Notes from the Past

Western Mail - Part III

Demas Barnes, on an extended transcontinental trip in 1865, described the handling of mail on the route between Atchison, Kansas, and Denver, Colorado Territory:
. . . These are the longest days, and, consequently, shortest nights.  It is hardly dark at nine; a bright moon irradiates the night, and day dawns at three in the morning.  Short naps, with my hand on my six-shooter, and the reassuring presence of a military escort, quiets my nerves, and would not add greatly to my insurance policy, in my estimation.  The stages run on from here again, but only tri-weekly.  The mail is piled up at different places, and I think the bottom of it here will hardly move for a month.  I expect my Salt Lake letters are thus detained, and I shall not receive them.  It is outrageous the way the public are swindled by the proprietors of this stage-route.  I speak only what I now, and repeat a remark by the agents: "Too much trouble to tear the pile out from the bottom."  If I remember correctly, Mr. Halliday [sic] gets $800,000 per annum for carrying the United States mail once a day.  This, of course, gives him a chance to run stages, carry passengers, and keep other people off the course.  I have seen stages pass through here loaded with passengers, and not carry a pound of mail, while perhaps two weeks' mail, or more, lay heaped up in the office!  The passage Atchison to Salt Lake is $350.  Eight
passengers would be $2,800; extra baggage, say $100 more. . .
To be continued.

Posted June 16, 2000

Editor's Note:  I am indebted to Wells Fargo in Colorado Territory by W. Turrentine Jackson published by the Colorado Historical Society, 1982 for the source material contained herein.

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