Stage-Coach Days In The Bluegrass

Stage-Coach Days In The Bluegrass

J. Winston Coleman
Foreword by Thomas D. Clark
Copyright Date: 1935
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130j4bp
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    Stage-Coach Days In The Bluegrass
    Book Description:

    WhenStage-Coach Days in the Bluegrasswas first published in 1935 by the Standard Press in Louisville, theNew York Timesreviewer described "this charming work" as "an interesting example of that very useful class of books, local histories, which so rarely get the attention they deserve."

    Along with his focus on the development of stage-coach travel, Coleman covers details such as pioneer roads, taverns, travelers' experiences, mail carriers, and the coming of the railroad. This fascinating look at an age gone by is truly a work of regional culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5737-5
    Subjects: History, Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-xii)
    THOMAS D. CLARK

    When Kentucky entered the Union of States on June 1, 1792, the face of its land was laced with ancient game and Indian trails. Many of these at later dates converted into intersettlement roads as emigrants pushed westward. In 1792 few roads could accommodate more than packhorse trains, and certainly none were adaptable to stagecoach travel for any distance. Not until 1787 and James Wilkinson’s famous journey home from New Orleans by way of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and by flatboat to Maysville was a wheeled vehicle brought to Kentucky. From Maysville, Wilkinson traveled over the Limestone Road to Lexington.

    During...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    J. Winston Coleman Jr.
  5. CHAPTER I PIONEER ROADS AND TRAVEL
    (pp. 15-25)

    WHAT lay beyond the blue haze of the majestic mountains which stretched from Pennsylvania through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina was uppermost in the minds of the young and vigorous manhood of the Tidewater countries. After their raids the Indians always retreated across these mountains, as did the deer and buffalo when they were pursued. The extravagant reports of surveyors and hunters returning through the Gap only served to whet this desire for adventure in the West.

    Lord Dunmore’s Point Pleasant campaign of October, 1774, brought together many active militiamen from Virginia and North Carolina, along with a few who...

  6. CHAPTER II THE FIRST STAGE LINE
    (pp. 26-36)

    TRAVEL into central Kentucky during its formative period, the latter part of the eighteenth century, was not only by land but by boat down the Ohio River. During the Revolution and for sometime afterwards such travel was dangerous, because of Indian attacks and floods and swift currents in river navigation. Moreover, good boats were scarce and expensive, consequently a land route, although much longer, was preferred by many of the early pioneers and settlers.

    For a decade after the Revolutionary War, practically all roads leading to Lexington and central Kentucky were merely buffalo traces¹ or Indian trails, over which the...

  7. CHAPTER III IMPROVEMENTS OF STAGE TRAVEL
    (pp. 37-52)

    WITH the coming of winter, 1803, Kennedy discontinued his stage line to the Olympian Springs because of the roads “becoming a vast sea of mud,” but he continued the run to Frankfort for the entire session of the Legislature. It is not known what financial return this initial line netted its owner, but the chances are he lost money, for, the next year, a proprietor who had heretofore driven the stage to Frankfort was operating the line to the Springs:

    “I will start with the Stage from Mr. Bradley’s door every Monday and Thursday morning at day-light, and run to...

  8. CHAPTER IV EARLY TAVERNS
    (pp. 53-72)

    STAGE-COACH travel in the Bluegrass would not have been so picturesque and colorful, perhaps, had it not been for the part the taverns and inns played in the accommodation of travelers and townsfolk. Taverns in the Bluegrass, unlike those of New England, were the out-growth of the times and modes of travel. At first there were so few towns and villages that hospitality was shown the traveler at every cabin, station, farm, or plantation; every man’s house was an inn; every settler was a landlord. In general, no charge was made for the entertainment of the chance visitor, whose stay...

  9. CHAPTER V PALMY DAYS OF STAGE TRAVEL
    (pp. 73-94)

    IT IS doubtful if any description written today could adequately portray the importance, in its relation to the affairs of the people, which stage-coach traffic assumed during the period between 1830 and 1845 in the Bluegrass. During the years in question it was the only means by which a large part of the population could accomplish overland journeys. Even when railroad and rivers were available for some portions of the trip, travelers had to resort to the stages for the major parts of the distances traveled.

    Early in this period, Lexington and central Kentucky were visited by the disease commonly...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. CHAPTER VI OPPOSITION LINES AND DRIVERS
    (pp. 95-114)

    SHORTLY after competitive stage lines entered the field, the drivers of the various lines developed greater speed, which resulted in racing of the stages and endangering the lives and safety of the passengers. Newspaper editors constantly were trying to decrease the danger of stage driving through the streets of the cities by citing damages¹ in other places and the liability of the drivers:

    “A Gentleman of Louisville while driving in a gig through the streets of that city was overset by the carelessness of a stage driver in his eagerness to pass another stage. The Gentleman had his collar bone...

