Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tombstone: Old Butterfield Stage Line

Riding in an authentic Butterfield stagecoach is an experience not to be missed! There are at least three stagecoaches in which visitors can take a guided tour of Tombstone, but only the Butterfield stage is actually from the nineteenth century (see photo at right). Butterfield stagecoaches transported mail from St. Louis to San Francisco in a journey that took over three weeks. My trip was fun but if I had to spend several hours a day for several days riding in a stagecoach, I’d probably have a different opinion!

According to my driver/tour guide, this particular stagecoach was built in Montana in the early 1860s. Mules instead of horses were used because they ate less and cost less to maintain. The interior had two reddish-colored velour-covered seats facing each other (see upper photo at right). It was comfortable to sit on them but inside the stage it was quite small. For tall people or when the stage had six people riding in it, I imagine it felt rather cramped as leg space was limited. The dimensions of the floor were, I estimate, about three by three feet, perhaps a little less (see photo above).

The guided tour I took lasted about twenty minutes and took me on a loop of the downtown area of Tombstone while the driver described landmarks and other points of interest. One of the places was the Tombstone office for the Butterfield stage company (see photo at right). At the Tombstone Western Heritage Museum, I learned that most stagecoaches arrived in Tombstone around midnight so when Heyes, Kid, and George arrive in the middle of the day in Which Way to the OK Corral?, that apparently is not historically accurate, though I do have to laugh when George tells Marshal Earp when she first goes to report the deputy's threat upon her life, that she doesn't care if the stage comes and goes at midnight. The distance from Tombstone to Tucson was 70 – 80 miles; a one-way ticket cost $10 and according to information at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, the trip took 17 hours. By the end of 1878, two stage lines, the Tucson and Tombstone Stage Company and the Arizona Mail and Stage Company, operated six trips per week between the two cities. The Arizona Mail and Stage Company also ran from Tombstone to Fairbank, where customers could connect with a train to Benson; that trip cost $1.50 and left Tombstone at 1:45pm.

About Wells Fargo stagecoaches, including rules for passengers: