Butterfield Overland Mail
Butterfield Overland Mail (officially the Overland Mail Company) was a stagecoach service in the United States operating from 1858 to 1861. It carried passengers and U.S. Mail from two eastern termini, Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri, to San Francisco, California. The routes from each eastern terminus met at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and then continued through Indian Territory (Oklahoma), Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Mexico, and California ending in San Francisco. On March 3, 1857, Congress authorized the U.S. postmaster general, Aaron Brown, to contract for delivery of the U.S. mail from Saint Louis to San Francisco. Prior to this, U.S. Mail bound for the Far West had been delivered by the San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line (Jackass Mail) since June 1857.
- 1 Origins
- 2 Trail route
- 3 John Butterfield makes the Southern Overland Trail his own
- 3.1 Sections shortened or improved
- 3.2 San Francisco to Memphis
- 3.3 Butterfield's stagecoaches, celerity wagons, and water wagons
- 4 Operation
- 5 Transfer to Central Overland Trail
- 6 Modern remnants
- 7 Proposed national historic trail
- 8 In popular culture
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
John Butterfield: president of Overland Mail Company
John Butterfield was a descendant of Benjamin Butterfield, who brought his family from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638. His father, Daniel Butterfield, lived at Berne, in the Helderberg, near Albany, N. Y., where John was born. He attended schools near his boyhood home, but his education was meager.
John's early involvement with stage lines started about 1820.
"John Butterfield was borne at Berne, in the Helderberg, near Albany, November 18, 1801. In early life we find him in the employment of Thorpe & Sprague, of that city, as a driver, and through the solicitation of Mr. Theodore S. Faxton came to Utica [NY], where he for a time was employed in picking up passengers from the taverns and boats for Parker's stages. After a time he started a livery  with but small accommodations… His connection to Parker & Co. continued so long as they were still in business, and was succeeded by lines of his own, wherein he was a leading manager in the State until staging was superseded by railroads."
After his employment with other stage lines, John decided to use this experience for running his own stage lines in Upstate New York.
"Mr. Butterfield devoted his attention largely to lines running North and South. At the height of stage coaching he had forty lines running from Utica as headquarters to Ogdensburg and Sacketts Harbor on the North, and South to the Pennsylvania line, and through Chemung and Susquehanna valleys."
By 1857, when John was awarded the Overland Mail Company contract, he had had 37 years of experience working for and running stage lines. This was one of the reasons that Postmaster General A. V. Brown awarded him the contract.
Awarding the Overland Mail Company contract
Through the 1840s and 1850s there was a desire for better communication between the east and west coasts of the United States. There were several proposals for railroads connecting the two coasts. A more immediate realization was an overland mail route across the west. Congress authorized the Postmaster General to contract for mail service from Missouri to California to facilitate settlement in the west. The Post Office Department advertised for bids for an overland mail service on April 20, 1857. Bidders were to propose routes from the Mississippi River westward. Nine bids were made by some of the most experienced stage men.
None of the express companies, such as American Express, Adams Express, or Wells Fargo & Co. Express, bid on the contract because, as of yet, they had no experience for running stage lines. A suggestion by The New York Times that the express companies could do a better job than the Overland Mail Company drew a sharp rebuttal from a Washington, D.C., newspaper.
Mail Contract No. 12,578 for $600,000 per annum for a semi-weekly service was assigned to John Butterfield of Utica, New York, who was president for the contract that was named the Overland Mail Company. This was the longest mail contract awarded in the United States. It was a stockholding company and the main stockholders, besides John Butterfield who were also the directors, were William B. Dinsmore of New York City; William G. Fargo of Buffalo, New York, (actually he was from Pompey, New York); James V. P. Gardner of Utica, New York; Marquis L. Kenyon of Rome, New York; Alexander Holland of New York City; and Hamilton Spencer of Bloomington, Illinois. There were four others known as sureties (security against loss).
Almost all of the stockholders were connected to other businesses in Upstate New York and most lived not far from Butterfield's home in Utica, New York. Alexander Holland was Butterfield's son-in-law and treasurer of the Overland Mail Company. Dinsmore was vice-president of the company. The office for the company was in New York City.
Why John Butterfield was chosen was stated best by Postmaster General Aaron Brown:
... a route which no contractor had bid for, but one which in the judgement of A. V. Brown, of Memphis, had more advantages than any other, and, as John Butterfield & Co. had, in the opinion of Brown, greater ability, qualification and experience than anybody else to carry out a mail service, John Butterfield & Co. was selected and preferred.
The route, known as the Oxbow Route because of its long curving route through the southwest, was 600 miles (970 km) longer than the Central Overland Trail, but had the advantage of being snow free.
The contract with the U.S. Post Office, which went into effect on September 16, 1858, identified the route and divided it into eastern and western divisions. Franklin, Texas, later to be named El Paso was the dividing point and these two were subdivided into minor divisions, five in the East and four in the West. These minor divisions were numbered west to east from San Francisco, each under the direction of a superintendent.
Kenyon and Butterfield, Jr.: architects of the Butterfield Trail
John Butterfield Sr. turned to two of his most trusted and experienced employees to put in place the Butterfield Trail. In 1858, with expedition leader Marquis L. Kenyon, John Butterfield Jr. helped to select the route and sites for the stage stations. Kenyon was also a stockholder/director of the Overland Mail Company and the only stockholder, other than John Butterfield, to have significant staging experience. Marquis moved from Mannsville, Jefferson County, to Rome, New York, in 1838. Rome was twelve miles from John Butterfield's home in Utica. He immediately became involved with staging. His obituary gives a good summation of his staging activities in Upstate New York and what led him to be involved with the Overland Mail Company:
"His prior occupation was a humble one—that of driver of a stage-coach between Utica and Oswego. It was but two or three years before he had saved enough money from his wages to purchase an interest in the stage-coach line of which he was an employee; and once having placed his foot on the first steps of the ladder, he soon rose, by his business tact and assiduity, to be the principal proprietor of the stage-coach lines converging to this point. At the time that railroads supplanted stages on the leading routes, Mr. Kinyon [Kenyon] was one of the most extensive owners of stage-coach property in Central New York. After the introduction of railroads, he continued to carry on the business of mail contractor and stage proprietor on the small lateral lines; but his business energies were too expansive to be thus curtailed, and he soon found ampler vent for them than the _______ of his former vast carrying business afforded. Hence, when the overland mail route to California was projected, Mr. Kinyon [Kenyon] found a field of business enterprise more commensurate with his capacities. He it was who went over the whole route originally, and surveyed it from the eastern terminus to its western in California." Returning, he procured the necessary equipment for the route, and went over it again, organizing the route as he proceeded, and remained for nearly a year in California, in charge of the western terminus of the road."
After winning the contract on September 16, 1857, Butterfield had one year to organize the trail and immediately sent his hand-picked team, headed by Marquis L. Kenyon, to San Francisco to begin the task. The steamer Star of New York left New York on November 20, 1857, with passengers "M.L. Kinyon [Kenyon], J. Butterfield [Jr.], F. De Ruyter and S.K. Nellis, who go out to open the Pacific Mail Route across the plains and arrange the western terminus of said route." The party left San Francisco on January 16, 1858, to begin laying out the trail and selecting the sites for stage stations. They traveled by mule covering about 40 miles (64 km) per day. Another party left St. Louis about the same time. Both were to meet at El Paso, Texas, and then return to St. Louis. The party from St. Louis was G.W. Wood, Jesse Talcott, and Charles P. Cole. A Fort Smith, Arkansas, newspaper reported:
"The parties met at El Paso and after recruiting [presumably for building the stations] a few days, the above gentlemen left for this city—making the trip to this place in twenty-two days from El Paso, and thirty-one days from San Francisco to El Paso, or fifty-six days, through with wagons. …The party from California, in crossing Arizona, took a middle route between Beale's and the Southern route— (but little traveled heretofore,) pronounced by them, as an excellent road."
