Historical Details

Men Big Enough to Match the Prairie Ran the Stage Line

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 08/17/1961

It took more than just good coaches and horses to make a stage line go—it took men—good, sturdy men. Some of the men and a brief history of those men that were a match for the high plains of Wyoming are as follows:

THOMPSON (TOM) BLACK—Stock tender and station master. At Rawhide Buttes, 1882-1886. Born, Brooklyn N.Y., June 2, 1861. Was a Mason. Took up a ranch called Willow. Died 1932.

HENRY CHASE – Agent and postmaster at Rawhide Buttes. A very remarkable man. Graduate of Dartmouth College and had studied astronomy, medicine, civil engineering. It was at his home in Virginia that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” After his wife died, Chase came west and worked for the stage line for years. Just before entering the service of the line he had a ranch on Pole Creek. In a skirmish with Indians he had a horse shot out from under him. He was a great reader of Byron, Tennyson, and Shakespeare. An expert carpenter.

Tutored his brother, George, who graduated from West Point and became a lieutenant in the Third Cavalry. Lieutenant Chase was active in ridding the state line of road agents.

ED A. COOK – Stock tender and driver. At Rawhide Buttes.

THOMAS COOPER -- Driver known as “Uncle Tom.” “Colonel Tom and “Owl-Eyed Tom.” Born in New York City, November 15, 1850. Enlisted in the 17th Illinois Cavalry in the Civil War at 13. After the war, served as courier over Smoky Hill trail from Missouri to Kansas outposts. Worked on a construction crew for the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1867, then saw five years of service with Dr. F. V. Hayden’s geological survey. In 1876, Cooper was with General Crook as a guide together with Big Baptiste. Following Crook’s campaign he went to work for Voorhees. Robert Stratton said: “Thomas Cooper is one who can handle six horses to a Concord coach equal to the best known in the Rocky Mountain country. Mr. Voorhees considers Tom Cooper his most reliable driver on the Black Hills lines.” According to Scott Davis: “Thomas Cooper was recognized as being the best six-horse stage driver in the United States. Cooper drove the night route from Jenny Stockade to Hat Creek station. The nights were never too dark, nor the roads too rough for Owl-Eyed Tom. He had a great appetite. His co-workers said he would ‘eat a stage horse broiled on toast every morning for breakfast.’” After Voorhees left the Black Hills line “Big Tom” drove for him on a star route to Leadville, Colo. There he was injured in a stagecoach accident, so returned to Cheyenne to make his home. In 1887, he became a guard on a treasure train for the union Pacific. Later for many years he was depot master of the U.P. station in Cheyenne. Cooper died January 18, 1915, a few months after he had driven the six-horse hitch at the Wyoming State Fair, in a portrayal of the Canyon Springs robbery. Tears trickled down the old stage driver’s cheeks as he held the lines over a fine six-horse team that he had selected himself.

SCOTT DAVIS -- Captain of the shotgun messengers. Called “Quick Shot” Davis. Born October 2, 1854, Kinsman, Ohio. Grew up on Platte River near Fremont, Nebraska. When only 15 he struck out on his own, freighted across the plains. Arrived in Denver in 1868. Worked on the U.P. construction and also on railway construction in Texas. Went to work for Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage Co. in April, 1876. Was fearless. Davis was 5 feet 9 inches tall, rather stocky and well built. After leaving the stage work he became a special guard for the U.P. railroad and then it’s livestock inspector for 30 years. His wife, Celia Jeanette Bryant, was a sister of Mrs. M.V. Boughton. Davis died April 27. Buried in Denver.

JIM HOGEL – Station keeper. Ran Rustic Hotel for Collins in 1876. Later he was in Lusk.

