Butterfield Mail

A decade ago the early US Mail routes, especially the Butterfield Stagecoach Line caught my interest. I was awed by the outlay of resources that had to be set in place before the first wheel turned – 250 Concord coaches, 1800 hundred head of horses and mules, 139 relay stations with water sources, grain and hay throughout the distance between Tipton, Missouri to San Francisco, California – 2,812 miles. In addition, there was a need for skilled workmen – blacksmiths, mechanics, herders, drivers, harness makers, and conductors, and general laborers. There was also a need for room and board for these hearty folks.

I wanted to retrace the Butterfield road. But I didn’t have the personal resources for such an endeavor. So I switched my attention to the portion crossing Texas – Colbert’s Ferry where the coach crossed the Red River north of Sherman Texas.

After exhausting the Internet I visited the McKinney City Library to see what could be learned there. There was nothing from which to choose, however, the interlibrary lending system indicated that a trilogy, a set of three books located at the University of Indiana.

I submitted my request, in spite of the librarian’s assurance my request would be rejected. After three weeks, much our surprise, the books arrived. They were mine for two weeks. Curious, I checked EBay and found one set with an opening bid of $1,700.

I read the books from covers to covers and made detailed notes. Armed with many locations that had ceased to exist, I reconstructed a crude map, indicating the locations of these many Texas relay stations most of which had dissolved back into the earth. And then, using my Open Office Word Processor, I fabricated a one-of-kind QSL Card.

 

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By this time I was certain that lodging, on-the-road meals, and fuel at near record costs made this an adventure that could never become a reality. Was I disappointed? A little bit. But like so many pursuits the true adventure is in the chase.

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