Curly Dan – A Crack Whip On the Overland Stage

By William Daugherty, for the Reno Evening Gazette in 1891

Cracking the Whip.

Cracking the Whip.

Among the old pioneer stage drivers over the Sierras was Curly Dan, a handsome and popular fellow, who was noted for his business-like methods and pleasant manner. He was a Chesterfield in politeness and as gallant towards the ladies as a knight of old. He was a favorite with them, but it was remarked that Dan never became well enough acquainted to get married. He always remained on good terms with all of them, but it was noticed, that after a brief acquaintance, they invariably treated him as if they had agreed to simply “be a sister to him.” The secret of this finally leaked out — Dan snored. At every home station, Dan had to be provided for, with a bed in a remote part of the house, and if that wasn’t far enough away, then they put him in the barn. Even there, the horses always had a tired and dejected look in the morning for no animal, whether man or beast could sleep within the sound of Dan’s calliope. It was simply an unearthly combination of moans, snorts, groans, and treble whistles, mingled with choking flutters of his throttle valve, that not only annoyed but also filled one with distressing fear.

But Dan was a crack whip and soon rose to a division agent. Then he was sent to the front and soon took a prominent position on the Montana line, running from Salt Lake City to Helena. In 1868 the stage was robbed near Naiad station of a large sum in money and gold bullion, and when it arrived at Malad, Dan was found there, and hastily organized a party which he led in pursuit of the robbers. They succeeded in overtaking and surrounding them in a canyon densely covered with underbrush. In crawling through this on his hands and knees, Dan heard a suspicious noise and raising his head and body up to see through an opening in the brush he was confronted at a few yards distance by one of the robbers who deliberately fired point-blank at him with a Henry rifle. The ball struck Dan near the center of the breast and went directly through him.

Wells Fargo Stagecoach

Wells Fargo Stagecoach

Dan fell and knew no more until rescued by his companions and removed from the brush. He was thought to be dead, and one of the rescuers said pathetically, “Dan I never snore anymore.” But to the surprise of all, Dan revived, was carefully nursed and cared for by Wells, Fargo & Co., in whose employ he was at the time, and finally recovered. It was supposed by all that he would also be cured of his snoring, because of the character of the wound, but to the surprise of his old friends, he snored worse than ever. It seemed impossible, but such was the case, and Dan was regarded by his comrades as a holy terror, and he always had a room to himself. His duties, some years afterward, brought him into Pioche, Nevada late one night, when, from some cause, he could not get a bed. The keepers of the lodging houses all knew him it seemed, and in a moment of absent mind, this writer tendered him a share of his bed, then in the second story of the express and stage office. It was midnight when the office duties ended and Dan sat by the stove until the work was all finished. We went upstairs and retired, and Dan went to sleep.

Within a minute, he softly began to snore, but this was only preliminary. He soon settled down to regular work, and, to be brief, he fairly raised the roof. Efforts to awaken him were utterly futile. He had ridden without stopping from Salt Lake City, 225 miles, and tired out; he was as dead as if dosed with morphine. I shook him and talked to him, but it was useless.  One might as well have talked to the Sphinx. Sleep was utterly out of the question with me, although so weary that my eyes ached. I then got mad and began to kick him, but as that had no effect I tried to roll him out of bed, but he was on the back part of it and I couldn’t turn him over. By this time I was thoroughly exasperated, and at my wits ends for I could think of no relief and while he was sleeping as sound as a log– or a whole raft of them for that matter–I was doomed to lay awake all night and listen to that frightful menagerie of unearthly sounds. For three hours this continued and my nerves were racked so that I was trembling.  At that moment, to my great relief, the fire bell rang, and jumping to my feet I viciously yelled Fire! Fire!!   At the top of my voice and grabbing my clothes ran downstairs, dressed, and started on a run for the scene of the fire, up at the Pioche Phoenix Mine, three-fourths of a mile away. I stayed until daylight, working to keep awake. When I returned Dan was still snoring. The early stages were dispatched at 6 o’clock, and, continuing until 8 o’clock, a constant racket was kept up in the office, but above it all, Dan’s snores were as regular as the beating of the surf.  At 9 o’clock the banking department of Wells, Fargo & Co. opened in the same office. The general agent appeared on the scene, and the cashier, teller, and bookkeeper were busy getting the vault open and moving out books and trays of coin. The noise from upstairs then attracted their attention. I was mum and unconscious of any unusual sound.

I was gloating for revenge. Dan was doing his level best; he was evidently on the home stretch and the choking groans were horrifying. The agent listened. He knew Dan and recognized the snore, and dashing down his pen, he sang out to the porter, “Go put that man out or kill him.”


By William Daugherty article in the Reno Evening Gazette, May 28, 1891. Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June 2021.

About the Author: Written by William Daugherty, for the Reno Evening Gazette in 1891. The Reno Evening Gazette was first published on October 12, 1876, and continued for the next 107 years. In 1977, it was merged with the Nevada State Journal and continues to exist today as the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Also See:

Pioneers on the Nevada Frontier (Reno Evening Gazette)

Nevada Mining Tales (Reno Evening Gazette)

Pioche Land Jumpers and the Death of Jack Harris (Reno Evening Gazette)

Violence on the Nevada Frontier (Reno Evening Gazette)