HARRY HYNDS -- Blacksmith. Had the heavy end of the line from Cheyenne to Fort Laramie. Had a jerky rigged up with blacksmith tools, with bellows in rear boot so he could do emergency work. He inspected the last coach for its last run north from Cheyenne and pronounced it “fit for any trip.” Born Morris Ill., in 1860. Took special training in blacksmithing and could do fancy things at the forge. When about 18 he went to Idaho, then to Colorado, and on to Cheyenne. Began work for Herman Haas, and then went into partnership with a man named Elliott. Later went in to business for himself and took over the stage work. He fought two professional fights at Rawlins, Wyoming. In the first one he whipped Jack Lavin, but in the second fight, his opponent, John B. Clough, a veteran of the ring, pulled the old shoestring trick on young Hynds. When Hynds woke up the next day he was cured of professional fighting. He opened a saloon and later a restaurant known as the Capitol Grill, in Cheyenne. He had a boxing ring in the rear of the salon with a big sign over it which read, “Knock out all comers in four rounds or give ‘em $100. Hynds was successful in business. He opened the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne in 1911 and later built the Hynds Building. He made a fortune in oil and bought the A.R. Converse home in Cheyenne, where his widow resided for many years before her death.

FRANK KETCHUM – Telegraph operator, Rawhide, Runningwater, Silver Cliff, Lusk. Was sent to the penitentiary for the killing of George McFadden, near Igoe creek.

GEORGE LATHROP -- Driver. Born in Pottsville, Penn., December 24, 1830. Was at Cherry Creek (Colorado) in 1859, and began driving stage in Kansas as early as 1861. Arrived in Fort Laramie in 1865 and after whacking bulls in central Wyoming, went to California. Then back to Nevada, where he met Luke Voorhees near White Pine, a great silver mining camp. In 1879, upon learning that Gilmer & Salisbury intended to send a herd of cattle through to Wyoming for Luke Voorhees, Lathrop asked for the trail herd job and delivered the cattle at Rawhide Buttes in the fall if 1879. In 1881 he began to drive one of the large six-horse passenger mail and treasure coaches between Rawhide Buttes and Fort Laramie, for Voorhees. When the stage line changed hands he went to work for Russell Thorp. He was little given to talk. He was honorable and reliable. After the stage line was abandoned for the railway, Lathrop went to Muskrat canyon to take charge of copper mines owned by Voorhees and Gill. He spent the last years of his life at Tom Black’s ranch at Willow, where he jotted down much of the material that later was published by The Lusk Herald in “Memoirs of a Pioneer.” According to Russell Thorp, Jr., “he was one of the best calf ropers I ever saw in a branding corral. I remember well that lst day I saw him rope. It was at the George Voorhees ranch on the Runningwater. Lathrop roped the entire day, making 98 percent clean catches, all by the hind legs. He was then past 70 years of age.” Lathrop died on December 24, 1915 and his remains were interred at Manville, Wyoming. Later he was re-buried along the old Cheyenne-Deadwood trail. A large monument was erected to his memory and to the memory of the pioneer stage-faring men. This memorial was promoted by The Lusk Herald and people from every state in the union contributed by buying copies of “Memoirs of a Pioneer,” printed by The Herald. George Lathrop was a man among men, faithful and fearless. He was one of the type and class of men who helped the West grow. He drove the last coach north from Cheyenne in February, 1887.

GEORGE MCFADDEN – Telegraph operator. At Rawhide and Runningwater. Killed by Ketchum at Igoe Creek. Buried next to “Old Mother Featherlegs.”

CALVIN A. MORSE – Station agent, Lusk. Came to Wyoming for his health in early ‘80’s. A graduate of Amherst College. Worked for Frank Lusk as a cowboy and round-up cook, then became station agent for stage line. The cowboys called him “Professor” because he wrote their love letters for them. In later years he ran the Vendome at Leadville and then became manager of the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. Later was manager of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Denver.

TOM O’HAVER -- Blacksmith. On northern division, with headquarters at Rawhide. Had a long black beard. Was a miner and prospector. Was one of the first to discover copper in Muskrat canyon.

CHARLES E. PARTRIDGE – Telegraph operator, Hat Creek Station. Used to repair the telegraph line down Indian Creek, through Red Canyon to Custer City, when Indians were on warpath. Came to Wyoming from Wisconsin . Made considerable money in horses. His daughter Bernice, married George Voorhees, son of Luke Voorhees.

EDWIN LEGRAND PATRICK – Stock tender and telegraph operator. Born July 1, 1857, Omaha. Stock tender at Chugwater, 1878. Was employed in 1882 by T. Edward Hambleton of Baltimore, Md., who bought the Portugee Phillips ranch at Chugwater. In 1883, Patrick was telegraph operator at Rawhide Buttes. The next years he worked for Luke Voorhees on the LZ ranch and later homesteaded on Rawhide Creek. Survived by: Carrie E. (Mrs. Albert B. Bartlett) LeGrand, Edwin H., William Bryan, Helen L. (Mrs. Jos. Ross), Robert K., Arthur G., Hugh and Luke Voorhees Patrick.

