Stagecoach West Author:Ralph Moody A triumph of Yankee design and ingenuity, the American stagecoach sped over the primitive roads of the western prairies, deserts, and moutains from the gold-rush days of 1849 until the turn of the century. Drawn by four- and six-horse teams and driven by some of the most skillful reinsmen the the world has ever known, these singular carriages ha... more »uled the wealth of a new nation, provided the lines of rapid communication vital to its growth, and helped Americans settle the region between the Missouri and the Pacific in the span of a generation. Their heroic drivers often became stagecoach mogals, cattle barons, sometimes even bandits. They made Sacramento the stagecoach center of the world: in 1853, Californians thrilled to the news of a 160-mile stage race down the Sacramento Valley.
The North-South power struggle in Congress delayed stagecoaching across the nation for nearly a decade, for no company could hope to operate over 2000 miles of deserts, mountains, and prairies--teeming with Indians--without governmental support. Each faction, anxious to bind California to its cause, demanded that the stage route be on its side of the Mason-Dixon line.
Mining and frontier towns, and the men who ran them; Morman and Indian raids; false gold rushes, bond scandals, and political highjinx are all a part of this story of the stagecoach era. So too are the exploits of the flamboyant William Russell and Ben Holladay--men who would stop at nothing to obtain valuable mail contracts--and of more conventional "bad men" like Black Bart and Jack Slade. Here is the short-lived stagecoaching glory of Wells Fargo, which ordered thirty Concord coaches in a single shipment the year before the cross-country rails met. Here are Horace Greeley "going West," the young Mark Twain on his way to Virginia City, and Calamity Jane riding the Deadwood Mail Stage.
One could have few better guides for an excursion into the old West than Ralph Moody, author of "The Old Trails West,""Little Britches," and "Riders of the Pony Express". Since his boyhood on a Colorado ranch, when he knew "Colonel" Robert Spotswood, a famous stage-line operator, and rode with the driver of the mail coach in the mountains, Mr. Moody has been interested in stagecoaching history. He has followed the routes himself, knows the art of reining a six-horse team "Yankee fashion," and has based his account on original sources and painstaking historical research.
Mr. Moody is a member of the California Writers' Club and of the Western Writers of America. He is the father of four children, and lives with his wife, Edna, in Burlingame, California.