Butterfield Stage Coach Line
Because of the lack of a suitable, well-traveled trail west, not to mention the lack of dependable mail delivery, Congress authorized a contract for an overland trail and letter-carrying service in 1857. The contract was won by John Butterfield and his associates who proposed a southern route west from St. Louis, Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee (converging at Little Rock, Arkansas) to California, and the Butterfield Stage Line was born.
On September 15, 1857 stages departed from St. Louis and San Francisco for the first time. The total amount of miles for the routes was 2,795 and they were given a schedule to cover the trip in 25 days. The first stagecoach out of San Francisco, however, covered the distance in 23 days and 4 hours with mail and 6 passengers.
The trip itself was quite harrowing. So much so in fact that President Lincoln assigned the 9th Kansas Calvary to protect the trail between Independence Missouri and Sacramento California. Travelers faced a number of perils, including bandits and roving bands of Apache and Comanche Indians.
In fact, a writer for the New York Herald said of the trip that, “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.”
In Mesilla, NM the Butterfield Stage arrived at the property on the corner of Calle de Guadalupe and Calle de Parian where Colonel Joseph Bennett operated a stagecoach stop that could feed and shoe horses plus offer passengers and their driver a rest and refreshment. That property is now La Posta de Mesilla.
The Butterfield Stage Line was taken over by Wells Fargo in 1861 and the line continued until the Civil War, when the contract was revoked. Communication changed forever with the arrival of the telegraph lines.
Touring La Posta’s compound you will get a sense of why it was such an important stop. From the blacksmith’s shop to the Corn Exchange Hotel and Cantina, each room of the compound would have been critically important to guests and travelers on their “24 days of Hell.”