Another report describes the arrival of the two parties at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and tells us that the choice for the trail did not satisfy Kenyon and his party and they returned from El Paso, Texas, by a different route, which became the trail.
"A portion of the exploring party sent out by the Overland Mail Company, for the purpose of examining the routes for the carriage of the mails from the Valley of the Mississippi to the Pacific coast, which left this city on the 3d of January last, reached Fort Smith, Arkansas, on their return home, on the 17th inst., accompanied by four of the party which left San Francisco on the 16th of January, on purpose to examine that portion of the route from the Pacific to the Rio Grande. They left El Paso on the 22d of March, thus accomplishing the distance from the Rio Grande to Fort Smith—nine hundred and thirty miles—in the short space of twenty-five days, which we believe is the quickest time on record in crossing the Plains. The party was composed of only eight men, as follows: Major George W. Wood, Jesse Tolcott, Charles P. Cole and J. A. Lilly, of the St. Louis party, and Lieut. Frank de Ryther, James Swartz and John Butterfield Jr. of the San Francisco party. They brought with them one wagon and thirteen animals, which they left at Fort Smith for the party proceeding East. The route traveled on the return trip was different from the one passed over in going out, . . . "
John Jr.'s obituary summarized his accomplishment:
"John Butterfield [Jr.], the man who helped link the East to the West in establishing his famous Overland Mail Route more than half a century ago, died recently at his house in Utica, aged 82 years. His father, John Butterfield, was a superintendent of the Overland Mail Route from San Francisco to St. Louis and thence to eastern cities. The younger Butterfield first traversed the famous route, marked the stations, superintended the work of organization and drove the first stage over the route.
John Butterfield makes the Southern Overland Trail his own
The history of the Butterfield Trail and the Emigrant Trail are intertwined. It was the purpose of awarding the contract to the Overland Mail Company, on September 16, 1857, not only for a land route to deliver mail from the East to the West coast, but to aid emigrant travel to settle the West. Butterfield accomplished this purpose by providing an improved trail and water sources at regularly spaced stage stations. When researchers hike the Southern Overland Corridor, the most visible ruts are those of the route that the Overland Mail Company established, which others followed. Even though its services ceased in March 1861, on the Southern Overland Corridor because of the impending Civil War, it was so efficient that it remained little changed until its demise with the completion of the railroad in 1880. For this reason, to this day, the Southern Overland Trail is most commonly called "The Butterfield Trail."
National Park Service Historian Frank Norris gives the details for the bill in the Senate to designate the Butterfield Trail a National Historic Trail:
"A new bill (S. 22), called the Omnibus Public Land Management Act, and which contained a provision for study of the Butterfield Trail, was passed by the Senate in January 2009. In March, the House passed a similar bill—H.R. 146. On March 19, the Senate passed the House bill with a few added amendments, and on March 25 the house agreed to the Senate amendments. President Obama signed the bill, which became Public Law 111-11, on March 30, 2009."
The building of the trail was in two sections: the 462-mile (744 km) San Francisco to Los Angeles section and the rest of the 2,238-mile (3,602 km) distance to Tipton, Missouri. The San Francisco to Los Angeles section was previously one of the most developed. Some changes were made from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Settlements, and wagon roads used by local stage lines, were strung out between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Some existing structures, such as ranch houses and hotels were contracted as stage stations. One of the most famous is Vallecito, which is preserved as a historic site. Kenyon's hardest task building the trail was east of Los Angeles, where his trail was mostly in the open desert.
Sections shortened or improved
Waterman L. Ormsby, the correspondent for the New York Herald, a passenger on the first stagecoach going west in September 1858, wrote in his reports of Marquis L. Kenyon's part in building the trail and the advantage for emigrants. He writes about the many improvements on the Texas side of the Red River starting about eight miles below Preston.
A lengthy new section of road in Texas is described:
"Another disadvantage under which we labored, this trip, was that our road, for the most of the way, was nearly new, though Mr. Bates claims that from Sherman to [Fort] Belknap at least forty miles are saved by it. It leads through the counties of Grayson, Cooke, Jacks [Jack], Montague, Wise, and Young, all of which contribute towards its expenses, and certainly it must be a favorite with some, for, though only opened one month before I passed over it, it was already pretty well marked with wagon tracks. …It must of course improve with every day of its use."
Another Texas section:
"The new road from Grape Creek to the head of Concho River, Texas, on Mr. Glover's division, is also in good order for travel and saves another thirty miles [the total length for this new section is 122 miles]. The New Pass between Los Angeles, and Fort Tejon, California, has been much improved under the superintendence of M. L. Kinyon [Kenyon], as have also been other portions of the route. The route of the company will, of course, be a favorite emigrant route, and will, therefore, be in better order than before, in fact, each month will add new facilities to the overland mail."
Goddard Bailey's report shows that there were 139 stations at the beginning of Butterfield's service,but by the time the line ceased operations the line had been improved by the addition of thirty-six more for a total of 175. The new stations were assigned 320 acres eachand many took advantage by growing crops which aided the line.
Although there were springs and rain-fed waterholes along the trail, many did not have a sufficient water capacity to supply the line and emigrants. These were dug out to hold a larger capacity. Cisterns were constructed at some of the stations and water wagons were used to transport water from distant sources to fill the cisterns. At the Hueco Tanks in Texas, correspondent Ormsby tells of the tanks being enlarged by Butterfield to hold a year's supply of water.
In June 1860 Butterfield passenger Wallace reported to the Daily Alta California the following:
"Between Vallecito and Algodones there are eight of these stations, varying from nine to sixteen miles apart. Wells have been sunk at each station, and abundance of good water is obtained, except at the Monument and Garden stations. These waters are brackish and bitter—a flavor not delicate to the taste. Drinking-water is carried from the other stations. These stations are of incalculable worth to emigrants, who are no longer forced to depend upon the precious supply of water which the wells, afforded, and which were liable to be covered up by the sand-waves that move over the desert."
Other improvements to the trail by Butterfield were the building of bridges:
"Fourteen miles from Boggy Depot [Indian Territory now Oklahoma] we came to Blue River station, where a heavy bridge is building for the company."
The trail that John Butterfield had established was so efficient that it was little changed until its demise in 1880 with the completion of the railroad, and the impact the Butterfield Trail had for settling the West cannot be understated, as written by President James Buchanan congratulating John Butterfield for his achievement:
"Washington, Oct. 9, 1858
John Butterfield, Esq.:
Sir—Your dispatch has been received. I cordially congratulate you upon the result. It is a glorious triumph for civilization and the Union. Settlements will soon follow the course of the road, and the East and West will be bound together by a chain of living Americans, which can never be broken."
As stated by President Buchanan, in the congratulation telegram to John Butterfield, that increased emigration would be a result of the improved trail. Just after Butterfield's service started in September 1858, there were many newspaper accounts of a large increase in the number of emigrants on the trail. The San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line was operating on 900 miles of the improved trail and benefited by the regularly spaced water holes at Butterfield's stations. In October 1859, Superintendent Isaiah C. Woods complimented Butterfield for these improvements and the benefit to the San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line:
"The San Diego Overland Route—Interesting News—From I. C. Woods, who has just crossed the continent on the San Diego and San Antonio Line, says the San Diego Herald, we gather some items which may be of interest: Woods pays a high compliment to the staging of the Butterfield Overland Company, along the Gila and over the Desert, particularly to Superintendent Buckley and Warren Hall, the Road Agent of this division [for Butterfield's Overland Mail Company. They have, he says, really worked wonders in organizing their road in a manner which would be a model in any country. The immigrants are coming slowly along, feeling in no hurry to enter California much before the rains have brought on the new grass. The stations of the Overland Mail companies and the wells dug by these enterprising men, are proving of incalculable benefit to those crossing with their own teams. The immigration on the Southern route, this year, will figure up from ten thousand to fifteen thousand souls, with a very large amount of cattle and sheep. The old complaints of the immigrants are at present unheard of, owing to the better knowledge of the country now so readily obtained.”
It was John Butterfield's genius and expertise for running stage lines that was responsible for making the trail his own, but it was his friend and business associate Marquis L. Kenyon and John Sr.'s son John Jr. to whom he assigned the task for successfully achieving the building of the infrastructure for one of our most historic trails.
|Division 1||San Francisco to Los Angeles||462||80|
|Division 2||Los Angeles to Fort Yuma||282||72.20|
|Division 3||Fort Yuma to Tucson||280||71.45|
|Division 4||Tucson to Franklin||360||82|
|Division 5||Franklin to Fort Chadbourne||458||126.30|
|Division 6||Fort Chadbourne to Colbert's Ferry||282½||65.25|
|Division 7||Colbert's Ferry to Fort Smith||192||38|
|Division 8||Fort Smith to Tipton||318½||48.55|
|Division 9||Tipton to St. Louis by railroad||160||11.40|
San Francisco to Memphis
As noted above, the route from San Francisco to Fort Smith was the same for both routes. Travel time from Fort Smith to Memphis was about the same as to St. Louis. Management of the route from Fort Smith to Memphis was included in Division 8. However, because of the untamed nature of the Mississippi River and its Arkansas tributaries in those years, the southern route necessarily utilized various alternative routes and methods of travel. At that time, there was no Mississippi River bridge at Memphis, and the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad ran from Hopefield near present-day West Memphis, Arkansas only to a point 12 miles east of Madison, Arkansas, on the St. Francis River. From there the route headed overland by stagecoach. When the Arkansas River was high enough, the mail could instead travel from Memphis by steamboat down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Arkansas River, navigate up that river to Little Rock, and on from there by stagecoach. When the Arkansas was too low for steamboat traffic, the Butterfield could take the White River to Clarendon, Arkansas, or Des Arc, Arkansas, before switching to the stagecoaches. Sometimes the entire route across eastern Arkansas would be by stage.
Butterfield's stagecoaches, celerity wagons, and water wagons
No one on a Butterfield stage was ever killed by outlaws or Indians, but some died in accidents caused by the mostly unbroken mules or mustangs running wild. Butterfield's stages were not allowed to carry shipments of valuables. In Butterfield's instructions to his employees was "No money, jewelry, bank notes, or valuables of any nature, will be allowed to be carried under any circumstances whatever." For this reason, the idea of a "shotgun" rider next to the driver was not employed by Butterfield. When correspondent Ormsby asked one of the stage drivers, "Have you any arms?", the stage driver answered, "No, I don't have any; there's no danger." In Comanche and Apache territory most on the Butterfield stages were armed. In October 1859 correspondent Farwell was a passenger heading east on a Butterfield stage and wrote the following:
"After leaving this station [Arizona's San Pedro River Stage Station], the conductor asked 'how many of us were armed', and requested that those who had arms should have them ready for use, as we now were in the Apache country. Guns and pistols were produced, and we rode all night with them in our hands."
This draft animal-drawn passenger and mail stage had a strong sub-frame covered by decorated wooden paneling with ornate doors and comfortably padded seats. They often had window openings, but the western models designed for the rougher conditions had no glass panels. The roof was strong enough to support a metal railing where luggage could be carried. Seats were often provided on the roof. A canvas-covered boot at the back was used for luggage and mailbags. The difference between a stagecoach and a mail stagecoach is that a large compartment was provided below the driver's seat to carry mail and the rear boot for mail was larger. Butterfield's stagecoaches were used on 30% of the Southern Overland Trail at the eastern and western ends.
Stage (celerity) wagon
Celerity means 'swiftness of speed'. The term "celerity wagon" is sometimes used instead of "stage wagon." Stage wagon is like calling a class of cars SUVs and each company making its own variation. It was about 60% of the weight of a stagecoach and was designed for the rough frontier conditions where the trail was not as well developed, in sand, and for traversing steep inclines. They were open on the sides with no doors or windows. Often a canvas top was supported by light uprights. They had canvas or leather curtains fastened to the top that could be rolled down as a barrier to the dust. The stage wagon was used by Butterfield's Overland Mail Company exclusively on 70% of the Southern Overland Trail on the 1,920-mile (3,090 km) section between Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Los Angeles, California. Although the famous passenger wagon manufacturers Abbot-Downing Co. and J. S. & E. A. Abbot Co., of Concord, New Hampshire, never used the name "mud wagon" in their catalogs, there were others who referred to the stage wagon as a "mud wagon."
Butterfield stage manufacture
Newspapers published an article in June 1858 that Butterfield's mail stagecoaches and stage wagons were made by J. S. & E. A. Abbot Co., Concord, New Hampshire. Unfortunately the original order book for that time period in 1858 is missing from the Abbot-Downing Archives. According to the articles, a total of 100 stages were ordered and either put into use or distributed to stations along the trail. Another important reference is from Goddard Bailey's report to the government on his inspection trip of the trail in September 1858. He stated in the report "The road is stocked with substantially-built Concord spring wagons..." A July 1858 Memphis newspaper article tells how the stages were delivered and who made them. This, of course was the famous J. S. & E. A. Abbot.
"The Overland Mail Company received by the Lady Walton [riverboat], on Tuesday evening last, six stages, and on Wednesday, Mr. Glover left [from Fort Smith] to the direction of El Paso with four of them.... The stages were manufactured at Concord, New Hampshire, according to directions given by Col. John Butterfield. They will accommodate from six to nine passengers...."
There were many similar descriptions of Butterfield's stage (celerity) wagons given by newspaper correspondents. One was given by Ormsby:
"They are made much like the express wagons in your city which carry goods for transshipment, only they are heavier built, have tops made of canvas, and are set on leather straps instead of springs. Each one has three seats, which are arranged so that the backs let down and form one bed, capable of accommodating from four to ten persons, according to their size and how they lie. From Memphis [actually Little Rock] and from St. Louis [actually Tipton] to Fort Smith regular stage coaches are used, similar in every respect to those employed in the Atlantic States; but from Fort Smith onwards the vehicles used are not unlike a Jersey wagon, they are of the description known as Celerity wagons, being similar in build to the common Troy coach, and the body is hung upon the same kind of springs [thorough-brace] and in a similar manner. Instead, however, of the heavy wooden top, with iron railing around it, in common use, they have a light canvas covering supported by light uprights, after the manner of a Jersey wagon. The covering affords ample protection against the weather, while it greatly diminishes the weight of the vehicle as well as its liability to upset. Each one had three seats, which are arranged so that the backs let down and form one bed, capable of accommodating from four to ten persons, according to their size, and how they lie. The company has over one hundred of these coaches on the ground, and has been running them regularly and with profitable results, for some time past, upon portions of the route."
