The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 29, July 1925 - April, 1926 Page: 5
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Some Details of the Southern Overland Mail
in favor of this route. Added to the favorable reports of these
officers was the fact that mail was already being carried from San
Antonio to El Paso and from El Paso to Tucson, Arizona, and
from Fort Yuma, California, to San Diego. This left only the
gap between Fort Yunma and Tucson, 260 miles, as a territory in
anywise doubtful; and this was said to have been traveled almost
daily by emigrants. Also, the fact must not be overlooked that
the Government had laid out a road to California, and that two
hundred thousand dollars had been appropriated for the strip
between the Rio Grande and Fort Yuma. Captain Marcy had
explored both the Southern and the Albuquerque or middle route
as far as the Rio Grande. Commissioners Emory and Bartlett and
others connected with the Pacific Railroad Office of the Interior
Department, who accompanied the railroad survey parties over
both the Albuquerque and the El Paso routes, favored the Southern
way.6 Indeed, the Postmaster General makes out a good case for
the Southern way; and yet one may well doubt the wisdom of his
choice. Captain Marcy, the first Anglo-American to lead a wagon
train over the South Plains from the vicinity of El Paso to Fort
Smith, happened to strike the desert region of West Texas in an
especially favorable season. I-e did not suffer for water, and his
map shows it in plentiful quantities at points fairly convenient
for emigrant trains throughout the whole course of the route.7
But for all of that, scarcity of water was a difficulty the stage
company never entirely overcame, and the drilling of wells cost
them great sums of money. Bartlett and Captain Pope point out
the scarcity of water along the route, both east and west of El Paso,
but they predict that water can easily be procured by drilling
'Report of the Postmaster General for 1857, pp. 34 ff.
7Captain Marcy's Report to the Secretary of War was published in
Rcconnaissances in New Mexico and Texas, 31st Cong., 1st Sess., Sen. Ex.
Doec. No. 04, pp. 196 ff. IIis log of incidents of the journey makes fascinat-
ing reading. But anyone acquainted with Western Texas knows that the
irregularity of the seasons is the most regular characteristic of the coun-
try. Bartlett, in 1850, followed Marcy's route from the Pecos nearly to
El Paso. Stray oxen and mules, dead cattle, parts of wagons, etc., told
a tale of havoc wrought by thirst and starvation. From a point near
Guadalupe Peak on to El Paso, nearly a hundred miles, he found no water.
See Bartlett's Personal Narrative, John R. Bartlett, London, 1854, Vol.
1, pp. 90 ff.
'Report of the Postmaster General for 1857, pp. 35 ff.
Bartlett also wrote and published an article complimenting the admin-
i'tration on its choice. Ibid., p. 45.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 29, July 1925 - April, 1926, periodical, 1926; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117141/m1/13/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.