Butterfield Overland Mail Company

Map shows the Original Stage Coach Route of the Butterfield Overland Mail Company

Missouri to California

The United States was still a young country in the 1850’s and there was very little settlement west of the Mississippi River at that time.  In an effort to encourage pioneer movement toward the Pacific, Congress authorized the Postmaster General to contract for mail service from Missouri to California .

The mail would be delivered via stagecoach and would run twice a week and not exceed 25 days in duration. A map showing the original route is shown above. A description of the overall route can be read by clicking on "BUTTERFIELD OVERLAND MAIL"

 A route was selected that passed through the southern portion of the territory that included North Texas and Wise County .  The contract was awarded to New York native John Butterfield in 1857 and service started the next year.

The original route the stage followed through this area was from Gainesville to Jacksboro that included three stops between these two towns and followed a path located in northern Wise County . According to A.C. Greene, author of 900 Miles on the Butterfield Trail, passengers were able to get a quick meal while the team of horses was changed in Gainesville and then on to the next station operated by Dr. J.F. Davidson.  Twenty miles west of Davidson was the next stop called Connolly located three miles southeast of the present town of Sunset

Captain Joseph Earhart’s house was situated just inside Jack County and was the next station on the route.  From here, the line crossed the West Fork of the Trinity River east of Jacksboro but the stage often encountered a flooded river that made the crossing more difficult and time consuming. A route map of this section through North Texas may be viewed by clicking on “Map”. The original route is shown in “Blue” on the map.

About that time, a Colonel William Hunt and several colleagues from Decatur received a charter from the state to build a toll bridge across the West Fork of the Trinity. Butterfield was persuaded to re-route the stage across the toll bridge and dropped the previous stations in favor of the toll bridge route.  The new route traversed the area just north of Wizard Wells and included a stop in Decatur . This route is shown in “Red” on the “Map

The Butterfield Overland Mail operated in Texas from 1858 until 1861 when the route was moved farther north for various reasons.  The original wooden toll bridge collapsed and was later replaced with a steel bridge in 1883.   The old town and toll bridge were located south of Bridgeport on Highway 920 and the site is noted with a state historical marker.

The decision to send the mail over the southern route changed Texas history.  Towns such as Bridgeport helped establish the frontier and the “impossible” stage ride through what is now our backyard helped create a legend symbolizing the Old West.  This heritage and spirit is continued and celebrated today during the annual Butterfield Stage Days held each May.   Prior to the annual Butterfield Stage Coach Days in 2008, a replica of Butterfield Stage Coach was purchased by the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce and was displayed to the public in March of 2008. Photos of this display can be viewed by clicking on "Stage Coach".

A description of the coaches used on the southern route can be found in Gerald T. Ahnert's report titled "Butterfield Overland Mail Company Stagecoaches and Stage (Celerity) Wagons used on the Southern Trail" To read this report click on "Southern Trail".

Additional discussions on how the Butterfield Overland Mail Company initiated the development of Bridgeport can be  read by clicking on “Old Bridgeport ”.

This information and maps complied by Ken Sprecher