Heritage, Summer 2003 Page: 10
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The California Gold Rush of 1849 and the thousands who
headed west in search of wealth brought a need for more
regular and dependable mail service. Up until that time
mail had been conveyed by private companies, which
operated sporadically. Seeing this great need for a more
reliable transportation network, Congress voted in 1857 to
subsidize a semi-weekly overland mail and passenger
stage service that eventually operated from September
1858 to March 1861. Two lines, one beginning in St. Louis,
Missouri, and the other in Memphis, converged in Fort
Smith, Arkansas, ran through northern Texas, and ended in
The contract called for mail to be conveyed twice weekly
in both directions using four-horse coaches or wagons
that could also carry passengers. John Butterfield, a veteran
stage driver from New York, was awarded the six-year
contract, which also stated that each trip should be completed
within 25 days. His company, Butterfield Overland
Express Company, used a route that ran through Texas and
Arizona to deliver mail from St. Louis up the California
coast to San Francisco.
According to the Handbook of Texas, in the Lone Star
State, the trail ran from Franklin (present-day El Paso),
"nearly due east to Hueco Tanks, thirty miles; a little north
of east to the Pinery; fifty-six miles; twenty-four miles on to
Delaware Springs; down Delaware Creek, almost to its
junction with the Pecos River, and across the river to
Pope's Camp, near the thirty-second parallel, forty miles;
down the east side of the Pecos, to Emigrant Crossing,
sixty-five miles; and fifty-five miles on to Horsehead
Crossing. Thence the trail ran east-northeast to the headwaters
of the Middle Concho River, seventy miles; slightly
more northward through the vicinity of Carlsbad, Texas, to
a camp or station, about thirty miles; to Grape Creek near
the south line of present Coke County, twenty-two miles;
to Fort Chadbourne in what is now Coke County. Thence
the route ran more to the north across Valley Creek, twelve
miles; to Mountain Pass, sixteen miles; passed the route of
the Texas and Pacific Railway, a mile west of the site of
present Tye, to Fort Phantom Hill, thirty miles; to Smith's
station, twelve miles; to Clear Fork station, twenty-six
miles; to Franz's station, thirteen miles; and to^^ Fort
Belkn ap, twe nty-two m iles. From Fort Belkn ap the line
turned eastward to Murphy's station (a site near present
Graham), sixteen miles; to Jacksboro, nineteen miles; to
Earhart's station, sixteen miles; to Davidsont's station,
twenty-four miles; to Gainesvillie, seventeen miles; to
Diamond's station (one mile west of the .'site ::of'lpresent.
Whitesboro), fifteen m ilIes; to Sherm an, fifteen miles; n
across the Red River at Colbert's Ferry egh mle blo
Preston. The route was changed slightly ^from time to time,
the most important change being .:*made l;jatte :i~n 1858,
when, in order to secure :a ..better -warter supplyl, .the .stages.
between Frankl in .and *the 'Pecos 'fol lowed the .1l Paso-San
Antonio road to Camp Stockton (nowFr tctn n
t*.hence to the Horseh~ad Crossing.";:::,;::''. :/
'..'Almost' without excepion utefil wsabetome
:*the 25-day 'mail del(iveyalwne evc opn
successfully provided util ac 81whnacnrc
modification moved the route northward and out of Texas.
HERITAGE E SUMMER 2003
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Summer 2003, periodical, Summer 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45377/m1/10/: accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.