Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Early Shasta Express Companies
A four horse team hitched to a stage parked in front of the general merchandise store of Charles Litsch on Main Street in Shasta. Courtesy of Steve Brui.
During April of 1851 the construction of the first stage road was completed into Shasta from Red Bluffs via Bells Bridge, Canon House (Canyon House) and Lower Springs. Today, a good portion of this original stage road remains intact near the junction of Swasey Drive and Red Bluff Road. It took four months until any type of rig used this route.
It ended up being a passenger stage coach driven by Marshall McCummings which made its appearance in Shasta, coming off the newly developed stage road, in August of that year. As it entered Main Street and parked in front of the St. Charles hotel. McCummings was employed by stage proprietors Munroe & Felt of Sacramento.
Additional rigs would continue to transport supplies, provisions and passengers to and from Shasta, as new roads were constructed and express agencies were established. Imagine yourself in control of a rig driving along the dusty roads in northern California in 1851. It wouldn’t be as luxurious as it is today with motor vehicles equipped with air conditioning, heating and radios. The roads weren’t paved. There were no gas stations and restaurants nearby. The stage journeyed into the Wild West as the drivers and their passengers feared attacks by the Native Americans and by the following year, highwaymen began targeting the stage after the establishment of Wells Fargo & Company in California. Stage drivers often carried fire arms with them for their protection when they weren't accompanied by a shotgun messenger.
There were no doors with locking mechanisms. Passengers riding inside the coach were protected by a canvas which sheltered them from the blistering sun rays and kept them dry during a rain storm. The drivers were known as knights of the whip, they knew how to handle their stage on the rough-and-rugged terrain. Some rigs were just a wagon without a canvas.
On March 6, 1851 the town of Shasta became the county seat of Shasta County. Shasta was now a bustling city, and a future post office and a courthouse would be established soon. Transportation services were in demand by travelers going to and from Shasta. Shasta became known as the Queen City of the Northern Mines, or simply the Queen City of the North. The Baxter & Munroe Stage Line was another agency which was established in Colusa County in the spring of 1851. They began conveying passengers north to Shasta even though Munroe and Felt of Sacramento preceded them.
Then in, May of 1852 Hall & Crandall launched a series of coaches from Marysville to Shasta and promised their clients that the trip to Shasta would not exceed more than thirty hours of traveling. Their drivers kept that promise. Their stage’s made various stops in Shasta County. Hall & Crandall was owned and operated by Jered B. Crandall and the Hall siblings: Warren Hall and William Hall.
The first official United States mail stage to bring the mail north to Shasta from Colusa County was the Baxter & Company (formerly the Baxter & Munroe Stage Line) on May 8, 1852. There were other stages that succeeded them offering to bring packages and letters into Shasta as well but they weren't the official United States mail carrier.
Above: an advertisement for the Baxter & Company, U.S. Mail Line of Stages from Shasta to Sacramento, the Shasta Courier newspaper of Saturday, April 9, 1853. The ad started running in March of 1853.
By June 21, 1851, Taylor’s Sacramento and Shasta Semi-Monthly Express had been conveying passengers to Shasta departing from Sacramento on the first and fifteenth of each month, via Marysville, Yuba City and Hamilton City with select stops in between those towns as their coach pressed on-north. At Shasta, this express opened a branch of their stage line which would commute passengers desiring to venture north or north-west of Shasta. This express company made return trips to Sacramento as well. It was one of the first stage companies established in Shasta. It was owned and operated by L.W. Taylor of Sacramento.
Hall & Crandall made local history when Jered B. Crandall drove their company's stage from Shasta crossing over the Sierra Nevada Mountains on June 11, 1852 becoming the first stage driver to achieve that accomplishment. According to an excerpt taken from the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper they reported on June 7, 1852, the following:
“A branch of the house of Adams & Co., is about being established in Shasta. Mr. I.N. Briceland, well and favorably known in Sacramento, is to conduct the affairs of the house there.”
