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900 Miles on the Butterfield Trail

A. C. Greene

Publication Year: 1994

“Remember, boys, nothing on God's earth must stop the United States mail!” said John Butterfield to his drivers. Short as the life of the Southern Overland Mail turned out to be (1858 to 1861), the saga of the Butterfield Trail remains a high point in the westward movement. A. C. Greene offers a history and guide to retrace that historic and romantic Trail, which stretches 2800 miles from the Mississippi River to the Pacific coast. “A fine mix of past and present to appeal to scholar and lay reader alike.”—Robert M. Utley, author of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents, Acknowledgments, Map

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pp. vii-xiii

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A New Look

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pp. 1-5

Although much has been written about the Butterfield Overland Mail service, there are five eyewitness accounts on which a good part of the sum total has been based. The first, to which every subsequent western historian is indebted, is the account by Waterman Lily Ormsby, Jr.,1 of his adventures...

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Part I. John Butterfield's "gamble worth making" Begins—From St. Louis to the Red River

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pp. 7-31

SHORT as the life of John Butterfield's Southern Overland Mail turned out to be (less than three years in its span), the saga of the Butterfield Trail remains a romantic high point in the westward movement, forming familiar elements in historical plots, functioning as a vibrant backdrop against which mythic adventures...

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Part II. The Long & Dangerous Days—The First Overland Mail Trip & Stations Along the Route

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pp. 33-92

THE first Butterfield Overland Mail trip westward started on time from St. Louis at 8 A.M., September 16, 1858. It didn't start by stagecoach, it began by steam train, going from the St. Louis station via Pacific Railroad to the end of the rail line at the new town of Tipton, Missouri...

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Part III. New Routes—Up the Pecos, via the Guadalupes; Crossing at Horsehead: to El Paso via Fort Stockton, Fort Davis and the Rio Grande

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pp. 93-127

THERE are many places in Texas which can lay claim to being a part of the Butterfield Trail even though Waterman Ormsby did not encounter them on his 1858 journey. The easternmost towns in this category are Decatur, Bridgeport, Wizard Wells, and Pilot Point. ...

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Part IV. Modern Travelers on the Butterfield Trail—The Past Is Not Past: The Trail's Still Down There

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pp. 129-213

IF you fly over Mountain Pass in Taylor County, Texas, you can see in the chalky earth below two faint white tracks which follow the north edge of the hills, climbing toward the low summit of the pass. And if your imagination and your sense of history are as good as your eyesight...

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Part V. Crossroads

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pp. 215-260

IN 1858 Goddard Bailey, Special Agent for Postmaster General Aaron V. Brown, inspected the transcontinental mail systems, including the route across the Isthmus of Panama. After that, he was on the first Butterfield stage going from San Francisco to St. Louis, and his report on the line is of interest.1...

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Part VI. Epilogue—The Dream Ends, But Legends Abide

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pp. 261-271

John Butterfield had a sad finale to his Overland vision. His problems started in 1859 when Congress, because of internal political conflicts, failed to pass the annual Post Office Appropriation Bill. President James Buchanan refused to call a special session to authorize payments on mail contracts, and the Overland Mail...


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pp. 273-280


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pp. 281-293

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414936
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412130

Page Count: 308
Illustrations: 2 maps
Publication Year: 1994