down to antelope steak, tomatoes, bread, pickles, and
potatoes a royal meal, after two days of detestable fare.28
The stage station caves served many purposes. Colonel Louis Carpenter and
his troops attempted to establish a fort near the caves prior to his service at Beecher
Island in 1868. The government did not approve the establishment of a fort;
nonetheless the station caves provided the troops shelter and protection. As the
Kansas Pacific Railroad progressed west, Cheyenne Wells stage station briefly
served as the eastern terminus for the stage line; the train stopped just east of the
Colorado Territory borderline. The railroad moved the old wells south near the
tracks and the future site of the town of Cheyenne Wells. A cattle herder, O. L.
Gudgel, bom near Cheyenne Wells in 1894, indicated that three caves occupied the
site.
The large one was big enough to run a stagecoach and six horses
hitched inside to get away from Indian attacks. The middle sized one
is the Station Gulch (trading post), but also the friendly Indians had a
smaller post (cave) there.30
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By 1913, erosion caused several large boulders to fall into the large cave and
decrease its size.
In the 1920s the large cave was still big enough for two high school boys to
drive their cars into the cave. As erosion continued, the Civil Conservation Corps.
blasted the fronts of the caves during the 1930s to prevent injuries to explorers, who
11
found the caves a haven for rattle snakes. In 1964, visitors found the old spring
still running and trail ruts still visible. Today, the caves are in the midst of private
fanning and ranching territory. Although local citizens submitted a National
Register of Historic Places application in 1983, they never completed the
nomination process.32
Grady's Stagecoach Station
Bayard Taylor described Gradys swing station from his 1866 trip. At
Grady's Station ... there was but one man, a lonely troglodyte, burrowing in the
bank like a cliff-swallow.33 In 1887, James McIntyre came to Colorado to work at
a railroad section headquartered at Wild Horse. His family soon joined him where
he established a sheep ranch that encompassed Grady's station. A nephew of
McIntyre, John Goodier, was bom on the ranch in 1901. Growing up on the ranch,
Goodier remembered the buildings left from the old station. He described the
station as a dugout with walls of sandstone hauled out from Kansas.34 When the
family eventually dismantled the station, John Goodier salvaged wooden beams and
67


used them as supports in his own house he built astride the Smoky Hill Trail. Paul
Miller, a local farmer, spoke to Goodier in 1964, and sketched Goodier's
recollections of the station. It included a rock faced building in the side of a hill and
an escape tunnel leading from the station to the corral.35 (See Figure 3.3)
Lake Stagecoach Station
Wells Fargo established the Lake stagecoach home station three miles
southeast of present day Limon, Colorado, and 97 miles east of Denver in 1866.
According to R. E. Bishop who worked as a freighter over the Smoky Hill Trail
between 1865 and 1870, the stage line built a mule cellar connected to a sod station
house with loop holes for rifle shooting and large enough to hold a stage. The
station site was near the L & PPEs Station 24 site of 1859 and was the only place
where all three branches of the Smoky Hill Trail merged. Lake Station served as the
eastern terminus of the stage line by 1870 when the Kansas Pacific Railroads tracks
lead directly to the station. On July 10, 1870, a group of Vassar College Professors
used the station as a picnic site. They regretted not seeing Denver since the rails
stopped 90 miles shy. During the 1870s, the Holt Cattle Company headquartered its
company at the former stage station. A sketch drawn by Paul Miller from the
memory of a local resident, O. E. Evans, revealed the station and bam situated east
of a lake. Today nothing remains.
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The Smoky Hill Trails provided a shorter, more direct path for the eager
gold seekers and businesspersons longing to share the potential riches enticed by the
frequent unfounded claims. Although many suffered great hardships, including
death, along the way they created a need for well-defined trails. These trails
established the foundation of a future railroad route. Additionally, towns that
emerged with the stage line often accommodated the railroad. The stage lines and
stage stations furnished the vital link from the states to the western frontier and
simultaneously provided necessary assistance to local settlers and to the travelers of
Colorado in reaching their destinations.
The Cherokee Route (or Denver-Santa Fe Route)
Near Bents Fort stage station, the Santa Fe Trail met the Cherokee Trail.
The Santa Fe Trail veered to the south through Trinidad and on to New Mexico
while the Cherokee Trail continued west following the Arkansas River to Pueblo.
Stage lines occupied both trails. The Cherokee Trail traveled north from Pueblo to
Colorado City then followed West Cherry Creek into Denver and on through to
Wyoming. Typically, small stage line companies served the route between Denver
and Pueblo. Harmon G. Weibling established an early stage line from Denver to
Colorado City when the Post Office Department awarded him a mail contract on
June 16, 1860. While Cottrill and Company held the Santa Fe Route mail contract,
it served the South Cherokee Route. In 1867, Denver merchant Abraham Jacobs
70


