Hat Creek Dateline: 1877/04/21
U.S. Mail comes through today
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
The first official "U.S. Mail" from Cheyenne to Custer and Deadwood came in on today's up coach (northbound), The contract for establishing this mail route was perfected by one of the stage line owners, Col. M. T. Patrick, during his trip to Washington, D.C. in February. This contract with the U. S. Post Office Department provided for temporary mail service, six times a week, from April 20 to Sept. 20, 1877. The distance to be covered was 270 miles, one way.
In preparation for delivering the mail under the contract, on April 10, the Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage Line established its first night runs over the route. The stage company also adopted a new schedule out of Cheyenne, with coaches leaving there promptly at 7 o'clock each morning. Mails now close at 6:45 a.m. for Custer, Deadwood, and the way stations. Letters weighing one-half an ounce or less require a three cent stamp.
The first official documents to the new post office at Deadwood, from the Post Office Department, were addressed to the Postmaster, Deadwood, Crook County, Wyoming Territory. (Note: the boundary between the Wyoming and Dakota territories was not surveyed until the summer of 1877.)
Beginning May 1, 1877, the stage company will be limited to three days' travel time for the mail from Cheyenne to Deadwood, this will necessitate day and night travel. Failure to get the mail through on time will result in penalties on their seventeen hundred dollar contract. (Note: even though the road remained in terrible condition for the next few weeks, especially on the northern end of the route, the mail was delayed only once, and then for just a few hours.)
(Note: the contract which extended the stage company's mail transporting duties to June 1878 provided for service seven times a week. The mail was to leave Hat Creek daily at 8 a.m., arriving in Deadwood the next day by 7 p.m. The return trip was scheduled to leave Deadwood daily at 8 a.m. and arrive at Hat Creek the next day by 7 p.m., "or in close connection with route No. 37109 Cheyenne to Hat Creek." The new mail contract to Deadwood provided for remuneration of &34,293 per annum and required a bond of $30,000. It also called for a travel rate of 3.4 miles per hour in summer and 2.6 miles per hour in winter.)
(Information source: "The Cheyenne and Black Hills Stage and Express Routes," by Agnes Wright Spring.)