Russell Thorp surveys road damage done by recent storms
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
Russell Thorp, the new owner of the Cheyenne Black Hills Stage Line, rode the "up" stage from Cheyenne last Saturday morning to survey damage done to the road by recent storms. When the stage left Cheyenne at 4 o'clock in the morning with Thorp as a box passenger, the streets were a mass of liquid mud. The stage had three other passengers and all of the available space inside the coach was piled full of express packages, valises and a sack of flour to keep them out of the rain.
The first 18 miles to Schwartz's ranch on Pole Creek was a dreary ride. It was cold, rained steadily and the wind blew a gale. The curtains were pinned down and the passengers inside had not been able to see out, when after several hours of listening to the wheel spokes pelting the puddles they heard the driver Brown, call out, "Have you boys got your lives insured?"
They tore open the curtains and looked out upon the flooded valley of Pole Creek. The road ran steeply down to the swollen stream in its deep valley, studded with lakes in the overflowed meadows.
As the passengers emerged from the stage, they were directed to the barroom, while Fred Schwartz directed the stage to a safe part of the road. The bridge was standing askew and looked as it it were about to be washed away.
Several men and a team were at work about the approaches to the bridge, dumping sand in great holes that had been washed out. After four hours in the barroom and an excellent meal, the passengers boarded the coach to resume their journey. The bridge approaches had been repaired sufficiently for temporary use, the coach was carefully taken over and headed for Horse Creek. The wind and rain had diminished somewhat in violence, however driver Brown had his hands full driving his fresh team.
He had a short whip and the team consisted of a fast walking wheel team hitched behind a slow walking pair of leaders. It kept Brown fully occupied to make all four horses pull alike.
Thorp found Horse Creek quite as high as Pole Creek had been and its bridge gone. Turpin's freight train was stuck near the Nine-Mile Ranch and the Wyoming Copper Company's train was axle-deep in water near Goodwin's Horse Creek Ranch.
Several horses had been drowned as their drivers tried to force them across swollen streams. In figuring up a bid for repairing bridges on Pole Creek, Horse Creek, Chugwater Creek, Bordeaux and repairing the approaches on the North Platte River bridge, Goodwin estimated the cost at $7,300. The Laramie County Commissioners will consider the bids since the Cheyenne to Black Hills trail is Laramie County Road number 2.
(Information sources: "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring; "Cheyenne Daily Leader," May 23, 1882.)