organized the Denver and Santa Fe Stage Line that operated between Denver and
Trinidad where it connected with New Mexico and Kansas coach lines. Barlow and
Sanderson acquired the mail route and passenger service from Denver to Trinidad in
1870, giving it control of all major stage routes in Colorado Territorys southeastern
plains until the railroad reached these areas.
Some of the most versatile stage stations on this route were those closest to
Denver. Beginning twenty miles southeast of Denver, the Smoky Hill Trail and the
Cherokee Trail (South) converged and shared the stage stations. The names of the
stations and wayward homes along this stretch reflected the number of miles before
reaching Denver, and were known as Mile Houses. Between two and five miles
separated the Mile Houses, which were not all stage stations. The Four Mile House,
Twelve Mile House, and Twenty Mile House served as stagecoach stations and
travelers stopping places. The Seven Mile House, the Nine Mile House and the
Seventeen Mile House were not stagecoach stations, however they accommodated
TO
travelers with meals, hay, lodging, and other provisions.
The Twenty Mile House Stagecoach Station
In 1863, Alfred Butters built a one-room shack southeast of present day
Parker as his home and his business. He sold provisions and established a mail
handling and message center. After a year, George Long bought and moved the
building west to present day Parker, faced it towards Cherry Creek, and offered
71


travelers overnight accommodations. Elizabeth Penneck and her sister were the first
Twenty Mile House overnight visitors in the fall of 1865. Penneck described the
station as a one-room structure. The one-room was a kitchen, with one-over-one
windows covered with carpet pieces. Penneck noted that the Longs provided
delicious food and they gave the visitors their bed while they slept outside.40
The Longs soon added nine rooms, including a large dining room, all on the
first level of the white saltbox frame house, hoping to attract more Smoky Hill and
Cherokee Trail travelers at their comfortable stopping place. The family added a
blacksmith shop and moved the Sulpher Gulch Stagecoach Station bam to the site.
Sulpher Gulch was an abandoned station three miles east on the Smoky Hill South
Trail. After remodeling, Long exchanged the Twenty Mile House for four span of
mules owned by Nelson Doud, an established tenant farmer from Fort Lupton.
Doud, his wife, and five daughters continued the stage station and lodging
business.41 Emma Doud Gould, the fourth daughter, remembered moving to the
house when she was eight and the stagecoaches stopping there.
There were two stagecoach lines that passed our place a quarter of
a mile away. The Smoky Hill and the Santa Fe Line. The Santa Fe
Line ran toward Pueblo, and the Smoky Hill Line ran from Denver
into Kansas. The two lines crossed here. The Smoky Hill Line
changed their horses at our place once a day. We had a man hired
to feed and groom the horses.42
Sources differ on the existence of a ballroom in the Twenty Mile House.
Emma Doud Gould indicated that Douds transformed the second story into a
72


ballroom for the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Ruth
Race Dolan, who grew up in the Seventeen Mile House from 1938 to 1950, believed
that Emma Doud Gould confused the Twenty Mile House with the Seventeen Mile
House, where the Douds eventually relocated, when Emma simply stated, There
was a room in our house I havent told about. It was the ballroom. Father opened it
just four times a year. The admittance, including dinner was five dollars.43
Travelers who could not afford the hotel accommodations, camped near the
Twenty Mile House utilizing the grazing land for their animals and the other
services offered. Richard Townshend, a newcomer to America from England,
arrived in Colorado Territory in 1869. He camped outside the Twenty Mile House
along with several bull-whackers in charge of lumber wagons returning from the
mountains. Townshend described how the bull-whackers cooked their own hash,
then strolled into the bar to see what might be going on.44 The Kansas Pacific
Railroad made its way through the territorys eastern plains in 1870, causing the
stage line from the East to be obsolete and fewer travelers visited the Twenty Mile
House. However, some still traveled by wagon, horseback, and on foot relying
upon the eastern and southern routes. The Douds sold the property in 1874 to James
Sample Parker after Mrs. Nelson Doud (Susan) arranged to purchase the Seventeen
Mile House, three miles west. During the 1880s the railroad adopted the Twenty
Mile House as one of its stops. James Parker, his wife, and daughter maintained the
post office and a hotel at the Twenty Mile House, locally known as Parkers until
73