  12. CHAPTER VII THE COMING OF THE RAILROAD
    (pp. 115-126)

    WITH this seeming prosperity for the stage-coaches, there loomed upon the horizon the much heated question of a railroad, which spelled the ultimate doom of stage travel in central Kentucky. Situated in the center of the fertile agricultural belt of the Bluegrass region, Lexington was without an outlet to the southern markets, except by river boats. The citizens, as well as the merchants of Lexington, saw the possibilities for a railroad from Lexington, by way of Frankfort, to “some point” on the Ohio River, possibly Louisville. They were certain of securing the railroad, but were faced with the problem of...

  13. CHAPTER VIII INCIDENTS OF STAGE TRAVEL
    (pp. 127-148)

    IN ORDER to gain an accurate idea of the pleasures and discomforts incidental to travel when the public stage and mail coaches constituted the only means of locomotion, it is necessary to read the diaries written by men at that time. Some found staging delightful, while others found it hateful and were miserable. This difference of opinion was usually traceable to their own characters, the state of the weather, and the nature of their traveling companions.

    John Cleves Short, in a letter of October 25, 1829, to his brother, Dr. Charles Wilkins Short, professor of materia medica and medical botany...

  14. CHAPTER IX EXPERIENCES OF TRAVELERS
    (pp. 149-161)

    TRAVELERS going by stage over the Bluegrass routes had little trouble with highway robberies and holdups, for such occurrences were rare. This may be attributed to several reasons. The country was too thickly populated, the principal stages carried the United States mail, and the penalty of highway robbery carried with it the death sentence.¹ Another reason was that most of the passengers in the stages carried letters of credit, checks, and bills of exchange, while those in other parts of the United States and later on in the West carried cash or gold dust.

    Single travelers on horse-back or on...

  15. CHAPTER X OTHER USERS OF THE ROAD
    (pp. 162-176)

    ALL along the turnpikes and roads of central Kentucky travelers and passengers in the stage-coaches often saw great numbers of hogs, cattle, and sheep being driven to the eastern and southern markets. This was the only means of transportation by which farmers and stock-raisers of the Bluegrass region could dispose of their live-stock.¹ The men who drove the stock to market were called “drovers” and their social status was the same as the “waggoners” who piloted the heavy Conestoga or freight wagons over these roads.

    An old letter, dated January 28, 1823, describes a scene familiar to Kentuckians of that...

  16. CHAPTER XI TAVERNS OF A LATER TIME
    (pp. 177-195)

    THERE has been nothing yet contrived by man, asserted Dr. Johnson,¹ “by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” Surely this must have been the sentiment of every traveler who dared the long, tedious, and many times monotonous journeys through Kentucky during the stage-coach era.

    It is to be doubted that if at any time there were inns and taverns anywhere that could compare with those of the thirties, forties, and fifties, the three middle decades, when the pioneer had passed, when the stage-coach was the acme of travel, and when inventions had not...

  17. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  18. CHAPTER XII ANTE-BELLUM DAYS
    (pp. 196-211)

    AS the old stages swayed and bumped along the dusty turnpikes of the slave-holding Bluegrass region, it is not at all surprising that passengers often found themselves in a turmoil with abolitionists, who “reprobated slavery as the great bane of this fine country.” On several occasions it is related that the timely assistance of the driver averted serious consequences.

    On February 2, 1833, the Legislature of Kentucky passed an act prohibiting the importation of slaves for the purposes of sale, with severe penalties for its violation, which dealt a heavy blow to the slave trade. Its passage was a signal...

  19. CHAPTER XIII THE STAGE AS A MAIL CARRIER
    (pp. 212-229)

    WITH the passing of the post-rider, the stage-coach became the principal conveyance of the United States mail. This service was inaugurated in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky in the late spring of 1816. Improvements were slow for the next fifteen or twenty years until the “artificial” or hard-surfaced roads were introduced, which made it possible for the stage-coaches to maintain longer runs and schedules at seven or eight miles per hour.

    The main trunk for all the mails from the East was the great National Road,¹ sometimes called the “Cumberland Road,” leading from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cumberland, Maryland, through the...

  20. CHAPTER XIV TURNPIKES AND TOLL-GATES
    (pp. 230-246)

    SHORTLY after Kentucky had been admitted into the Union, there came into existence a sentiment for the improvement of the trails and roads. Economic upheaval following the Revolutionary War delayed internal improvements. Roads and bridges were constructed only in a few necessary cases. Stout logs were placed across streams for the sake of foot passengers.

    When the great Kentucky migration began, all roads and trails became the subject of animated conversation. Around the fireside of cabins and in taprooms in the Tidewater country bits of information concerning the mountain passes, points where ambuscades were likely to occur, location of springs...

  21. CHAPTER XV LAST DAYS OF THE STAGE
    (pp. 247-260)

    BY the middle of the summer of 1865, the attention of travelers was directed to the announcement of the Kentucky Stage Company: “We are happy to inform the traveling public that we are again running regular stages, and will make all connections as per schedule.” This resumption of regular coach travel was welcomed with much satisfaction by the users of the stage lines after the years of irregular service caused by the war. Soldiers of both armies were still returning home and the stages were convenient conveyances to interior towns and remote rural sections.

    But the stages, like everything else,...

  22. APPENDIX
    (pp. 261-272)
  23. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 273-278)
  24. INDEX
    (pp. 281-288)