As mentioned before in my previous articles, Adams & Co., was a national express agency which also transported gold and connected with other staging companies in the United States, they also served as a banking corporation. By July 1, 1852, the express office of Rhodes & Lusk’s Express Company was located inside the office of the Sacramento City Bank in Shasta. Rhodes & Lusk’s Express Company was owned and operated by James M. Rhodes and Hiram Lusk.
While the rigs were drawn onward by their horses to their destinations, staging to and from Shasta continued. Their drivers also became a source of news from other towns and cities in California as they would often report items of interest back to the local newspapers, and in return the local media often printed their news in their next issue. An example of ticket prices comes from Hall & Crandall who advertised trips from Shasta to Sacramento and Sacramento to Shasta for $20 per ticket. Other stage companies promoted the same prices. Local destinations were cheaper to travel to. During the winter months roads became impassable due to the heavy rains, while the creeks became swollen by heavy floods which caused problems for many stage companies who closed routes to various places.
In March of 1853 a branch of the agency Cram, Rogers and Company, opened for business in Shasta connecting it with Adams & Company. Their express agency had been in operation since the fall of 1851 in Weaverville but they lacked business in Shasta County until now. Their weekly express ran from Shasta into Portland, Oregon. It was owned and operated by Robert Cram, F.A. Rogers, Richard Dugan, and A.E. Raynes.
Hall & Crandall’s express agency continued to conduct a thriving business. At Shasta, their staging terminal was located in front of the El Dorado hotel, an establishment operated by Dunn & Furney. Another new staging company which was incorporated that month was McGee's Pitt River and Shasta Express owned by Joseph W. McGee who transported passengers from Shasta to the Pit River Diggings in the Pittsburg mining district along Pit River and those placer mines along Squaw Creek. The placer mines at those locations and Bully Hill were burgeoning with success and from that success McGee's business prospered.
On April 2, 1853 the Shasta Courier printed the following:
"STAGING FROM SACRAMENTO CITY - We are indebted to the State Journal for this information that there thirteen lines of stages running out of Sacramento to different points in the mines. These lines have 747 horses, and 67 coaches in daily use, and are valued at $368,000. The Sacramento, Colusa, Tehama, Red Bluff, and Shasta Line, owned by messrs. Baxter & Co., according to this statement, has 100 horses and 6 coaches, valued at $50,000. The Sacramento, Marysville, and Shasta Line owned by messrs., Hall & Crandall, numbers 150 horses and 12 coaches, valued at $55,000. Owing to a very bad portion of road, between Marysville and Tehama, this last named line, during the last winter, was not in operation further than Marysville, and we apprehend, in consequence of the late heavy rains, will not be extended beyond that point for several weeks to come. Baxter & Co.'s line has been over the road between the road to Tehama and this point, at an immense cost, nearly the entire winter, and two weeks since running clear through from Colusa. We presume, until the roads improve, their coaches will not run further down than Tehama." (SIC)
Major road work was in progress in Shasta County so coaches and wagons could travel over them without any problems. While the road construction commenced on the Lower Springs Road below Shasta and in between the Canon House (Canyon House). Another road which was being repaired was the Middletown and Horsetown Road often used by Hall & Crandall. By summer the roads returned to normal with heavy traffic passing over them.
By the end of the year, a new addition was added to the St. Charles Hotel for a new express company which was established on January 1, 1854, called the California Stage Company, according to the January 7, 1854 edition of the Shasta Courier. A branch of their office already existed in the New Orleans hotel in Sacramento. The company's property and their fine coaches according to the Shasta Courier were valued at $1,000,000 and their agent in Shasta was Mr. Buckingham.
On February 17, 1854, James M. Rhodes and Hiram Lusk dissolved their partnership pertaining to the Rhodes and Lusk's Express Company. Rhodes still contained ownership of his stage line and he changed the name to Rhodes & Company's Express which made stops at Shasta, Weaverville, Yreka and Jacksonville connecting with the Wells Fargo & Company.