1910 45 Edith Parker Low, daughter of the Parkers, remembered that some of the
*
visitors to their hotel included prisoners on their way to court.
Court was held in Kiowa, and the Judge, Counsel, prisoners and
guards always stopped over night with us going and coming, as
we were just halfway between Denver and Kiowa. It made much
excitement... as the prisoners, with clanking chains on their legs,
took their seats in the dining room.46
The Twenty Mile Mouse fell to disrepair once the Parkers moved in 1910, however
portions of the house still stood by the 1930s. Eventually an owner razed the
structure due to hazards presented. The hospitality and provisions originally offered
by the Longs stage station emanated into a popular area of settlement. The small
community around the Twenty Mile House eventually became the town of Parker.47
The Twelve Mile House Stagecoach Station
John G. Melvin, member of the First Colorado Cavalry from 1861 to 1864,
homesteaded 320 acres twelve miles southeast of Denver in the mid 1860s. Located
on the east bank of Cherry Creek and west of what is now Colorado Highway 83, it
became one of the most publicized mile houses in the Denver area from the mid
1860s to 1870. A witnessed statement from the National Archives indicated that
John G. Melvin first entered and improved the land on June 10, 1866 by
constructing
a Dwelling House Log Hous [sic] 36x18 feet with an addition of
a wing 12x16 feet. 6 Doors & 8 Windows & is a good comfortable
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House to live in. Also 60 Rods Fencing. Stable 22 x 50 feet. Also -
out buildings. All of which are used as a Hotell [s/c].48
Photographs and diagrams of the original log house reveal what appeared to be a
hall and parlor structure with a lean-to. (See Figures 3.4 and 3.5)
In 1868 Johnny, as he was known, married a young woman from a ranch two
miles west of his hotel and the two continued the growing lodging business. The
same year, he added ten rooms to accommodate the travelers from both stage routes.
The addition created a two story, front gabled, box style structure. Mrs. Melvin
(Jane) described the inn as having a large kitchen with double stoves, a large
ballroom, and a barroom. The barroom doubled as the post office so that Johnny,
the appointed postmaster, easily conducted both businesses at once. A stagecoach
stopped once a day to exchange horses, deliver mail, and provide passengers an
opportunity to stay for meals or beds (although the stagecoach did not stay
overnight). The Melvins provided entertainment for guests and outings for
Denverites. Shooting matches, horse races, picnics, and dances were among the
events the Melvins hosted. The affairs became favorite outings for locals. The
Rocky Mountain News publicized most of the events, confident that those who
attended had a grand time. A one-half mile horse track appeased John Melvins
horse racing hobby. Picnickers frequently enjoyed a pavilion in a cottonwood grove
near the creek. The stage station provided not only traveler accommodations and
75


-27'-
2 Story
Frame Addition
(1868)
Lean-to
16'-
Log Cabin
(1866)

36'-
Figure 3.4. Diagram of the Twelve Mile House. Twelve Mile House
Collection. Courtesy of the Cherry Creek Valley Historical Society.
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Figure 3.5. Photograph of the Twelve Mile House. Twelve Mile
Collection. Courtesy of the Cherry Creek Valley Historical Society.


events for Denverites, it served the Upper Cherry Creek and Island communities as
a polling precinct in 1866 and 1872 49
The stage discontinued running on the Smoky Hill Trail in 1870. During the
1880s the Twelve Mile Stagecoach Station served as a restaurant and inn for the
Denver and New Orleans Railroad builders (later known as the Texas and Gulf
Railroad and then the Colorado and Southern). When the tracks were in place and
the train was running, fewer and fewer travelers ventured through the area by
wagon, horseback, or on foot. The Melvins turned to ranching as their primary
mainstay closing their doors to their popular hotel days. The Melvins hospitality
did not run out however. On February 7, 1890, Emily French wrote in her diary that
she
. .. stoped [s/c] at the 12 mile house to feed Fanny [her horse], fed
in an old cart. Got a poor lunch made my own tea an old maid
kept rattling on, she is not bright. Melvins are their names.50
By the turn of the century, the Twelve Mile House had different owners who
removed the large house addition and sold it to a neighboring farmer, one-half mile
from the original site. The purchaser added a porch, painted it white, and used it as
his primary residence. The Twelve Mile property owner moved the original log
structure one hundred feet from the bank of Cherry Creek and used it to stable
horses. It finally crumbled to ruins. Walt and Dolly Staack purchased the large
addition in the 1950s at an auction of all the buildings located in the proposed
Cherry Creek Dam and Recreation Area. Staacks moved the structure to Watkins,
78