FRED SULLIVAN – Driver. Born in
Wisconsin. Shot in arm by an arrow during Indian attack, 1876. In 1879 was fireman on the steamer “Black Hills” under Capt. Tim Burley from Yankton to Fort Benton. Worked in trader’s store at Fort Laramie, 1880. Buckboard driver on Black Hills line, 1884-86. Died in Lusk, September 28, 1941.

RUSSELL THORP, SR. -- Owner. Bought the Cheyenne & Black Hills stage line from Gilmer, Salisbury & Company, May 16, 1883. Born in New York State in 1846. Served as private in the union Army until his discharge at Clouds Mill, VA., in 1865. Then journeyed to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he accepted employment freighting potatoes with mule teams from that point to Salt Lake City, Utah. He continued freighting on the Overland trail for several years, and while thus engaged, located and filed on a seam of coal which outcropped near Casement’s construction camp called Bear River City, or “Beartown,” on the westward-building Union Pacific railroad. When the rails reached the camp, Thorp was “ready to do business.” The Union Pacific offered him $50,000 for the coal, but the young adventurer held out for $100,000, whereby the railroad changed its survey and went around the “seam,” and the coal owner’s vision of sudden wealth went with it. Thorp did, however, sell some coal to the railway at a good price, and, according to Brown’s “Gazetteer of the Union Pacific Railroad, 1869,: “The first engine was furnished with coal from the Thorp, Head & Street’s mine, December 3, 1868. Mr. Russell Thorp discovered these two veins of coal as early as the spring of 1868. Some years later, a short-lived coal camp called Spring Valley, operated the veins.

In Bear River City, Russell Thorp went in to store-keeping in partnership with J.K. Moore, who later pioneered at Fort Bridger and Fort Washakie. Shortly after setting up business, Thorp was one of the citizens who protected Beartown against the attacks of a mob of 300 lawless invaders from adjacent railway camps, who stormed the place to free some prisoners from the local calaboose. The mob burned the jail and Frontier Index’s newspaper plant. Thorp and his fellow citizens armed themselves and fired into the gang, killing 25 and wounding 50 or 60. Beartown was placed under martial law, soldiers were summoned from Fort Bridger nearby, and within 24 hours “tranquility” had been restored.

As the Union Pacific progressed to Evanston, Thorp moved there to engage in the livery business. Love of fine horse flesh was one of his outstanding characteristics. When the first Territorial Legislature of Wyoming divided Carter County into Uinta and Sweetwater counties and designated Merrill as the county seat of Uinta, Governor John D. Campbell appointed temporary officers. Although then only 24 years old, Russell Thorp was named as one of the first county commissioners of Uinta County. In 1873 he married Josephine C. Brooks, daughter of L.D. Brooks, one of the oldest settlers of Wisconsin. Miss Brooks, a pioneer teacher at Omaha, and the first gentile teacher at Corinne, Utah, had been teaching for two years at Evanston. She organized the first grade school there and at the time of her marriage was principal of the Evanston grade school. Two years later the family moved to the “Magic City of the Plains,” where a son, Russell Jr., was born. There, Mr. Thorpe engaged in the buying, selling and handling of livestock. In the spring of 1887, he was one of the most enthusiastic endorsers of a proposed Stock Association and Jockey Club, with a view to holding a Territorial fair. In 1882 he purchased the Atkins ranch at Rawhide Buttes and made his home there. He was known as one of the most efficient and best stagemen in the West. In addition to running the main through-line of the Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage Company from 1883 to 1887, Mr. Thorp managed a number of branch lines, including the so-called “Douglas Shortline,” which he established from Wendover to Douglas in 1888. He soon sold this to the Cheyenne and Northern Stage Company. A tri-weekly line which he operated from Wendover to Lusk ran by the way of Fairbanks and Hartville. His last stage route was between Merino, a terminus of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad and Sundance in northeastern Wyoming.

