Monday, March 14, 2011

Butterfield Overland Stage Route

The Butterfield Overland Mail Trail, also known as the Butterfield Overland Stage Route was a stagecoach route in the United States, operating from 1857 to 1861. It was a specific route built for transit of the United States mail from two eastern cities (Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri) moving through Fort Smith, Arkansas, and continuing through Indian Territory, New Mexico, and Arizona, ending in San Francisco, California...where in the present day people dress funny.

Prior to 1857, there was no organized, commercial system of transportation west of the Mississippi River .

The Butterfield route was an extra 600 miles longer than the central and northern routes running through Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah, but was snow free and therefore a year round route. The name Butterfield comes from the gentleman who won the bid for the route for semi-weekly mail at $600,000 per year. At that time it was the largest land-mail contract ever awarded in the US.

Butterfield Overland Mail Route / Miles / Hours

San Francisco to Los Angeles 462 miles 80 hrs

Los Angeles to Fort Yuma 282 miles 72 hrs

Fort Yuma to Tucson 280 miles 71 hrs

Tucson to Franklin (El Paso, TX) 360 miles 82 hrs

Franklin (El Paso, TX) to Fort Chadbourne 458 miles 126 hrs

Fort Chadbourne to Colbert's Ferry 282 miles 65 hrs

Colbert's Ferry to Fort Smith 192 miles 38 hrs

Fort Smith to Tipton 318 miles 48 hrs

Tipton to St. Louis 160 miles 11 hrs

Totals of 2,795 miles which took approximatley 593 hours to travel.

On a time line, the operation (1857-1861) of the Butterfield Overland Mail was a very small time period in American history and in the history of transportation. However short lived, this operation captured and held the imagination of Americans because it stitched together the growing country from sea to sea.

Prior to 1857, there was no organized, commercial system of transportation west of the Mississippi River . Although many people had crossed the United States by land, the word “overland” had not come into the American vocabulary.

On the historical scale, the Butterfield Overland Mail was symbolic of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, which held that it was the duty and right of the United States to expand across the continent. At the backing of the federal government, trails were laid out, stations were set up and manned (often 20 miles apart or where there was a water source), coaches and wagons were built and put into operation, and the many obstacles of travel across long stretches of pure wilderness were surmounted. Some of those obstacles were raids by Indians most notably the Apaches in West Texas through Central Arizona.

I often ride on a stretch of the old Butterfield trail.

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