remodeled the upper story, and rented rooms to single employees of the railroad.
They used the lower level for their liquor store business. A 1970 fire that killed one
tenant gutted the upper level. The owners remodeled the building by adding a low
gabled roof and siding it with red brick veneer. As it did originally, the building
continues accommodating locals and travelers in need of liquid refreshment to this
day.51
The Four Mile House Stagecoach Station
When brothers Jonas and Samuel Brantner realized they would not become
rich from the gold in Cherry Creek, they built a two-story log farmhouse in the
summer of 1859. They anticipated travelers lodging at their Four Mile House as
they entered the Cherry Creek area from the Republican and Solomon Routes. In
October 1859, Samuels fifteen-year-old bride gave birth to a daughter, who
reportedly was the first girl bom to white emigrants on the Denver side of Cherry
Creek. Once the L & PPE moved to the Platte Route, their lodge was not profitable.
A year later the Brantners relocated to Hendersons Island, near Brighton, to build a
very similar house and operate a stage station there.
Mary Cawker, a widow with two teenage children, accepted the challenge of
operating the Four Mile House in September 1860. After buying the property, she
installed a tavern, decorated one room as a ladies lounge, utilized the second floor
for occasional dances, and started her business. Additions included a large corral
79


and stable. She acquired stone from a small quarry on a nearby bluff and the family
built a stone house for her daughter and son-in-law. They were the first couple to
wed at the Four Mile House (October 28, 1862). Early stage travel came from the
Cherokee South Trail or what locals called the Denver-Santa Fe stage line that
traveled to Pueblo. The house did not advertise itself as a hotel. It was known
locally as a stopping place
... that upon occasion it accommodated guests: a lone traveler,
perhaps who rented space on the floor upstairs where he spread his
bed roll; a hunter seeking game; or a farmer out searching for a horse
lost, a common occurrence before his land was fenced.
Freighters often utilized the mile house property for camping the night before
conducting business in Denver and camping again at Four Mile on their return trip.
As Levi and Millie Booth traveled from New Mexico to Colorado Territory
in the spring of 1864, Cherry Creek crested its banks and flooded the Four Mile
property. The tired Booth family camped southeast of Denver while they waited for
the water to recede. Stopping at the Four Mile House, they found Mary Cawker
with her fields and gardens destroyed by the floods muddy residue and only her
house left untouched by the mighty flood. Although Levi, a lawyer by trade,
previously tried his hand unsuccessfully in the regions gold fields, by 1864 he only
wanted to farm. Mary Cawker eagerly sold the Four Mile property, stables, house,
and outbuildings to the Booths for $800.
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The Booths operated the Four Mile as a tavern and stage stop until 1870
when the railroad made its way to Denver.53 Although the stage companies did not
build this station or originally designate it as station, as with many farms and
roadhouses the stage companies negotiated with the owners to provide a station. On
its last trip in June 1866, a stagecoach of the financially distressed Butterfield
Overland Dispatch stopped at the Four Mile with Bayard Taylor as a passenger.
At last, four miles from the town, we reached a neat little tavern,
beside which grew some cotton-woods. Here there were two or
three ranches in the process of establishment. The water from the
well was very sweet and cold.54
With stage routes entering Cherry Creek from the East and from the South, stage
companies often exchanged their road horses at the Four Mile for freshly
groomed, matched teams making a grand presentation as the stage arrived in
Denver. While the tender exchanged the team, passengers refreshed themselves for
an equally grand appearance in town. On the return trip, the stage tender hitched up
the refreshed road horses once again.55
Millie and Levi farmed and ranched the property until his death in 1912.
Millie continued to live there with the help of her children and grandchildren until
her death in 1926. The property stayed in the Booth family until 1946. Individuals
not related to the Booth family owned the property until 1976, when they sold the
remaining twelve acres to the City and County of Denver to develop it as a public
81


park. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.56 Chapter seven details
the preservation of the Four Mile House.
The mile houses and stagecoach stations on the eastern plains and into
Denver were essential components to the gold rush era and migration to Colorado.
They provided food, shelter, hay, directions, and blacksmithing services to the
travelers seeking their fortunes and those making their homes in the unknown
territory. In some cases, they afforded protection from potential Indian raids as
locals along with the travelers and freighters sought large establishments with many
people when scares arose. They provided companionship for the lonely traveler,
entertainment for locals and travelers, and barrooms for the thirsty. These houses
were instrumental in creating communities that in many cases formed the basis of
towns or subdivisions that exist today even though most of these first houses are
gone.
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CHAPTER 4
STAGECOACH STATIONS WEST
OF DENVER AND IN SOUTH PARK
With the early mineral discoveries found west of Denver and toward South
Park, prospectors and settlers required travelable roads, stagecoach routes, and
stagecoach stations. Negotiating the mountain terrain that John Gregory initially
traversed was challenging to road builders. However, once road builders found
alternative paths, popular routes emerged to support the mass entrance. Although
gold seekers reached Denver from the eastern states on three major routes, an ample
number of entrepreneurs quickly established toll roads to the gold camps west and
southwest of Denver often creating up to three different routes to the same location.
Routes to Gregory Diggings, areas west of Denver, and South Park emerged with
stagecoach companies following the shortest and most passable roads establishing
stagecoach stations along the way.
Routes and Stagecoach Stations West of Denver
The early significant mineral discoveries in the Pikes Peak region gave
credence to the Pikes Peak gold rush claims. Following the lead of George A.
Jackson, founder of gold near Idaho Springs, and John Hamilton Gregory, founder
of Gregory Diggings gold vein, thousands of prospectors scoured these areas for
83


their share of fortune. Many followed the trail that Gregory carved when he
returned to his original site. The trail directly ascended Enter Mountain at the
entrance of Golden Gate Canyon. Prospectors with heavily loaded supply wagons
drawn by oxen typically met the summit of Enter Mountain within two hours of
Golden Gate Canyon. Many prospectors, unable to negotiate their wagons over the
second range, left them behind with a trusted acquaintance. Beyond the second
range of mountains, the trail continued traversing the hills and mountains to reach
Gregory Diggings. Newcomers utilized this steep and cumbersome trail until July
1859, when Daniel McCleery and Tom Golden built the Gregory Toll Road. It
began at the west edge of Golden Gate City, a former community at the entrance of
the toll road, located approximately two miles north of Golden City (Golden) that
had several hotels, supply stores, and businesses. The road then traveled through
Golden Gate Canyon and eventually joined the original trail carved by Gregory and
his followers.1 Although the route between Golden Gate City and Mountain City
(forerunner to Central City and Black Hawk) was steep, narrow, and bumpy, it
served unwieldy ore wagons, gold seekers, and stagecoaches well.
Realizing that the majority of the early Gregory Gulch prospectors arrived
from the Platte Route to Denver, then to Golden, McCleery and several other
entrepreneurs built a new route that extended from the Platte Route directly to
Golden, by-passing Denver. John W. McIntyre, David K. Wall, and others formed
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the St. Vrain, Golden City & Colorado Wagon Road Company on December 21,
1859 under the laws of the Provisional Territory of Jefferson. The road began at St.
Vrains Fort, about forty-four miles north of Denver, and ran southwesterly to Clear
Creek. By design of the construction superintendent, Daniel McCleery, at Clear
Creek the road passed the McCleery Ranch that advertised its accommodations in
the Western Mountaineer.
McCleery's Ranch by D. & C. A. McCleery on Clear Creek. Eight
miles from Golden City on the main road to the Platte and four miles
from Denver on the road to Shian [sic] Pass and Boulder a free bridge
and good hotel accommodations.
The road continued along Clear Creek to Arapahoe, often spelled Arrappahoe, (near
present day 44th Avenue and McIntyre Street in Golden) through Table Mountain
Canyon and on to Golden City.3 (See Figure 4.1). With this stage route by-passing
Denver, Golden demonstrated early on its intention of surpassing that city a
strategy it continued to pursue through the railroad era.4
After extending its route from Denver to Golden Gate City and over the
Gregory Toll Road to Mountain City, the California Overland and Pikes Peak
Express Company (COC & PP) drove the first stagecoach into the Gregory District
from Denver on March 4, 1860. The major stage lines that served Central City,
Black Hawk, and Mountain City were consistent with those operating on the Platte
Route and the Smoky Hill Route, with the exception of the Butterfield Overland
Dispatch. The Western Stage Company, COC & PPs competitor, occupied the
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86