The same stage or stage driver was not used all the way through on the 2,700-mile (4,300 km) trip. They were changed frequently, both to avoid fatigue for the stage drivers and to avoid the braking down of the stages. Correspondent Ormsby reported that "I understand they [Overland Mail Company] have bought horses and mules, and a wagon or coach for every thirty miles, of the route, while arrangements have been made at all the stations for changing horses, feeding, &c., so that they can run straight through."
From these references it is seen that Butterfield employed 100 stages distributed along the 2,700-mile trail from Tipton, Missouri, to San Francisco, California. Approximately thirty-four western style J. S. & E. Abbot mail stagecoaches were used on the settled and partially settled sections of the trail from Tipton, Missouri, to Fort Smith, Arkansas, and from Los Angeles to San Francisco, California. Stagecoach trails had already been established between these points, with a few Butterfield improvements to the trail. About sixty-six J. S. & E. A. Abbot stage (celerity) wagons, partially designed by John Butterfield, were distributed on the 1,920-mile trail through the frontier from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Los Angeles, California.
Other wagons used by Butterfield were water wagons and freight wagons. Water wagons were an important, but expensive, necessity. To straighten out the trail, so they wouldn't have to zigzag from water hole to water hole, water wagons were used to transport water from a source to stage stations that were built on the straightened-out sections. An example was Ewell's Stage Station in the Sulphur Springs Valley of eastern Arizona. At the beginning of Butterfield's service, after leaving Apache Pass, the trail jogged northwest to Dos Cabezas Spring and then southwest to Dragoon Springs Stage Station at the foot of the Dragoon Mountains. In the spring of 1858 a new trail was made from the western entrance of Apache Pass and then along an almost straight line to the north end of the Dragoon Mountains. At approximately the midpoint of this new section a station and cistern were constructed. A water wagon was used to supply the cistern with water from Dos Cabezas Spring, which was now four miles north of the new station. Water wagons were also used to supply unusually long stretches of trail that lacked water sources. A newspaper article tells us of one of these situations:
"Chidester also informs us of the means to supply the stations in the Llanos Estecados [in Texas], or Staked Plains, with water. This desert, by the route of the Company's road, is seventy-five miles wide. From streams on either side of the Plains the Company supplies water to the stations with regular water trains, fitted up expressly for the purpose. The wagons used for this purpose are constructed of large tin boilers, similar in shape to the boilers of a steamboat, and capable of holding as much water as a team of six mules can draw. These trains run regularly, conveying water to the different stations, where large reservoirs are prepared to receive and preserve it for the use of passengers and the employés and stock of the Company. This is, of course, a very expensive method of supplying the indispensable element, but, as thus far all efforts to obtain it by boring or otherwise have proved little, the Company must submit to it for the present."
Between Des Arc and Fort Smith, Arkansas, Butterfield subcontracted this section to Chidester, Reeside & Co.:
"The Overland California United States Mail left Memphis on Thursday [September 16] last. It is brought by the Memphis and Little Rock Rail Road to within twelve miles of Madison, on St. Francis River, thence by light vehicles to Des Arc—thence by Messrs. Chidester, Reeside & Co.'s line of four horse U. S. Mail coaches to Fort Smith where it meets the St. Louis mail. Messrs. Chidester, Reeside & Co., are subcontractors under Butterfield & Co., from Memphis to Fort Smith…"
In an interview Chidester stated that he was using Butterfield's stage wagons:
"The vehicles used upon the road between Fort Smith are of the description known as Celerity wagons…. The company [Butterfield] have over one hundred of these coaches on the ground…"
The stage drivers, like many of Butterfield's employees, were mostly from upstate New York. An example for the many Butterfield employees being from New York State is shown in the 1860 Federal Census for Tucson. On page one a caption states "Great Overland Mail Stations," and of the forty entries, sixteen are listed as being born in New York State. Correspondent Ormsby reported that:
"The employees of the company, I found, without exception, to be courteous, civil, and attentive. They are most of them from the East, and many, especially of the drivers, from New York state. I found the drivers on the whole line, with but few exceptions, experienced men. Several are a little reckless and too anxious to make fast time, but as a general thing they are very cautious."
Correspondent Ormsby reported: "Our horses were four in number, that being the allotment all along the line from Tipton [Missouri] to San Francisco [California]." Many correspondents' reports describe the problems for the Overland Mail Company using unbroken wild mules and mustangs between Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Los Angeles, California. By most accounts, wild mules were used and some wild mustangs. It is surprising that the use of wild draft animals did not hinder the Overland Mail Company stages from accomplishing its contractual agreed to time schedule. The problem with the unbroken mules and mustangs was expressed in correspondent Farwell's report:
"We arrived at the station about 10 o'clock, A. M., about 1 mile to the eastward of the river. Some coffee was prepared for us, and we were soon ready to start again. This time, after we were all seated in the coach, the horses, which were said to have been always kind and gentle, refused to move. After a great deal of beating, coaxing and a trial of various methods suggested by almost every one present, we were all obliged to get out again, and after a great deal of trouble, the horses were started, but the passengers being out of the coach, the driver was obliged to stop again, and again, after they were in, the horses refused to go. After working with the might and main for some time, they were got off upon a run, and this time they were kept going. Hitherto, in starting from any station, a person was obliged to stand at the heads of the horses—they being with a few exceptions' wild ones—until the driver was seated on his box, the reins gathered and everything in readiness, when he would give the signal, "turn 'em loose," or "let 'em go," and they would go upon a run. As we get further along, however, they are growing tame, and are more easily handled."
Sleeping on the stages
For the twenty-five-day trip, the Butterfield stages did not stop for the passengers to sleep. They had to sleep on the stages. Many correspondents reported humorous stories about their experiences trying to sleep on the Butterfield stages. One of the most common problems was the losing of their hats while sleeping caused by the open-sided stage (celerity) wagons providing little protection from the wind. National Park Service Historian Frank Norris stated in an interview that "According to historian Gerald T. Ahnert, 'pulling up to a Butterfield stage station was like making a NASCAR pit stop.'"
Extant Butterfield stages
All the stages that weren't in use were distributed at stations along the 2,700-mile trail. At the closing of Butterfield’s operations on the Southern Overland Trail in March 1861, because of the start of the Civil War, many of the stages were confiscated and used by the Confederate Army as military vehicles. As much of the equipment as possible was transferred to the central trail to continue the Overland Mail Company contract. Only enough of the stages made it to the central route to operate the line from Salt Lake City, Utah, to western Nevada. The biography of Edwin R. Purple tells of transferring the stages to the central route. He was employed by the Overland Mail Company as a financial agent at Fort Yuma, California, in May 1860. At the closing of the line, on the Southern Overland Trail, in March 1861, he was ordered to transfer the stock and stages from Tucson, Arizona, to Los Angeles, California, to supply the central route line, which was to commence operations on July 1, 1861. On May 8, 1861, with thirty men, he left Los Angeles and successfully arrived at Salt Lake City on June 16 with eighteen stage wagons and 130 horses. In a discussion by Gerald T. Ahnert with members of the True West Historical Society, it was suggested that many of these original stagecoaches and stage wagons were bought by movie companies in the 1930s through 1950s and used in their movie productions. Many were destroyed in scenes of the stages being attacked.