After selling his interests in stage lines and mines, Mr. Thorp turned his attention to cattle ranching. Super horseman though he was, he met his death in a runaway accident, a mile from Lusk, Wyoming, on September 8, 1898, at the age of 52 years.

RUSSELL THORP, JR. – Son of owner. Driver. Born in Cheyenne, but moved to Rawhide Buttes ranch when five years old. There he learned every phase of the business from making whips and repairing harness to shoeing a horse. When 14 years of age, young Thorp drove a four-horse hitch in an emergency on the Merino to Sundance run of his father’s stage line. He was taught the art of a reinsman by the best stage drivers on the Back Hills system. His first lessons in how to manipulate the lines were taught by George Lathrop, who drove six pegs into the ground and attached strings to them for”practice lines.”
Many an hour young Thorp listened to the drivers and station attendant tell of the days of road agent and outlaws. From the details of the Canyon Springs (Cold Springs) robbery and of the capture of Dunc Blackburn and Wall. It was no guesswork with this young Westerner that “Mother Featherlegs” had red hair because he and a playmate once did some scouting on Demmon Hill and dug into a pile of rocks to verify the story of the old woman. A wisp of red hair was sufficient proof!

As president of the Wyoming State Fair at Douglas, Wyoming in 1914, Russell Thorp enlisted the aid of Dr. B.F. Davis, Charlie Carey and others and brought together the old-time stage drivers and employees, as well as friends of the old Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage Company to reenact the Canyon Springs robbery of 1878. A replica of the old barn at the stage station was erected on the Fair grounds, and every detail of the robbery was carried out, in as far as was possible. A special set of harness was obtained; matched horses were used on the old Concord. A perfect team and yellow-wheeled buggy were obtained for Luke Voorhees. Old stagemen came from all over the West.

Russell Thorp also was active in assisting in the erection of the fine monument to George Lathrop, near Lusk, Wyo. For many years he was engaged in the cattle business neat Lusk and in Montana. Since 1930 he has been executive secretary and chief inspector of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. His search at old ranches, deserted stage stations and elsewhere for paraphernalia used by the old stage company has produced rich results. He now has perhaps the finest collection of Black Hulls stage material in existence, including records, reminiscences, scrapbooks, roughlocks, harness, telegraph instruments, hand –forged kingbolts, a treasure box from an old Concord coach, and innumerable fine photographs. He has kept alive the traditions of the old Cheyenne-to-Deadwood stage. He has only one son, Dietz, now an officer in the U.S. Army.

LUKE VOORHEES – Superintendent and part owner. Born, Belvidere, New Jersey, 1835. Came from Salt Lake City to Cheyenne, February 17, 1876, to organize the Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage and Express line. He moved with his parents to Michigan when he was two years old. His last schooling was at a small academy at Pontiac, Michigan. Started west in 1857, hunted buffalo on the plains of Kansas, then followed the Pike’s Peak gold rush in 1857, going to Clear Creek. Mined in Colorado until the spring of 1963, and then went to Alder Gulch, Montana, and on to Saskatchewan, British Columbia, where he discovered the Kootenai diggings. After a few months he returned to Virginia City, Montana, and from there followed the mining business in Utah and Nevada. Attended the driving of the last spike at Promontory, Utah, which connected the rails of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific, on May 10, 1869.
In 1871, Voorhees bought a herd of cattle in Texas and trailed them to a ranch in Utah. He married Florence Celia Jenks in Salt Lake City on April 16, 1874. About two years later he was engaged by Gilmer, Salisbury & Patrick as superintendant of the Cheyenne and Black Hills stage line and moved to Cheyenne. He continued in that position until1883, when he organized a large cattle company. In that year and the previous one he was grazing 12,000 head of cattle under the LZ brand, east of Lusk. After suffering heavy losses in the cattle business, Voorhees returned to the mining game for several years.

As territorial treasurer he was the first official to occupy the new Capitol in Cheyenne. Later he was elected receiver of public moneys and disbursing agent of the U.S. Land Office at Cheyenne. He died on January 16, 1925, at the age of 90. Voorhees was pioneer in every sense of the word. Quite typical of his own life, Luke Voorhees once said “A man likes to be the creator of circumstances, not altogether a creature of circumstances.”

The Daughters of the American Revolution at Lusk, Wyoming, named their chapter in his honor, the Luke Voorhees Chapter.

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