Thursday, May 15, 2014

Butterfield Overland Mail Company

Click on photos to enlarge.

To keep up with the pace of territorial expansion of the United States and to establish mail routes through it, in March 1857, an Act of Congress authorized the Postmaster General to hire a company to convey letter mail from a point on the Mississippi River to San Francisco, California for six years. So on the morning of September 16, 1858, the first overland mail from St. Louis, Missouri to San Francisco, California, under contract with John Butterfield's Overland Mail Company, began its first westward trip of approximately 2,651 miles. 

Mr. Butterfield (1801-69) persuaded the Postmaster General that the most practical route from St. Louis would be west to Jefferson City, then southward through Springfield to Arkansas where it would merge with a wagon coming from Memphis, Tennessee. On the first leg of the trip, Mr. Butterfield personally accompanied two leather mail pouches from the post office to the train, leaving St. Louis at 8 o'clock in the morning, traveling all the way to Tipton, Mo, arriving at 6:00 pm. Waiting for his father at Tipton, young John Butterfield rushed down the old Boonville Road, arriving at the station on the northeast corner of the square in Springfield four hours ahead of schedule around 3:15 pm on Friday, September 17, 1858. Beginning again at 4:00 pm, dashing along the Wire Road, the mail wagon arrived in San Francisco 24 days later.

Each relay station was ten to twenty miles apart along the route and teams were harnessed and waiting in advance of the wagon's arrival to save time. Jumping off, the driver's grabbed a bite to eat, transferred the mail bags and drove off down the line. Stations in Missouri were: near Tipton (1858), Syracuse (1859-1861), Florence, Cole Camp, Warsaw, Fairfield, Quincy, Elkton, Bolivar, Brighton, Springfield, Cassville, and Seligman.

This is the Butterfield Stage Road Sign near Olean, Missouri. 

More to Read:
1. Butterfield Overland Mail. by Waterman L. Ormsby, special correspondant for the New York Herald. Huntington Library Press, 1850; reprinted 2007.
2. The Butterfield Overland Mail markers along the route. 
3. "Butterfield Overland Mail Co.." By F. P. Rose. The Battle of Pea Ridge 1862. Pea Ridge National Military Park, P. 31-37. Repository:
Midwest Genealogy Center, Mid-Continent Library, Independence, MO
4. Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide with a Section on Wire Road. By Earl J. Hess, Richard W. Hatcher III, William Garrett Piston, and William L. Shea. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Neb., 2006. Pp. 229.
6. The Driver's Guide to the Butterfield Overland Mail Route: Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. By Kirby Sanders. Heritage Trail Partners, 2008. Vol. 1.
8. One of the drivers for the stagecoach line -- James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok
9. Historic American Roads: From Frontier Trails to Superhighways. By Albert C. Rose. Crown Pub, NY; 1976. pp. 55, 58, 61, 66 (includes a map of the route used)
10. #137. Gordon's Ferry on the Kern River. California.

Places to Visit:
1. Jefferson Landing Museum, Jefferson City, MO.
2. Markers along the route -- See Historical Marker Database
3. Morgan County Historical Society Museum, Versailles, MO.
4. Wire Road near the Battle of Wilson's Creek National Park, Republic, MO.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Weekend Ramblers

One habit that remains with us is the learning lifestyle from our former homeschooling days. Long extended vacations remain out of reach of our pocketbook, so we watch armchair travelogues on our three channels of the local PBS TV station KCPT of faraway places and take weekender holidays to explore our home states of Missouri and Kansas.
Kansas City's Passport to Adventure

Locally, there is a Passport program called "Kansas City’s Passport to Adventure" we have participated in several years in a row (fully completed one year), the Missouri state parks had a passport patches program we almost completed, and the Missouri Conservation Department had a Lewis and Clark Passport Pin Program we completed two years running. My husband would like to do a Orienteering geo-cache program next.
Missouri State Parks Passport Program

We pack in as much as we can in one weekend, visiting historical sites and cemeteries for family research as well as hitting thrift stores along the way. I take a journey bag with me which includes a travel diary (spiral notebook) and pen to record when and where, a camera, state and county maps, passport program booklets, scissors to trim the grass around flat gravestones and a large paintbrush to brush it off. Also included are mosquito and tick spray, bottles of water, our laptop, and change for photocopies if we happen to stop in a library or historical/genealogical society to do a little research. It is fortunate for us that most of my husband's family resided in central Missouri and some have only recently began to emigrate to the larger cities of Missouri.
2005 MO Conservation Louis & Clark Passport Program

If we are planning a weekend jaunt, we usually make a trip up to the Missouri Tourist Welcome Center off of I-70 highway (Exit 9, 4010 Blue Ridge Cut-off) above the Kansas City Ball Stadiums for FREE tourist brochures along our route and to pick up a new Missouri Vacation Guide. There are a couple of little free advert-papers like "Discover Mid-America" that cater to shopping locations that we also take. Recently while attending an Order No. 11 Memorial Marker Dedication at the Butler, Mo courthouse lawn (3-22-2014), we learned of a new tour guide by Diane Eickhoff and Aaron Barnhart called "The Big Divide." It features historic and Civil War sites in the Missouri-Kansas Border Region. We found a hard copy that we ordered through our local library, but there is an e-reader version if you wish to take it on the road with you available through their website.

2006 MO Conservation Louis & Clark Passport Program

And speaking of weekend jaunts, the annual Rush Reunion is coming up the second weekend of July. We still snail-mail out reminder sheets every year to the event. If you aren't on the list and would like to be, please leave a message in the comments below. I have comment moderation set up on this blog so unless I have your permission to do so, I will not publish your home or email address under this article.
[Postscript: I found this article on cleaning gravestones along with a list of supplies needed here. ]