Butterfield's Overland Mail Company held the U.S. Mail contract from September 16, 1858, on a six-year contract. The first stage going east left San Francisco at ten minutes past midnight on September 14, 1858. The mail from San Francisco reached St. Louis in twenty-four days, eighteen hours, and twenty-six minutes. The first stage going west left Tipton, Missouri, at 8 a. m. on September 16, 1858. The mail was carried by railroad for the first 160 miles (260 km) from St. Louis to Tipton.
Butterfield's Overland Mail Company made two trips a week from September 1858 to March 1861. At the start of service, the mail would leave St. Louis, Missouri, and San Francisco, California, every Monday and Thursday. A December 1, 1858, advertisement stated that the days for departure from San Francisco on Monday and Friday and that the through fare to Terminus of Pacific Railroad as $100.An advertisement appeared in the same newspaper on January 11, 1859, that the through fare to Terminus of Pacific Railroad had increased to $200. Butterfield's Overland Mail Company had 139 stage stations at the start of service but more stations were built after service started and increased to about 170. As noted about 100 stages were employed.
Pony Express as part of the Overland Mail Company contract
When the Overland Mail Company Contract No. 12578 was transferred to the Central Overland Trail, the contract was amended on March 12, 1861, to include the Pony Express. The new contract stated the following:
"And to be required also, during the continuance of their contract, or until completion of the overland telegraph, to run a pony-express semi-weekly at a schedule time of ten days, eight months of the year, and twelve days four months of the year [presumably the winter months], and to convey for the Government free of charge five pounds of mail matter, with liberty of charging the public for transportation of letters by said express not exceeding $1 per half ounce. The compensation for the whole service [which included the stage line mail service] to be $1,000,000 per annum, to take effect on or before the 1st of July, 1861 and to expire the 1st of July, 1864 [the same date for the end of the old contract No. 12578]. The number of the route to be changed to 10773 and the service to be recorded in the route register for Missouri."
In behalf of the Overland Mail Company, the order was signed by president W. B. Dinsmore. William B. Dinsmore became president after John Butterfield was voted out as president. Butterfield still remained a stockholder.The Pony Express was terminated before the end of the contract because the telegraph line was completed October 24, 1861.
A correspondent for the New York Herald, Waterman L. Ormsby, remarked after his 2,812-mile (4,525 km) trek through the western US to San Francisco on a Butterfield Stagecoach thus: "Had I not just come out over the route, I would be perfectly willing to go back, but I now know what Hell is like. I've just had 24 days of it." Ormsby was the only passenger on the first East-West run of the Butterfield Stage who journeyed the entire distance of the mail route. He sent periodic dispatches to the paper describing his journey, including the pickup of passengers outside the Lawrence Livery Stables.
Near the end of Butterfield's service, in March 1861 on the Southern Overland Trail, John Butterfield was voted out as president of the Overland Mail Company because he wasn't making money for the stockholders. He remained a stockholder in the company and attended the meetings with vice-president William B. Dinsmore now elevated to president of the company. The Congressional report shows the modifications to the six-year Butterfield contract ending on September 15, 1864. Kirby Sanders was the National Park Service consulting historian and lead researcher for compiling the history for the master Special Resource Study for the Butterfield National Trail project and put into perspective the confusion over Wells, Fargo & Co.'s only involvement on the Butterfield Trail (Southern Overland Trail). He stated that they had only a secondary role and may have run a "trunk route" off of Butterfield from Los Angeles to San Diego. Waddell F. Smith, grandson of William Bradford Waddell, one of the founders of the Pony Express put into perspective the later involvement of Wells, Fargo & Co., two years after the Butterfield contract ended. What was known as the "Grand Consolidation," of the thee stage lines, that held the mail contract on the Central Overland Trail, was achieved by Ben Holladay, "The Stagecoach King." The three lines now comprising the consolidation were the Pioneer Stage Line, the Overland Mail Company, and Wells, Fargo & Co. This three-million-dollar corporation, formed on February 5, 1866, became a new giant with an increased capitalization of ten-million-dollars. Wells, Fargo & Co. changed its name to Wells, Fargo and Company and was approved by the stockholders on December 10, 1866. Wells, Fargo and Company bought out Ben Holladay and was finally operating as a mail carrying stage company, with their name finally on a transom rail of a stagecoach, on the Central Overland Trail. But the end was in sight, as the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad was nearing completion. On May 16, 1868, the board of directors of Wells, Fargo and Company authorized the sale of the company's stage lines, although they did operate until the railroad was completed May 10, 1869.
Transfer to Central Overland Trail
Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company was ordered to transfer the company to the Union-held Central Overland Trail, because of the impending start of the Civil War. The last Overland Mail Company mail bag left St. Louis, Missouri, March 18, 1861. This last mail arrived in San Francisco, California April 13, 1861.
William Buckley, of Watertown, New York, was the Superintendent of the Fourth Division for Butterfield's Overland Mail Company on the Southern Overland Trail. When Butterfield's Overland Mail Company contract was transferred to the Central Overland Trail, although some of the employees returned to Upstate New York, some retained their positions with the company. William Buckley was one of the original employees to continue with the company on the Central Overland Trail and took the position of Superintendent. Although William B. Dinsmore was now the company president, John Butterfield was still a stockholder and it can be seen in this article that the Overland Mail Company was still called "Butterfield's" by the employees.
Only enough equipment and employees were transferred to stock the trail from Carson City, Nevada, to Salt Lake City, Utah. A June 1861 newspaper accounted the details:
"Great Salt Lake City, June 5, 1861. ...William Buckley, formerly the Superintendent of the Butterfield route from San Francisco to El Paso, F. Cluggage, an Agent in that route and Bolivar Roberts, the Superintendent of the western division on this route, came in a week ago yesterday from Carson, which I noticed in my last letter, and on Friday Edward Fisher, and four other employees in some department, came in from St. Joseph. ...They have, whatever else besides, at least made all the necessary arrangements for a vigorous start to the daily mail, and everything will be ready by the first week in July [July 1 was when the line was ordered to start by the new contract] to fulfill the of obligations of the million contract. ...Last evening, profiting by a conversation with Mr. Buckley, I obtained from him a copy of his measurement of the road from Carson to this city [Salt Lake City]. ...Placerville [California] being the terminus, another 100 miles should be added between that and Carson, as the entire distance of the Butterfield new route. These are the stations now in use and to be continued, from the facilities they afford of proximity to wood, water and feed; but I am informed the Butterfield Company propose erecting intermediate stations every twelve miles, on account of the greater amount of horses required for the accomplishment of the journey within the specified time of sixteen days from St. Joseph to Placerville.”
Under the Confederate States of America, the abandoned Butterfield route between Texas and Southern California operated under a new Federal contract as part of the Overland Mail Corporation route with limited success by George Henry Giddings. The contract was given in May 1861 and was to start on April 1, 1861, and to end on June 30, 1862. "An attempt was made to fulfill the contract, beginning April 1, but faced with insurmountable obstacles and with the development of the Civil War, The contractors were compelled to give it up. The eastern portion of the line was curtailed June 30, 1861. The final chapter was closed when the latter part of the line was discontinued Aug. 1, 1861." Wells Fargo continued its stagecoach runs to mining camps in more northern locations until the coming of the US Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.
