The Overland Stage Messenger

A Responsible Position

The position of express messenger was one of the most responsible held by the army of employees on the Overland Stage Line. The messengers were entrusted with the safe-keeping of the treasure and other valuable packages transported back and forth, and often a fortune was placed in their charge. It was a terrible temptation to road-agents or highwaymen, who surely must have known that vast sums of money were at times carried by the stages, and there were hundreds of places on the route where two or three desperate characters could secrete themselves and holdup a coach or pick off a stage load of passengers, or even a squad or company of soldiers, for that matter. At the same time the pay for this service was not equal to that of other employees, when the work to be done is taken into account.

The messengers in charge of the express were the poorest-paid men in the employ of the stage company. They were obliged to ride outside on the box with the driver six days and nights without undressing, and exposed to all kinds of weather. They received $62.50 a month, and meals free on the road, but they were idle--that is, had a lay-over--nine days out of every three weeks so that their real working time was somewhat reduced and their days of exposure that much lessened.

There were many dangers connected with the position of messenger on the Overland Stage Line. They simply took their lives in their hands. Those employed on the main line had to ride six days and nights without taking off their clothes, catching what sleep they could from time to time while the stage was moving across the plains and over the mountain passes.

The messenger coach was loaded with express packages of various kinds, besides a strong iron box that two persons could handle, containing the treasure and the most valuable of the smaller packages. On the regular Concords the safe was carried in the front boot, under the driver's box. Whenever there happened to be an extra-big run of express packages (enough to comfortably fill the stage), no passengers were taken on that trip; but it was a very rare occurrence if the express coach left Atchison without at least one or more, and often it carried as many as half a dozen passengers, either for Denver, Salt Lake, or on through to Sacramento.

The charges on express matter other than gold dust, coin, or currency, between Atchison and Denver, was at the uniform rate of one dollar per pound. More express matter was carried to Denver, Central City and Black Hawk in 1863 than to all other points combined on the main stage line.

Three messengers were constantly employed in the '60's on the line between Atchison and Denver, three between Denver and Salt Lake, and the same number between Salt Lake and Placerville. One messenger would be going west and one east on each division nearly all the time, while the other would be lying a week at Atchison, Denver or Salt Lake resting after making a round trip over his division.

Messengers on the Overland Stage Line

Addoms, Henry

Letson, William W

Root, Frank A.

Benham, William

Lewis, E.

Sayrs, Henry M

Butler, Preston

Lloyd, George M.

Stein, Nat

Capen, James H.

Mayfield, John N.

Strong, Jud

Clement, Stephen

Millar, R. P. R.

Spotswood, Robert J.

Dickey, Dave

Millar, Wm. L. H.

Thomas, Chester, Jr.

Ellifrit, R. T.

McClelland, William

West, Rodney P.

Gaylord, William F.

Pollinger, E. M.

Wiley, C. P.

Hughes, Joe

Rodgers, Philip

Wilson, Richard E.

Hudnet, William

Rodgers, John

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