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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Early Stagecoaches And Their Routes

Dallas Bogan on 6 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The stagecoach was a horse-drawn vehicle, which was used to carry passengers and mail on a regular route. Freight was also carried on these coaches. The first stagecoach line was established about 1670 between London, England, and Edinburgh, Scotland, a distance of 392 miles. The first stagecoach lines in America were established in Colonial America about 1756. These operations were chiefly between Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

In 1785, Congress began mail service by stagecoach. As time moved on, these coaches were fitted with springs and cushioned seats. Travel moved by way of the National Road (U.S. 40) in the early 1800's from Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington to Ohio. These vehicles of travel made the journey in two and one- half days, traveling along at a speed of about ten miles per hour. Relay stations were set up every 15 or 20 miles to change horses.
Some of the old stagecoaches were of a very elaborate nature. With the painting, decorations and the soft plush pink seats, this coach would cost between five and six thousand dollars. The springs were wide leather straps and were often called "thru braces." The driver's skill in handling these modern day coaches was unapproachable. Their existence made the canal packets extinct. Although the canal traffic ride was smoother, the stagecoach had advantages that excelled.
The Western Star says that the first stage line in operation in Ohio was a line that would run from Chillicothe thru Circleville to Columbus twice a week beginning on Monday, August 23, 1819. This announcement was made in the Scioto Gazette. The notice said there were two stages in the line, one drawn by four, the other by two horses and each would make one trip a week. The fare was uniformly seven cents a mile in the larger stage and five cents in the smaller one. Each passenger was to carry ten pounds of baggage. These were mail stages and it was an inflexible rule of the line that the mailbags must be carried inside to prevent their injury by rain.
Three early stagecoach lines that were of importance to the State of Ohio were:

  1. A road along the southern shore of Lake Erie from the northeast corner of the State thru Cleveland, Elyria, Norwalk, Lower Sandusky and Perrysburg, being a part of the stage route from Buffalo to Detroit.
  2. A central route across the state from Wheeling, Va., thru Zanesville, Newark, Columbus, Springfield, Dayton and Eaton, to the Indiana line, along which mail coaches ran three times a week between Wheeling and Dayton.
  3. A stage route from Cincinnati to Columbus and Sandusky thru Hamilton, Middletown, Franklin, Dayton and Springfield.

A shorter route from Cincinnati to Sandusky was used, but it was not called a stage road. It ran thru Sharon (Sharonville), Lebanon, Waynesville, Xenia and Springfield. This route did not go thru the towns of Dayton and Columbus.
A description of possibly the first stage lines thru Lebanon was inserted into The Western Star in 1827. It said:

"STAGES - Two lines of stages now regularly pass thru this place. The first from Cincinnati eastward thru Lancaster, etc., the second from the same place, passing thru Waynesville, Xenia, Springfield, Urbana, Bellfontaine, etc. On this end of the line the stages are good and the accommodations for travelers are convenient and comfortable. On the latter line particularly, the stage between this place and Cincinnati is equal, we are told, to many on the oldest routes east of the mountains. Traveling appears to increase rapidly with the facilities of conveyance and we are glad to hear that the persevering individuals who have established these public accommodations at great expense are likely to receive an adequate reward."

A stage line from Cincinnati thru Lebanon, Waynesville and Xenia to Portland (Sandusky), for several years had only a mud road on which to travel. The wet seasons called for a different type of wagon, rather than stages, called a "mud wagon." The most important line of stages thru Warren County ran this route. (This stage route parallels U.S. 42.)
The first stop in Lebanon appears to have been at a tavern. The proprietor of this famous inn was William Ferguson. This frame building was located on Main Street. Mr. Ferguson owned the building and kept hotel in it from about 1822 until his death in 1831. It was called the Indian Chief.
William B. Ferguson II was the son of the tavern keeper. Mr. Ferguson regarding his recollections of the early stage lines through Lebanon wrote a letter from Los Angeles, Cal., in the year 1902. Lebanon at this time was preparing for her centennial celebration. He writes:
"I have a distinct recollection when the first four-horse stage line was established from Cincinnati to Sandusky. The stage line was not organized as railroad lines now are by incorporated companies. The distance was as far as possible laid out in sections of ten miles each. Four horses with harness and driver would equip a ten mile run. Mr. Robert Boal furnished two teams, the first from Cincinnati to Reading (ten miles), the second from Reading ten miles further on. Mr. Jonathon K. Wilds furnished the next team bringing the line to Lebanon. Mr. Satterthwaite carried the line to Waynesville and on to Xenia. Messrs. Neil and Worden carried it on to Columbus and Sandusky.
"The people took great interest in the stage line. Men would stop in the street and women come to their doors to see the stage pass. At that time there was a good deal of rivalry between the `Golden Lamb Tavern' on Broadway and the one kept by my father, and the getting of the stage stand by the latter was quite a feather in the cap of the imitation Indian painted on the sign that hung in front of the tavern.
"Some of the men named in the foregoing extract as interested in establishing the first four-horse stage line thru Lebanon, were well known in Warren county. Major Robert Boal, who furnished the teams for the first twenty miles, came from Pennsylvania early in the last century and settled on a farm not far from the Red Buck tavern, eight miles west of Lebanon.
"Jonathon K. Wilds was a well known citizen of Lebanon who served as clerk of court for about fifteen years from and after 1825. John Satterthwaite was a leading business man of Waynesville and was long interested in the stage line.
"Stage lines had been established only a short time when there were rival companies fighting each other with much bitterness, each claiming the fastest horses, the most comfortable coaches and the best drivers. Each line would have separate taverns in the important towns at which to stop. Competition would greatly reduce the fares, each line trying to run the other out. The first time we hear of stage competition thru Lebanon was in 1830, ten years before the completion of a turnpike from Cincinnati to Xenia.
"STAGE COMPETITION - There are now in active operation two lines of stages thru this place, Waynesville, Xenia etc. One daily, owned by the Messrs. Neil of Columbus, the other every other day, of which Messrs. Worden of Springfield, Kenton of Xenia, and Satterthwaite of Waynesville, we learn are proprietors. The stages and teams on both lines have a fine appearance."
Judge John W. Keyes in his History of Wayne Township, printed in the Beers Warren County History, says:
"The mail was carried thru Waynesville on horse back until 1827, when the first line of stages was put on from Cincinnati to Springfield by John Satterthwaite, of Waynesville, and William Worden of Springfield. When the weather was pleasant and the roads were good, the regular stage was used; when not, a long square wagon which received the name of "Black Hawk" was used. Many amusing incidents were related by travelers about having to get out and pry the vehicle out of mud holes with rails, and the drivers instructing them to hold on to their rails as there were other mud holes ahead. The travelers declared they did not mind walking, but were opposed to carrying rails."
The Ohio Canal line from Cleveland to Portsmouth, which had been in existence for years, dropped its passenger service in 1843 because of the stagecoaches.
Many classes of people were crowded into a stagecoach. In essence, a dozen men and women, usually men, would be packed together for an all night ride. Those facing each other would have their knees interlocked. The fares in the Northern States were usually about six cents a mile, in the Southern States, about ten cents.
The rich man who traveled in his own carriage, drawn by his own horses, made slow time on a long journey. In comparison, the stagecoach changed horses every few miles and thus kept up high speed day and night.

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This page created 6 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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