Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Stagecoaches in southeast Kansas

Try walking through a muddy field on a rainy day in May

Notes. Spring Creek runs through Derby (then called El Paso) and Dog Creek is south of present day Mulvane. We don’t know for certain, but the route probably followed the Arkansas River where the present-day tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad run.

The stage was a Concord coach pulled by a team of two horses. The Parker & Tisdale stage line later became the Southwestern Stage Line. Fresh horses were kept at relay stations, and the station keeper was ever ready to unharness and re- hitch the fresh team, to get the stage coach rolling on without interruption.

Keep in mind that roads, for the most part, had not been laid out by the state or counties. To get a feeling for the trip try walking across a muddy field after a good rain. Compound this problem with ditches, ponds and streams, and horses struggling to carry a coach laden with passengers and luggage. Originally, north of El Dorado teams of four horses were used to carry passengers through the Flint Hills to Emporia, south of El Dorado, the coaches switched to teams of two horses.

From Wichita to Winfield by stagecoach

Coach and Four, Century Hotel 1877

Winfield Courier, May 11, 1876.

Last Saturday, the stage from Wichita got sandwiched between Spring and Dog Creeks. The passengers, and I was one, took to the water to find dry land. Hack, horses, and everything went down in the mud. Our worthy local agent, Mr. Bangs, and "Tommy," the driver, succeeded in transferring the females and mail to a wagon and then driving them back for the night to El Paso (present day Derby).

In getting out of our difficulty, we happened to drive over a wheat field which was under water and belonged to an idiot living on Dog Creek. He swam the creek and chased us on foot for about two miles. That was all the good it did him, however, as we hadn't time to converse with him.

The next morning, the idiot returned, brandishing a weapon in front of the stage, demanding "damages or blood." Bangs modestly but firmly said: "This is the U. S. mail line. One man and one shot gun has no legal right to delay these documents of importance; these letters of business; and these epistles of love that are trying to reach their destination. Stand aside, my friend. Lay your troubles before special mail agent Jno. M. Crowell. He will refer you to Senator Ingalls, he to the Department at Washington, and it will give you redress." We drove on. The fellow sat down and cried. Bangs was too much for him.

There are several sources for this story. Perhaps the best is the account gathered by the Cowley County Historical Museum.

Kansas Atlas, Rock Township, 1877