Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Author’s Notes: Stagecoach Lines on the Smoky Hill Trail in 1866 by Zina Abbott

Two months ago, due to time constraints, I shared part of my Author's Notes from my novel, Mail Order Roslyn. You may read them by clicking HERE. Today I am sharing part of my author's notes from my next book in the series,  

1866 was a very busy year when it came to ownership of the stagecoach and freight line that ran along the Smoky Hill Trail. David Butterfield built the Butterfield Overland Despatch stagecoach and freight line in 1865. It soon ran into financial trouble due to the losses of livestock, stagecoaches, stations, and employees as a result of conflict with the Native Americans, primarily the Cheyenne, who struggled to prevent any white men from crossing their lands and disrupting the migration of the buffalo herds.

The Overland Stage Line Way-Bill 1865

Another large stagecoach and freight company that served the western United States at that time was Ben Holladay’s U.S. Overland Mail and Express Company along the Overland Trail. He held the cross-country mail contract awarded by the Post Office Department from Omaha, Nebraska to Salt Lake City, Utah. 
Overland, Republican River, and Smoky Hill Routes

Wells, Fargo and Company held the mail contract between Salt Lake City and San Francisco, California. Fearing encroachment by Wells, Fargo and Company in the form of them attempting to acquire the Butterfield line—thus putting them in position to capture the mail contract for the entire distance between the Missouri River and Pacific Coast—he moved to protect his mail contract and guard his hold over the stagecoach and wagon freighting ventures as long as there was money to be made in them.

Ben Holladay

Holladay sent out two inspectors (corporate espionage) to discover the financial condition of the Butterfield Overland Despatch. He knew the company had obtained a thirty year charter from the Kansas legislature for building and operating lines. Upon learning that the company was nearing bankruptcy, he pressured the then-president of the company, Edward P. Bray, to sell the line to him. In all, Holladay bought eight small stagecoach lines around that time. 

In March, 1866, the Butterfield Overland Despatch became the U.S. Overland Mail and Express, Smoky Hill Division. Who knows when the changes were implemented, but the company’s records showed several stations with name changes, and there were changes made to which stations served as home stations and which were stock, or relay, stations. For the purposes of my book, I put that change effective the end of June, 1866.

Holladay Overland Mail & Express Company building.
Holladay had effectively blocked Wells, Fargo and Company from building a competing mail and wagon freight market between Denver and to the Missouri River using the B.O.D. line, but he knew the future was in railroads. He intended to hold onto his stage and freight lines only as long as he deemed them profitable. 

During 1866, he realized the railroad construction across the plains was progressing faster than he originally anticipated. On July 3, 1866, Congress authorized the Union Pacific, eastern division, to extend their route across Kansas to Denver, which would ultimately make the Smoky Hill Division line obsolete. On July 30, the postmaster-general ordered Holladay to cut back mail service on his Overland line to thrice weekly. Shortly after, he was ready to sell. 
Greybull, Wyoming office

Fortunately for him, Wells, Fargo and Company believed they had at least six more years in which to make significant profits in this market. On November 1, 1866, Holladay sold out to them. By December 10, 1866, the name of the vast former Holladay holdings was officially changed to Wells, Fargo and Company. 

Mail Order Lorena is the second of three of my books in the Widows, Brides & Secret Babies multi-author series. It is available on preorder and will be released on July 3, 2020.
The first book in this trio, Mail Order Roslyn, is currently available for sale and at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
The third book in this trio, Mail Order Penelope, is also on preorder and scheduled for release on August 14, 2020.

1 comment:

  1. I found this article very interesting, Zina. I had no idea of the competition between these lines. Thank you for enlightening us. Good luck with your new releases!


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