Old West Stories in Newspapers: Here Comes the Morning Stagecoach!

Maybe it was because of Father’s Day, but there were a lot of old western movies on TV this past weekend. Good ones, too, starring Gregory Peck, John Wayne, and more.

Daily Ohio Statesman -  Stagecoach Story Newspaper Article 1860

Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, Ohio), 10 May 1860, page 3

So, it was no surprise when I was combing through GenealogyBank today that I found this great newspaper article about an old western stagecoach, published in the Daily Ohio Statesman (Columbus, Ohio), 10 May 1860, page 3.

It read like the plot of a TV western—only these stories of the old Wild West were real.

This historical newspaper article reports that the Overland Mail Coach arrived with passengers “Lieut. Cogswell, of the USA, Dr. J. P. Breck, and Mr. and Mrs. Arnold.”

They brought news from the Texas frontier and points west. “They report the Indians very troublesome in the vicinity of Mustang Pond [Nevada], and between Mountain Pass Station and Phantom Hill.”

The stagecoach passengers provided details of several attacks:

“A blacksmith in the employ of the Overland Mail Company, and three men living at Mountain Pass, were murdered by the Comanches the day before the stage passed there.

“Fifteen Indians stopped at Mustang Pond and committed sundry depredations upon the whites.

“The scout for this stage saw some bands of Indians at the latter place, looking with eager eyes towards the coach, and the passengers prepared themselves for a fight, but the red skins were too wary, and it did not become necessary to fire upon them.

“Col. Fountleroy had started on a tour to select a site for Fort Butler.

“Maj. Ruff had been ordered with five companies of rifles to take the field immediately against the Kiowa and Comanches. His depot was at Fort Butler.

“Several ranging companies were out in the vicinity of Jackborough.”

Clearly, riding a stagecoach in the Wild West was just as dangerous as western movies later portrayed it!

Every stop was an adventure. This old Pony Express Route, April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861 map (courtesy, Library of Congress) shows the overland route many travelers took from Missouri to California.

Historical Map of Pony Express Route that Stagecoaches Followed - 1860-1861

Pony Express Route, April 3, 1860 – October 24, 1861

The strength of historical newspapers is that they provide a daily record of the past.

GenealogyBank has the largest online newspaper archive, full of details about our American heritage. You can find stagecoach passenger lists, information about the early American pioneers and Native Americans and so much more in GenealogyBank. Carefully review GenealogyBank’s 1.2 billion records for the details of your family’s history.

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Old Man of the Mountain – RIP 3 May 2003

It was six years ago that the Old Man of the Mountain fell.

His passing is as deeply felt today as when I heard the shocking news in 2003. It came across as a cable news bulletin. Hikers had heard the awful rumble in the early hours while it was still dark and when the sun came up they realized what had happened.

The next morning the quiet phone calls began … to my folks, my brothers – had they heard the news. They had.

We were all born and mostly raised in New Hampshire. Old “Sawyer” prints of the Old Man of the Mountain hang on the wall. He’s on the license plates – the NH edition of the quarter. He was a solid part of our lives. Familiar. Always there. A part of the family, our heritage.

Newspapers have been commenting on the impact of his image for centuries.

Samuel Adams Drake wrote “This gigantic silhouette which has been christened the Old Man of the Mountain is unquestionably the greatest curiosity of this or any other mountain region” (St. Alban’s Messenger (VT) 16 July 1881).

The Old Man was first “discovered” in 1805 by Luke Brooks and Francis Whitcomb who were charged by the town of Franconia, NH to survey the town. See NH Gazette 25 June 1805.

One of the earliest descriptions of the Old Man was published in the Salem Gazette (MA) 22 Nov 1825.

By 1827 a new stage line had “purchased good horses and carriages … and procured a careful driver” and organized the “Plymouth and Franconia” stage line, with runs twice a week past the Old Man – “a very level and pleasant route”. (NH Patriot 15 Jan 1827).