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Stagecoach Lines - Page 2

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Butterfield Overland Despatch departs Atchison, KansasButterfield Overland Despatch (1865-1870) - Initially developed by David A. Butterfield (no relation to John Butterfield) in 1865 on the Smoky Hill Trail, the line ran from Atchison, Kansas to Denver, Colorado, in direct competition of Holladay Overland Mail and Express Company. Though other trails had been blazed along here, stage lines had not been successful due a scarcity of water and frequent Indian attacks. However, David Butterfield was determined that it could be profitable. The smooth-talking businessman soon obtained capital for the "Butterfield Overland Despatch" and the first stage left Atchison on June 4, 1865, arriving in Denver on September 23rd.


Along the 592 mile long route, relay stations were built about every twelve miles, for passenger’s rest, food, and changing of horses. The line was an initial success, providing tri-weekly express service between Atchison, Kansas and Denver, Colorado  in only 8-12 days.


Soldiers were also posted along the pathway at Fort Downer, Fort Harker, Fort Monument, Fort Wallace and other stops to protect the stations and the travelers from Indian attacks. However, the soldiers could not keep up with the furious Indians who felt their land was being invaded. Additionally, these "Indians" were not always as they appeared, but were allegedly Ben Holladay's hired men dressed in Indian attire, who not only frightened those on the coaches, but also robbed them and burned their equipment and supplies.


By January, 1866 the David Butterfield's Overland Despatch was in serious financial trouble and the company was reorganized with David Bray becoming the president. However, it was too little too late and just two months later, the line was sold to their competitor, Ben Holladay. Later that year, Holladay, sold it to Wells-Fargo. During this time, the Kansas Pacific Railroad was also pushing towards Denver and by 1870, the stage line was no longer needed.


Butterfield's Overland Mail Company (1858-1861) - The brainchild of John Butterfield (no relation to David A. Butterfield), the stage company held the largest mail contact ever granted by the U.S. Government. See full article HERE.


Central Overland California and Pike's Peak Express (C.O.C. & P.P.) (1860-1861) - The company was formed by the transportation firm of Majors, Russell and Waddell in May, 1860 when they acquired George Chorpenning's contract for mail service from Utah to California. Also performing freighting and passenger service, it utilized partner, William H. Russell's, equipment and portions of his former Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express route as well as acquiring other lines running to Salt Lake City.


The company began running a tri-weekly line of coaches from St. Joseph, Missouri to Denver, Colorado, making the distance in 6 ½ days. Also owned by the firm of Majors, Russell and Waddell was the Pony Express, for which the COC&PP became the parent. Its facilities in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Missouri were also used to outfit travelers on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. However, the company faired very poorly, especially from the heavy losses of the Pony Express, which became obsolete upon the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph. Afterwards, the business ran out of cash and company employees referred to C.O.C.& P.P. Express as "Clean Out of Cash and Poor Pay."  On March 21, 1862, the holdings were sold at a public sale for $100,000 to Ben Holladay. After the company went out of business its facilities became the Kansas City Stockyards.


Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage Line (1876-1886) - More familiarly called the "Deadwood Stage," the route operated between Cheyenne, Wyoming to Deadwood, South Dakota. See full article HERE.


Pike's Peak Express at Leavenworth, KansasLeavenworth & Pike's Peak Express Company (1859) - In 1858, William H. Russell of the famous transportation firm of Majors, Russell and Waddell, conceived the idea of a line of daily coaches on the Smoky Hill Trail between Leavenworth, Kansas on the Missouri River and Denver, Colorado. However, his partners thought the idea fool-hardy and refused to go in with him. Russell persevered however, and soon took on partners, John S. Jones and Luther Smoot to develop the 687 mile line to the Colorado gold fields. The company incorporated in February, 1859 and the first stage on the newly formed Leavenworth and Pikes Peak Express reached Denver on May 17, 1859.


The route followed the military road to Fort Riley, Kansas before angling northwest to the Republican River near present Benkelman, Nebraska through areas that lacked wood or water. The stage line cost the passenger $125 and stopped at some 25 stations which were located about every 25 miles. When noted newspaperman, Horace Greeley took the stagecoach line to Denver and stopped at the temporary tent station on June 2, 1859, he wrote: "I would match this station and its surroundings against any other scene on our continent for desolation."




As Russell's original partners in the firm of Majors, Russell and Waddell, suspected, the project proved to be premature and was fraught with financial difficulties and Indian attacks from the beginning. After just ninety days of operation, Majors, Russell and Waddell transferred Russell's equipment to their regular stage line on the Platte River in Nebraska and abandoned the other stations. Later when the firm acquired George Chorpenning's contract for mail service from Utah to California in May, 1860, the former Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express Company was reorganized as the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express, the parent company of the Pony Express.


Holladay Overland Mail and Express Company (1866) -  Ben Holladay bought out the Overland Mail and Express Company in 1866, but just months later, he sold it again to Wells-Fargo.


Majors, Russell and Waddell (1854-1862) - A freighting and staging firm first based in Lexington, Missouri, it got its start in 1854 to supply military posts in the American West. It would later operate various transportation and communications services, including stagecoach services, private express mail service, and the brief operation of the Pony Express.See full article HERE.


Waldo, Hall and Company

Wells, Fargo and Company (1850-present) - The organization began when prosperous New York businessmen, Henry Wells and William Fargo saw great opportunity in the west after gold was discovered. The pair, who had helped to found American Express in 1850, officially created Wells Fargo & Co. on March 18, 1852 with two primary objectives – transportation and banking. The firm survived through diversification and continues to exist today. See full article HERE.




© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated November, 2015.



Also See:

Stagecoach Kings & Drivers

Stagecoach Tales

Stagecoach Terms and Slang

Stagecoaches of the American West (main page)

Wagons and Stagecoaches Photo Print Gallery


Overland Mail Stagecoach, 1865

Holladay Overland Mail and Express Company, about 1865. Available for prints and downloads HERE


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