A Certificate of Deposit, No. 3408 – Fred K. Marquand has deposited in this office $160.00. Express Banking Office of Rhodes & Company. Dated: June 26, 1855, location: Shasta, Shasta County, California. From the collection of Jeremy Tuggle.
Express racing came to fruition as early as 1853 while the stage lines competed against time with each other. In 1854, they began competing with each other on certain tracks of road. For example the Shasta Courier newspaper reported the following on June 24, 1854:
"EXPRESS RACING - The expressmen have recently been enjoying some very good sport on Fridays, riding down the road to meet the stage, and then, with the latest papers racing back to our office. On yesterday they raced ten or twelve miles each Express having two horses and two riders on the track. And as their riders were fearless and the horses very swiftest animals in the place, of course they done some tall traveling. Time not known; supposed to beat 2:40. That the interest of the race was not permitted to wane during the run, may be gathered from the fact that Mr. Ned Tracey, of Adams & Co.'s Express who delivered the papers about five minutes ahead of the other Express, rode the last four miles somewhat in the style of a wild Indian - that is to say hatless. He did not tarry sufficiently long before our office to enable us to perceive whether he had run himself out of his boots or not - rather think he had. It is a source of great satisfaction to us, that while these gentlemen are thus enjoying the finest kind of sport, they are at the same time enable to do this office, so great a favor by delivering our papers an hour or two in advance of the stage." (SIC)
Most of these express races were held on the Shasta to Weaverville Road. Ticket prices for stages from Shasta to Sacramento increased to $25 in July with ticket prices to Maryville increasing to $20. Return trips to Shasta on the stage from these places cost the same amount of money. In August, of that year the Greathouse and Company Mule Train owned by George L. Greathouse and his siblings became incorporated at Shasta running from the St. Charles Hotel in Shasta to Callaghan's Ranch at the head of Scott's Valley where it connected with McComb & Company, and in Shasta it connected with the California Stage Company.
One stage coach accident which caught the attention of the local media on August 26th stated the following:
"STAGE ACCIDENT - We regret to learn that a few days since, once of the California Stage Company's was upset, between the Prairie House and Cottonwood, and several persons severely, though not dangerously, hurt. The passengers all testify that the driver was in no manner to blame for the accident. See their card in the advertising column." (SIC)
An influx of passengers arrived in Shasta on stages in October. A majority of travelers were traveling towards Siskiyou County as the mines in that northern portion of the state were booming which made express companies in Shasta busy conveying passengers. Then on, December 8, 1854, Adams & Co., made a local record by travelling from Red Bluffs to Shasta, a distance of 45 miles at that time in three hours and ten minutes.
As the year came to a close, the New Year took effect and business became steady in January of 1855. The Shasta County Board of Supervisors approved a road tax taxing three days’ of labor at $7.50, which local citizens paid for, there were also twenty-three road districts which were created and approved by them. Each of twenty-three road districts had a road master which were in charge of repairing certain roads within the county. It was up to them to restore Shasta County roads and highways so the coach or wagon can pass over them with ease.
Adams & Company was thrown into suspension on account of their bank failing due to their funds being exhausted, in late February or early March, and their Shasta branch eventually closed down. The express companies who were connected with them were forced to make arrangements with other stage lines. Former employees were employed by other agencies in the area, one of their former agents, Mr. Buckingham, was hired by E.W. Tracy & Company’s Express. This was a brand new express which took over Adams & Company’s stage route to San Francisco from Shasta owned by E.W. Tracy. Tracy was also a former agent employed with Adams & Company. Tracy became a director of the brand new Pacific Express Company which opened a branch in Shasta as well and they hired the former employees of Adams & Company to run their staging company.
