Stage Coach Logo for Russell Springs, Kansas


Logan County
Trail ride in Russell Springs, Kansas The life of the Smoky Hill route really began when David A. Butterfield took hold of it in 1865. He was a man of much experience in freighting and seems to have had no difficulty in getting capital interested in the Butterfield Overland Despatch, as the enterprise was called, or in getting business for the company. Atchison was the eastern terminus of the line and Denver the western. The surveying party which fixed the route left Atchison June 13, 1865. In the party was Lieutenant Julian R. Fitch of the United States Army. Here is an item from his report which will interest Gove County people: "Nine and one-fourth miles west (from Denver Station) we crossed Rock Castle Creek. Camped two days to rest. The scenery here is really grand. One mile south is a lofty calcareous limestone bluff having the appearance of an old English Castle with pillars and avenues traversing it in every direction. We named it "Castle Rock". This may be the first time the name was ever applied to the place.

The first wagon train followed June 24. This caravan known as "Train A" was a small one loaded with 150,000 pounds of freight for Denver and other Colorado points, and the freight rate was 22 1/2 cents per pound. A passenger and express service was put on in September; Butterfield himself was a passenger on the first stage coach which reached Denver September 23. The trip was widely advertised and Butterfield was given a great ovation at Denver. Root's "Overland Stage to California" gives a list of the stations on the Butterfield Trail and the distances between them. It entered Gove County at a point where Hackberry creek crosses the county line. Here somewhere, probably on the Trego County side of the line, was a station known as Castle Rock Creek. Leaving the Hackberry here the trail angles south west to the Smoky. Eleven miles from Castle Rock Creek Station was Grinnell Springs. After reaching the Smoky the trail continues up the river until it leaves the county; there were two stations on the river in this county, Chalk Bluff, 12 miles from Grinnell Springs, and Monument, 13 miles from Chalk Bluff; Monument was an eating station on the stage route and here the government established an army post for the protection of the trail.

The Butterfield Overland Despatch did a large business from the start. In one day during the month of July, 1865, nineteen car loads of freight was received by the company at Atchison to be forwarded. In August a train was loaded with 600,000 pounds of merchandise for Salt Lake City. Butterfield had a large and expensive outfit. Some idea of the cost of operating an overland transportation line may be had when it is known that work oxen in the summer of 1865 cost in Atchison $160 to $170 a yoke. The company bought 1200 mules for the lines, the most of them being purchased in St. Louis.

But the Butterfield company had no monopoly of the route. The government used it for supply trains, other companies and individuals engaged in the overland business sent trains over it and much of the emigration to Pike's Peak and California went over the new trail. No statistics are obtainable but a rushing business must have been done for a time.

Trouble soon came to the Butterfield Trail in the shape of assaults from the Indians. In November, 1865, a train was attacked by Indians "between Chalk Bluff Station and Denver", and from that time on the line was never free from danger. It became necessary to send out a guard with every coach. In March, 1866, Butterfield sold out to his rival, the Holladay Overland & Express Co., which had been operating on the northern route, and after a few months Holladay in turn sold out to Wells, Fargo & Co. This company suffered heavily from the Indians but kept up the business until the railroad was completed; then the freight, passenger, mail and express went to the railroad and the Butterfield Trail ceased to be a factor in overland transportation.

It was learned later that Mr. Butterfield went to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and built a street car line and was killed in a fight at that place, by a blow from an neckyoke. He seemed to have tried talking to an Arkansas man as he would to one of his own mules on the Butterfield Overland Despatch and the Arkansas man would not stand for it.

From the Russell Springs Bicentennial Souvenir Booklet

Explore Russell Springs & Logan County, or visit other Kansas Cities & Towns
April 27, 2002 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas /

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