The Stage

(Frink & Walter, Western Stage Company)

Until the coming of the railroad, and for many years after the building of the first lines, the stage answered the general demands of inland travel and traffic. Frink and Walker was the company operating the first stages in Iowa. In 1854 the Western Stage Company succeeded the older concern.

The early vehicles furnished to the public were simply two horse wagons without springs, and having a canvas top. These were pretty rough conveyances, especially on the prairie roads. The route out of Des Moines was Oskaloosa first day; Fairfield second; Keokuk third. The fare was ten dollars a passenger.

When the Western Stage Company assumed charge of the stage lines in Iowa it put on wagons called by the public "jerkies". But in 1855 the regulation Concord coaches were substituted. These were drawn by four horses, and cost a thousand dollars each.

Nine passengers could ride inside and four on top. Meals were served at stations. The driver blew a horn to announce the approach to a halting place. Even in these coaches the bumps and other inequalities of the road could be felt, and progress was not entirely comfortable.

"How far to Demoine City?" asked a traveler of the driver, at Apple Grove in 1854.

"Sixteen miles," answered the driver.

"How long will it take to get there?"

"We can make it in five hours, I reckon, if the horses hold out and the bottom of the road does not give way."

Among the stage routes was one from Davenport to Council Bluffs. This passed through Iowa City, Des Moines and Adel, and traversed 327 miles. Another from Lyons to Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Davenport and Dubuque; from Keokuk to Iowa City; from Keokuk to Keosauqua; and from Oskaloosa to Council Bluffs, passing through Indianola, Winterset and Lewis.

Iowa was well covered by stage routes. The Western Stage Company was an enormously wealthy and prosperous institution, operating stage routes in other territory besides Iowa. During war time especially the company made money in Iowa. Thousands of soldiers were transported from place to place, for the railroads were not in a condition to supply all needs, and troops from the central portions of the State, and from the west, must be carried by stage to a rendezvous farther east.

It was not until July 1, 1870, that the last old coach pulled out of Des Moines for Indianola.

[The Making of Iowa, 1900]
Submitted by Cathy Danielson


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