Dennis Cassinelli: Tales from Nevada’s stagecoach era
January 31, 2018
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) traveled by stagecoach across the territory of Nevada in 1860 with his brother, Orion. At that time, the most convenient method of traveling any long distance was either by stagecoach or horseback. Twain wrote about his journey from Missouri to Carson City in his classic book, "Roughing It."
Several stage lines were in business during the Comstock mining boom to provide passenger service to the growing population of the region. Pioneer Stage lines, Wells Fargo and Butterfield were some of the stage lines that worked the area. Wells Fargo Stage Lines posted the following set of rules to be observed by passengers on their routes that give an idea of what some of the conditions were:
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 some 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.
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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.
In the event of runaway horses, remain calm. Leaping from the coach in a panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.
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.
Forbidden 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.
It's interesting to note each of these rules was created due to some passengers committing these offenses in the past.
Stagecoach travel remained the primary means of passenger and light freight service in Nevada until the coaches were replaced by the automobile in the early 1900s. A few stage lines remained in service even later, on routes not reached by the railroads.
Stage coaches were carrying mail, freight and passengers throughout Nevada beginning in the 1850s. A stagecoach driver was often called a "jehu" after biblical King Jehu in the Old Testament, who was known for driving his chariot furiously.
Some of the stagecoach drivers became a few of the most notorious and interesting characters in western history. Perhaps the most famous of these is Hank Monk, who drove stage coaches for all those mentioned above and became the most asked-for stage driver during the Comstock boom period.
Hank's claim to fame came in 1859 when New York Tribune Editor Horace Greeley decided to follow his own advice he had given to his readers, "Go West, young man, go West." Greeley had planned to visit the California Gold Country for an important meeting and was traveling across country by stage coach. Hank Monk was able to cross over the Sierra Nevada with Horace Greeley from Genoa, Nev., to Placerville, Calif., in one day in time for the meeting. Greeley was so impressed, he later bought Hank Monk a new suit of clothes. Hank Monk is buried at Lone Mountain Cemetery in Carson City.
This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Dennis' books sold through this publication will be at a 50 percent discount to reduce inventory and Dennis will pay the postage. These will no longer be available from Amazon.