At least four battles of the American Civil War occurred at or near Butterfield mail posts, the Battle of Stanwix Station, the Battle of Picacho Pass, Second Battle of Mesilla and the Battle of Pea Ridge. Three clashes between the Apache and Confederate or Union forces in the Apache Wars occurred on the route, First Battle of Dragoon Springs, Second Battle of Dragoon Springs, and the Battle of Apache Pass. Confederates attempted to keep the stations from Tucson to Mesilla open while they destroyed the stations from Tucson to Yuma which were used to supply the Union army as it advanced through Traditional Arizona. The burning of the Stanwix Station and others led to a significant delay to the Union advance, postponing the Fall of Tucson, Arizona's western Confederate capital, which housed one of two territorial courts; the other court was in Mesilla. All said engagements happened in the Confederate Arizona and Arkansas sectors of the mail route.
There are surviving stage stations at Oak Grove and the most famous is near Warner Springs, California, in San Diego County, California. It and the property of Warner's Ranch 20 miles (32 km) away, where the ranch house was used as a station, were declared to be National Historic Landmarks in 1961. Warner's Ranch was the Butterfield Station and a stop for emigrant travelers to the West from 1849–1861, and has two original adobe buildings on the 221-acre (0.89 km2) property. The 1857 ranch house sometimes housed travelers.
The Elkhorn Tavern in the Pea Ridge National Military Park was another destination along the route that was rebuilt after the Civil War. It is on one of the last sections of the trail that still exists: Old Wire Road through Avoca, Rogers and Springdale, Arkansas. Also in Arkansas is the town of Pottsville, which was built around Pott's Inn. Pott's Inn was finished in 1859 and was a popular stop along the route. It survives as a museum owned by the Pope County Historic Society.
When it was first established, the route proceeded due east from Franklin, Texas, toward the Hueco Tanks; the remains of a stagecoach stop are still visible at the Hueco Tanks State Historic Site.
The summit of Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park features a stainless steel pyramid erected in 1958 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Butterfield Overland Mail, which passed south of the mountain.
Butterfield marker in Sherman, Texas
Fort Chadbourne reconstructed stage station
Fort Belknap (Texas) Historical Marker
Guadalupe Peak summit, with a pyramid commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Butterfield Overland Mail
Proposed national historic trail
On March 30, 2009, President Barack Obama signed Congressional legislation (Sec. 7209 of P.L. 111-11) to conduct a study of designating the trail a National Historic Trail. The United States National Park Service is conducting meetings in affected communities and doing Special Resource Study/Environmental Assessment to determine whether it should become a trail and what the route should be.
In popular culture
A Butterfield Overland stagecoach is featured in the 2015 western film The Hateful Eight. The stagecoach in the movie was not representative of John Butterfield's stagecoaches as the movie fictionally represented the Central Overland Trail after the Civil War. John Butterfield never used his name on a stage; only "Overland Mail Company" and only operated on the Southern Overland Trail.
It is also featured in the 1957 film 3:10 to Yuma. The railroad was not completed through Arizona until 1879, eighteen years after Butterfield's Overland Mail Company ceased its service through Arizona. Also Butterfield never used his name on a stagecoach, only "Overland Mail Company."
- San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line
- Butterfield Overland Mail in California
- Butterfield Overland Mail in New Mexico Territory
- Butterfield Overland Mail in Texas
- Butterfield Overland Mail in Indian Territory
- Butterfield Overland Mail in Arkansas and Missouri
- Butterfield Overland Despatch, an unrelated company
- Pony Express
- Postage stamps and postal history of the Confederate States
- Stockton - Los Angeles Road
- Apache Pass Station
- Waterman L. Ormsby, edited by Lyle H. Wright and Josephine M. Bynum, "The Butterfield Overland Mail", The Huntington Library, San Marino, California, 1991.
- Goddard Bailey, Special Agent to Hon. A. V. Brown. P. M., Washington, D. C., The Senate of the United States, Second Session, Thirty-Fifth Congress, 1858-'59, Postmaster General, Appendix, "Great Overland Mail", Washington, D. C., October 18, 1858.https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.c109481050;view=1up;seq=745
- Aaron V. Brown, Report of the Postmaster General, Senate, 35th Congress, 2d Session, Ex. Doc. No. 48, Contract with J. Butterfield and Co. p. 1.
- Isaiah Churchill Woods, Report to Hon. A. V. Brown, "Postmaster General on the Opening and Present Condition of the Overland Mail Route Between San Antonio, Texas, and San Diego, California", by J.[I] C. Wood [Woods] Superintendent, Washington City, D.C., March 1858. Note: This forty-three page report to the Postmaster General also contains references from Woods' day book.https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=miun.aft3376.0001.001;view=1up;seq=1
- A biographical memorial of General Daniel Butterfield, edited by Julia Lorrilard Butterfield, The Grafton Press, New York, 1904
- From an advertisement titled "1827-Half Century-1880, The Old Established Butterfield Livery Stable", Francis & Stewart's Utica City Directory for 1880, June 1st, 1880, Published by the Utica Directory Co., 167 Genesee St., Utica, N. Y.
- History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers, Philadelphian, Everts & Fariss, 1878.
- Oswego Weekly Palladium, Oswego, New York, "Butterfield Stables Sold," June 13, 1894.
- Lieutenant John G. Parke, Exploration and Surveys for a Rail Road Route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, Route near the 32d Parallel & Coast Route Cal., 1854-1855.
- "Butterfield Overland Mail Company". Bridgeport, Texas Historical Society. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- Abstract of Bids, Report of the Postmaster General, Senate, 35th Congress, 2d Session, Ex. Doc., No. 48, Post Office Department, March 3, 1859, pp. 4 &5.https://books.google.com/books?id=kmlHAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA155&dq=%22Contract+with+j.+butterfield+and+co.%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiV_JL0kendAhUizlkKHUjuBEMQuwUIKTAA#v=onepage&q=abstract%20of%20the%20bids&f=false
- The California Overland Mail Company Contract, Evening Star, Washington, D. C., April 29, 1858.
- His name was misspelled in Contract with J. Butterfield and Co., Report of the Postmaster General, Senate, 35th Congress, 2d Session, Ex. Doc. No. 48. pp. 7-10. In the details of the contract is M. L. Kinyon and at the end of the contract is M. L. Kenyon. Because his name was misspelled, researchers have been unable to find information concerning Kenyon's history. In Waterman L. Ormsby's The Butterfield Overland Mail in footnote 151 on page 131, publisher Huntington Library stated nothing has been found concerning Garner, of Utica, New York, or Kinyon, of Rome, NY. The other misspellings are Marquis L. Kinyon, Marcus L. Kinyon on the 1860 Federal Census, and M. L. Kinyon. All of these have also been used without the middle initial. Mark Kenyon and Mark Kinyon were sometimes used in Upstate New York newspapers.
- Immigrant Roads and Mail Routes across the Continent, Sacramento Daily Union, November 2, 1858.
