I love research and hate to pass up an opportunity to gain insight into what life was like in the old days. While traveling in Colorado, my husband and I rode the train from Durango to Silverton, but what thrilled me the most was the opportunity to ride on a stagecoach. I opted to ride inside while Larry rode on top. The seat had a pad but when the vehicle was in motion, it provided little in the way of cushioning. I felt every little bump and rut in the road. At the time, I wondered how on earth women managed to travel long distances and their bladder remain intact.
When we reached the half-way point, we stopped and I decided I’d ride up top with my husband. We sat directly behind the driver. It was much more comfortable, not a bad ride at all. The drivers were kind enough to let me pose with the unloaded shotgun. In the picture you can see there is also an upper seat on the back of the coach.
The suspension system of the stagecoach used leather strips, called thoroughbraces, which served as shock absorbing springs. Some individuals have compared stagecoaches to a cradle because of its rocking movement.
The first Concord was built at a wagon factory in Concord, New Hampshire in 1827. They were built so well they didn’t breakdown, they just wore out. Inside, passengers were allowed fifteen inches each. Back and middle rows faced forward, and front seats faced rearward, their knees dovetailed with those in the middle row. The only back support for the middle row was a leather strap. Nine travelers fit inside and nine outside including the driver and his lookout.
Overland stagecoaches in some areas traveled for a continuous twenty-two days, stopping only for short breaks, meals, and to change horses. Passengers often had to hold their luggage in their laps and prop their feet on mail. With such close quarters it was necessary for Wells Fargo to post some rules.
Rules quoted from – Elizabeth C. MacPhail, Wells Fargo in San Diego, The Journal of San Diego History, Fall 1980, Volume 28, Number 4.
* Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.
* If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the gentler sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted, but spit with the wind, not against it.
* Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.
* Buffalo robes are provided for your comfort in cold weather. Hogging robes will not be tolerated and the offender will be made to ride with the driver.
* Don’t snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger’s shoulder for a pillow, he or she may not understand and friction may result.
* Firearms may be kept on your person for use in emergencies. Do not fire them for pleasure or shoot at wild animals as the sound riles the horses.
* In the event of runaway horses remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.
* Forbidden stagecoach topics of conversation are: stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.
* Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It’s a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient.
Traveling by stagecoach could be dangerous. They were often attacked by robbers and Indians. Stagecoach drivers were bold, strong characters. It’s interesting to note not all drives were men. Several women were successful, one such woman was Mary Fields. Born a slave in 1832, at the age of 52 she traveled out west. Almost six feet tall, Mary did physical work such as cutting wood and hauling supplies for nuns at a convent in Montana. Her employment ended after a gunfight with another worker. She owned and operated a restaurant for a few years and then began driving a stagecoach delivering the mail until in her 70s. She continued to work by opening a laundry. She died in 1914. She was a true pioneer and inspiration to women.
Many believe stagecoach use even for mail delivery died out due to railroad service. The last American stagecoach chapter took place between 1890 and 1920. When the road to Young, Arizona was paved and the horse-drawn vehicle was replaced by a Ford motorcar.
If you ever have the chance, take a ride in a stagecoach. Feel the breeze hit your face and imagine what it’d be like in one hundred degree temperatures or freezing cold. Would you lower the window covering to keep the choking dust out or cover your mouth and nose with a scarf and keep your eyes closed? Suppose you had a baby on your lap and were traveling for days on end squeezed into fifteen inches of space with no way to stretch your legs. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll continue to read and write about the old days, but be thankful I live in modern times.
References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stagecoach http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-stagecoachkings.html http://americanhistory.about.com/od/americanwest/a/mary_fields.htm Elizabeth C. MacPhail, Wells Fargo in San Diego, The Journal of San Diego History, Fall 1980, Volume 28, Number 4.
My upcoming release is a time travel set in the 1930s oil fields of Texas. It’s out now with Champagne Books. Here is a blurb and short excerpt. In the 1930s oil fields of Texas, a woman from the future finds new purpose as she helps a banker rebuild his financial empire.
Amber Mathis, a Wall Street investment banker, returns to her office after burying her mother. Distraught, tired of the rat race, she’s determined to make a career change. In the elevator she falls and rises to find herself in a vintage lift. The date is February 25, 1930, and a man stands on the window ledge in her office ready to jump.
Wellman Hathaway, owner and CEO of Hathaway Bank in New York struggles to pay his depositors half their losses. A woman claiming to be from 2011 appears in his office and involves him in a scheme that forces them into marriage. With Amber’s knowledge of the financial history of the 1930s, they travel to the oil fields of Texas to recoup Wellman’s funds.
Two people from different centuries are thrown together to survive a difficult time. Will they find more than A Way Back to prosperity?
Do it her mind screamed. In one swift move she locked her arms around his waist, pulled, and dropped to the floor. She cringed at the loud crack when his head hit the window sash as he fell back landing on top of her.
They both remained still for a moment. The air knocked out of her, she managed to gasp out, “Could you move? You’re squashing me.”
He rolled and her head bounced on the floor as she changed positions from trying to rise to flat on her back. Long arms held hers above her head and muscled legs kept her body from moving. Striking gray eyes pierced hers, examining every inch of her. Her face flushed at the intrusion and she struggled to get him off. He applied more pressure and she stilled.
A lock of blonde hair fell over his forehead, a patrician nose flared in anger, as his square jaw tightened. He ground out, “Who the hell are you and why’d you try to knock my head off?”
I’ll be giving away an e-copy of A Way Back today. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. I’ll be checking back today and would love to chat with you. Also, please check out my other books at www.lindalaroque.com and take a peek at my new release contest on my blog at http://www.lindalaroqueauthor.blogspot.com/
Happy Reading and Writing!