The Greathouse and Company Mule Train owned by the Greathouse siblings printed a notice in the Shasta Courier on May 12, 1855, reporting the cancellation of their coaches from Shasta to French Gulch due to the condition of the terrible roads. To substitute their coaches they issued one of their fine mules to clients wishing to travel the roads. They would eventually have to return the animal to its owners. By that date, William McTurck, was their agent in Shasta.
On May 14, 1855, another new express company was featured in the Shasta Courier newspaper owned and operated by Charley Uhl who was making profits off miners engaging in mining activities on Dog Creek in the Sacramento River Canyon. On that date Dog Creek was booming with three or four hundred miners on that stream. The deposits yielded lucrative results and Uhl was happy to transport them back and forth.
In June, road improvements continued in Shasta County by the local road masters. On June 11th, another loss to Shasta was the dissolving of Cram, Rogers and Company, what lead to this unfortunate loss is not known. By June 30, 1855, the miners on Dog Creek in the Sacramento River Canyon were now actively producing gold along Hazel Creek, a few miles above Dog Creek. Due to this mining boom, Uhl’s express began transporting passengers to both Dog Creek and Hazel Creek from Shasta.
As various rigs conveyed passengers in and out of the area, new stage lines were incorporated. While new industries emerged at Shasta, It attracted newcomers to settle there. By the end of the year, Shasta County had the following highways and roads open to the public:
Road from Shasta, Red Bluffs via Lower Springs, Canon House (Canyon House) and Bell’s Bridge (alias the (Old) Stage Road)
Road from Shasta to Red Bluffs via Briggsville
Road from Shasta to Weaverville
Road from Main Street, Shasta via Downer’s, Vosburg’s, Maher’s, Franklin City and Tower House ending at French Gulch
Road from Shasta via Waugh’s Ferry, Quartz Hill, Lake Ranch, Bass Ranch, Pittsburg, Pitt River Diggings, to Copenhaven & Company’s Ranch on Squaw Creek, and Pit River
Road from Stockton & Andrews’ Bridge via Horsetown
Road from Jackass Flat to Bald Hills via Stockton & Andrew’s Bridge
Road from Conger’s Ranch to Stockton & Andrews’ Saw Mill on Clear Creek
Road from Lean’s Ferry via Cottonwood to McCumber’s Mill continuing to Daingerfield’s Ferry and Smith’s Ranch
Road from Daingerfield’s Ferry to Jones & Sheperdson’s Ranch from crossing of Battle Creek
Above: an advertisement for the Cram, Rogers and Company from the Shasta Courier newspaper of Saturday, April 16, 1853.
Baxter and Co’s Line of Stages - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, March 12, 1853
New Express - The Shasta Courier newspaper,
Saturday, April 9, 1853
A Daily Mail - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, April 16, 1853
Daily Mail - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, April 30, 1853
Staging Into Shasta - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, May 7, 1853
Hall & Crandall’s Line of Stages - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, May 7, 1853
Staging - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, May 7, 1853
Quick Trip - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, May 14, 1853
Grading Main Street - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, June 25, 1853
New Stage Company - The Shasta Courier newspaper, January 7, 1854
Greathouse & Company’s Mule Train - The Shasta Courier newspaper, January 7, 1854
Stage Accident - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, August 26, 1854
The Travel This Way - The Shasta Courier newspaper, Saturday, October 28, 1854
Stage Coach Monument Historic Marker in Shasta
My Playhouse Was A Concord Coach, an anthology of newspaper clippings and documents relating to those who made California history during the years 1822-1888, by Mae Hélène Bacon Boggs. Published by Howell-North Press ©1942
Our Storied Landmarks - Shasta County, California, written and published by May H. Southern ©1942
Shasta County, California A History by Rosena Giles, published by Biobooks, ©1949.
Shasta: The Queen City by Mabel Moores Frisbie and Jean Moores Beauchamp. Published by California Historical Society. ©1972