- G. Bailey, Special Agent, to Hon. A. V. Brown, P. M. General, Washington, D. C., APPENDIX, Great Overland Mail, Washington, October 18, 1858, The Senate of the United States, Second Session, Thirty-Fifth Congress, 1858-'59, Washington, 1859, pp. 739-744 Note: This report is based on Bailey's inspection trip on the first Butterfield stage to leave San Francisco heading east. He lists all the stations and their divisions. He also lists the time that he traveled on these divisions.https://books.google.com/books?id=gG9HAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA739&dq=%22postmaster+General%22+Appendix+%22great+Overland+Mail%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwir46Wno8HPAhVIMSYKHfw4Ab4Q6AEIJjAC#v=onepage&q=%22postmaster%20General%22%20Appendix%20%22great%20Overland%20Mail%22&f=false
- Utica Daily Observer (New York), obituary, The Late Hon. M.L. Kinyon (sic), April 3, 1862
- Evening Star, Washington City, November 23, 1857
- Oneida Weekly Herald, The Overland Mail Route, Utica, New York, May 4, 1858
- From the St. Louis Republican April 27, New York Herald Tribune, Return of the Overland Mail Expedition, May 3, 1858
- The Binghamton Press, New York, Utica Man Linked East with West, John Butterfield Established Overland Mail Route Half a Century Ago, March 23, 1909
- Frank Norris, Historian National Park Service, Desert Tracks, "Butterfield Overland Mail," pp. 15-20.
- Frank Norris, Historian National Park Service, Desert Tracks, "Butterfield Overland Mail," pp. 15.
- For a more comprehensive history concerning this subject see: Gerald T. Ahnert, BUTTERFIELD MAKES THE SOUTHERN OVERLAND TRAIL HIS OWN. The report has been requested by many organizations. Copies have been supplied to National Parks Service Historian Frank Norris, Dr. Aaron Wright, Archaeology Southwest, Tucson, San Diego History Center, Arizona Historical Society Archives, Tucson, Arizona, Oneida Historical Society, Oneida, New York, and Benson Visitors Center, Benson, Arizona
- Waterman L. Ormsby, The Butterfield Overland Mail, Only Through Passenger on the First Westbound Stage, Edited by Lyle H. Wright and Johnson M. Bynum, The Huntington Library, San Marino California, 1991, p. 42.
- Ormsby, p. 44. (Italics added for emphasis).
- Ormsby, p. 44.
- Goddard Bailey, Special Agent to Hon. A. V. Brown. P. M., Washington, D. C., The Senate of the United States, Second Session, Thirty-Fifth Congress, 1858-'59, Postmaster General, Appendix, "Great Overland Mail", Washington, D. C., October 1858," pp. 742-743
- "Contract with J. Butterfield and Co., "THE EXECUTIVE DOCUMENTS PRINTED BY ORDER OF THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, SECOND SESSION, THIRTY-FIFTH CONGRESS, 1858-'59, Washington, 1859, p. 4.
- Ormsby, p. 77.
- William A Wallace, "The Stations," Daily Alta California, June 10, 1860.
- Ormsby, p. 33.
- THE EXECUTIVE DOCUMENTS PRINTED BY ORDER OF THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, FIRST SESSION, THIRTY-SIXTH CONGRESS, 1859-60, "Colonel Bonneville to the General-in-chief, Headquarters Department of New Mexico, Santa Fe, July 15, 1859," Washington, 1860, p. 300
- Lieut. Col. E. E. Eyre, The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume L, Fort Thorn, Arizona, July 6. 1862, p. 121.
- Evening Star, Washington D. C., October 11, 1858, p. 2.
- Sacramento Daily Union, October 29, 1859 (italics added for emphasis)
- Wright, "Historic Places-Appendix A", p. 821
- Richardson, "Butterfield Overland Mail": "As of 1858 the route extended from San Francisco to Los Angeles, thence by Fort Yuma, California, and Tucson, Arizona, to Franklin, Texas (present El Paso)."
- The Butterfield Overland Mail Route Lucian Wood Road Segment. Archived February 1, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. History & Architecture: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
- New York Herald, Sunday, July 22, 1860
- SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS TO CONDUCTORS, AGENTS, DRIVERS & EMPLOYEES, John Butterfield, Order No. 8. A copy of these instructions was published in The Butterfield Overland Mail, by Waterman L. Ormsby
- Waterman L. Ormsby, The Butterfield Overland Mail, p. 55
- John M. Farwell, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, "Letter from our Overland Correspondent," Tuesday, November 16, 1858
- The Western Horseman, "The Mud Wagon", John and Mildred Frizzell, May 1976, p. 140
- The Buffalo Courier, Buffalo, New York, Saturday, June 26, 1858, Sacramento Daily Union, California, July 31, 1858
- Special Collections, Tuck Library, New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, New Hampshire. Historian Gerald T. Ahnert visited the archives twice and found that the original order book for June and July 1858 was missing. This was the time period for Butterfield's order.
- G. Bailey, Report of the Postmaster General, THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, SECOND SESSION, THIRTY-FIFTH Congress, 1858-59, Washington, 1858. p. 741.
- The Memphis Daily Appeal, Tennessee, July 13, 1858, reprinted from the Fort Smith Herald (Arkansas)
- The Memphis Daily Appeal, Tennessee, July 21, 1858, reprinted from the Fort Smith Times (Arkansas)
- Waterman L. Ormsby, The Butterfield Overland Mail, p. 127
- Waterman L. Ormsby, The Butterfield Overland Mail, pp. 17-18
- Waterman L. Ormsby, The Butterfield Overland Mail, pp. 49, 53, 54, 55, 66, 68, 94, 123, 124, 139
- Sacramento Daily Union, California, October 13, 1858. The article was taken from Memphis Appeal, which published "…the particulars of an interview had with Mr. J. T. Chidester, a member of the firm of Chidester, Reeside & Co., upon the western end of the route, between Memphis and Fort Smith, who came down to superintend the departure of the first train."
- Des Arc Citizen, Arkansas, Friday, September 16, 1858
- Sacramento Daily Union, California, October 13, 1858. Article reprinted from The Memphis Appeal, Tennessee
- Waterman L. Ormsby, The Butterfield Overland Mail, p. 94
- Waterman L. Ormsby, The Butterfield Overland Mail, p. 14
- John M. Farwell, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, “Letter from our Overland Correspondent,” Tuesday, November 16, 1858
- Gerald T. Ahnert, The Carriage Journal, “Surviving the Ride on a Butterfield Stagecoach,” Volume 53, Number 4, August 2015, pp. 220-225. This article tells correspondents humorous accounts about riding on Butterfield’s stages.
- Frank Norris, Desert Tracks, "Butterfield Overland Trail," January 2015. This article is about the proposal for the Butterfield National Historic Trail.
- Tri Weekly Commonwealth, Frankfort, Kentucky, "Later from Texas, Fort Smith, Feb. 20," February 22, 1861
- Edwin R. Purple, The New York State Genealogical and Biographical Record, New York, July, 1879
- For a more comprehensive history concerning this subject see: Gerald T. Ahnert, BUTTERFIELD'S OVERLAND MAIL COMPANY STAGECOACHES AND (CELERITY) WAGONS ON THE SOUTHERN OVERLAND TRAIL, 1858-1861. The report has been requested by many organizations. Copies have been supplied to National Parks Service Historian Frank Norris, Dr. Aaron Wright, Archaeology Southwest, Tucson, San Diego History Center, Arizona Historical Society Archives, Tucson, Arizona, Oneida Historical Society, Oneida, New York, and Benson Visitors Center, Benson, Arizona
- G. Bailey, Report of the Postmaster General, APPENDIX, PP. 739 (the time the stage left San Francisco) & 744 (the total number of hours to St. Louis).
