Notes from the Past

Butterfield Overland Mail - Part II

Since the southern route of the Overland Mail had been selected by PMG Brown of Tennessee, there was much objection from the North, both in the East and the West.

Charges of bias in favor of the southern states were hurled, and the newspapers had a field day.  The Sacramento Union called the route an "outrage upon the majority of the people of the state (of California)" and "a Panama route by land" and a New York paper named it the "ox-bow route."

Nevertheless, despite its length and the rugged terrain, the Overland Mail performed well.  While it has not been romanticized to the same extent as the Pony Express, the Concord coaches of the Butterfield Overland Mail have provided inspiration to countless novelists and Hollywood scriptwriters.

In 1861, as the winds of war began to blow, the service was ordered transferred to the Central Route of the Pony Express and was reorganized to provide daily service.  This move, although it was timed to avoid the problem of the North having such an important link subject to interference by the Confederacy, was not influenced by that consideration.

Though there was never any criticism of the service on the Southern route, the route itself was never popular, and there was much agitation in favor of the shorter Central Route from Independence, Missouri, to Placerville, California, via Salt Lake City.

This agitation eventually achieved its goal, and the Civil War set a term upon the Southern Route, while the coming of rail lines across the continent numbered the days of all the great stage routes.

Soon after the move to the Central Route, the Butterfield company came under the control of
Wells-Fargo. 


- Kenneth A. Wood
This is Philately - Volume One A-F
Van Dahl Publications 1982
Posted November 21, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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