- Waterman L. Ormsby, The Butterfield Overland Mail p.9.
- John Butterfield, Overland Mail Company Through Time Schedule between St. Louis, Mo./Memphis, Tenn. & San Francisco, Cal., No. 1, Sep. 16th,1858
- San Francisco Bulletin, California, December 1, 1858. This ad appeared until January 10, 1858.
- San Francisco Bulletin, January 11, 1859
- Bailey, Great Overland Mail, Postmaster General, THE SENATE OF THE UNTIED STATES, SECOND SESSION, THIRTY-FIFTH CONGRESS, 1858-59, Washington, 1858, pp. 742-743
- National Park Service Historian Frank Norris, Desert Tracks, January 2015, p. 17
- Contract with Overland Mail Company, REPORT OF THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, Senate, 46th Congress, 3d Session, Ex. Doc. No. 21, p. 7.https://books.google.com/books?id=AqEZAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA14-PA1&dq=%22contract+with+overland+mail+company%22++46th+congress&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjw_IPK5_XdAhUSPq0KHXQXDoIQuwUIKTAA#v=onepage&q=%22contract%20with%20overland%20mail%20company%22%20%2046th%20congress&f=false
- Waddell F. Smith, The Smoke Signal "The Pony Express - The Overland Mail," Spring 1968, No. 17, published by The Corral of the Westerners, Tucson, Arizona. Note: This article, by the grandson of one of the Pony Express owners, is an excellent study of the Pony Express becoming part of the Overland Mail Company contract, pp. 153 & 154
- "Waterman Lilly Ormsby 1834 - 1919". Ormsby.org. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
- Kirby Sanders, "Butterfield Overland Trail Friends," facebook site. Sanders was the administer of the site until his death. The site is for historians interested in the Butterfield Trail, as well as for the public. https://www.facebook.com/groups/338802216162970/
- Waddell F. Smith, The Smoke Signal "The Pony Express - The Overland Mail," Spring 1968, No. 17, published by The Corral of the Westerners, Tucson, Arizona. Note: This article, by the grandson of one of the Pony Express owners, is an excellent study of the Overland Mail Company's history.
- Contract with Overland Mail Company, Report of the Postmaster General, Senate, 35th Congress, 2d Session, Ex. Doc. No. 48, "1861, March 12. Ordered that the overland mail service on route 12578 be discontinued," p. 4
- Sacramento Daily Union, California, April 5, 1861, “Letter from St. Louis, from our Special Correspondent, St. Louis, March 19, 1861.
- Daily Alta California, San Francisco, Sunday, April 14, 1861.
- Root, The Overland Stage to California, p. 42: "The stock, coaches, etc., on the southern route were pulled off, and accordingly moved north, and, by act of Congress, on July 1, 1861, the route between St. Joseph and Placerville, having been duly equipped for a daily line, went into operation. It took about three months to make the transfer of stages and stock, and to build a number of new stations, secure hay and grain, and get everything in readiness for operating a six-times-a-week mail line. The new line was designated by the post-office department as the Central Overland California Route."
- Sacramento Daily Union, California, June 11, 1861, “Letter from Salt Lake, From our Special Correspondent." Note: The complete article can be accessed by the following link https://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=SDU18610611&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN--------1
- Basil C. Pearce, The Jackass Mail—San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line, The Journal of San Diego History, San Diego Historical Society Quarterly, Spring 1969, Volume 15, Number 2
- Patricia Heintzelman and Charles Snell (1975) National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Oak Grove Butterfield Station, National Park Service, accessed 18 November 2009
- Butterfield Overland Mail from the Handbook of Texas Online
- "PEPC". parkplanning.nps.gov. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
- Ahnert, Gerald T., The Butterfield Trail and Overland Mail Company in Arizona, 1858-1861, Canastota Publishing, Co. Inc., Canastota, New York, 2011. This book is a comprehensive account of the Butterfield Trail in Arizona.
- Ahnert, Gerald T., The Cochise County Historical Journal, A Cochise County Historical Publication, Vol. 46 -No. 1 - Spring/Summer 2016, 50th Anniversary Issue, All articles were by Gerald T. Ahnert concerning the history of Butterfield's Overland Mail Company.
- Ahnert, Gerald T., Butterfield Makes the Southern Overland Trail His Own, The Architects of the Butterfield Trail--Marquis L. Kenyon and John Butterfield Jr. add a Personal Touch to Arizona (Revised Edition 2017), NoBottomGulch Publications, Syracuse, NY.
- Hackler, George, The Butterfield Trail in New Mexico, Yucca Enterprises, 2005. This book is a comprehensive account of the Butterfield Trail in New Mexico.
- Ely, Glen Sample, The Texas Frontier and The Butterfield Overland Mail, 1858-1861, University of Oklahoma Press, 2016. This book is a comprehensive account of the Butterfield Trail in Texas.
- Smith, Waddell F., The Smoke Signal "The Pony Express - The Overland Mail," Spring 1968, No. 17, published by The Corral of the Westerners, Tucson, Arizona. Note: This article, by the grandson of one of the Pony Express owners, is an excellent study of the Overland Mail Company and Pony Express history.
- Richardson, Rupert N. Butterfield Overland Mail from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 2006-08-22.
- Root, Frank. The Overland Stage to California. Topeka, Kansas: W.Y. Morgan, 1901.
- Wright, Muriel H. "Historic Places on the Old Stage Line from Fort Smith to Red River-Appendix A", Chronicles of Oklahoma 11:2 (June 1933) 821-822 (accessed August 16, 2006).
- Hafen, L. R. R. (2004). The overland mail, 1849-1869: promoter of settlement precursor of railroads. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
- Butterfield, J., Fargo, W. G., & Holland, A. (1857). Letter to the postmaster general in relations to the overland mail to California.
- Butterfield, J. W. (1857). Skeleton map of the overland mail route to California. Route adopted by the department traced in green. Route proposed by John Butterfield and others (who were the lowest bidders) in red.
- Overland Mail Company, & Butterfield, J. (1858). Overland Mail Company: through time schedule between St. Louis, Mo., Memphis, Tenn. & San Francisco, Cal. [S.l: The Company?.
- Reed, M., & Pourade, R. F. (1966). The colorful Butterfield Overland Stage. Reproductions in color of 20 paintings by Marjorie Reed from the collection of James S. Copley. Palm Desert, Calif: Best-West Publications.
- Swensen, Henry Edward (1911). The overland mail and passenger service.
The overland mail and passenger service. p. 156., E'book
- Greene, A. C.,900 Miles on the Butterfield Trail. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1994. Project MUSE, Print-ISBN 9781574412130, OCLC Number: 835770429
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Butterfield Overland Mail Company.
- Desert USA.com: John Butterfield + Butterfield Overland Mail Unfortunately this article is not primary source reference and contains some errors. Wells Fargo Co. did not take over Butterfield's Overland Mail Company.
- Over-land.com: Official Millennium Trail—The Overland Trail
- 1958 Overland Mail Centennial U.S. commemorative stamp
- "Panning for history along Cache la Poudre River" The Moultrie News (Charleston, SC) Article about the Central Overland Trail
- Texas Historical Society: Butterfield Overland Mail Company in Bridgeport
- Butterfield Express under the Confederate States of America