Last updated: July 5, 2017
The Lusk Herald
June 2, 1927
Formal presentation made by Russell Thorpe, Son of Pioneer
The last of the old Cheyenne-Deadwood stage coaches which played so important a part in the opening up of the West, took its last trip here on Memorial Day, when it was formally presented to the Lusk Lions club by Russell Thorp, Sr., owner and operator of the old stage line, and will be placed in some conspicuous place in this city, a silent reminder of other days, and as a tribute to the pioneers who blazed the trail of civilization westward.
The old stage coach, which is in excellent state of preservation, and could easily make many more hazardous trips from Cheyenne to Deadwood and the Black Hills gold fields, as it did in the early seventies, took its last trip through the streets of Lusk amid the plaudits of hundreds who gathered here for the event, and to the click of the movie camera, which reeled off several hundred feet of film so that its fast trip might be seen in a realistic manner by the future generations.
Prominent among the visitors who came to Lusk to witness the old stage coach on its last whirl were many who had been intimately associated with the stage line in the early days, and who could tell many experiences of the battles with "road agents" and Indians while hauling gold bullion and passengers between the terminus of the Union Pacific at Cheyenne and the gold fields around Deadwood.
John Hunton of Torrington, Wyo., 88 years old, was the most picturesque of the old survivors, and he climbed atop the old coach without assistance, and with an agility that would have done credit to a man half his years. Mr. Hunton is an old Confederate veteran, the sole survivor of a company of 56 men in the Army of Northern Virginia, who took part in the famous "Pickett's charge" at the battle of Gettysburg. He was also acquainted with Buffalo Bill, famous scout and plainsman when he was a pony express rider and Indian scout under Col. Cooke of the Fifth U. S. Cavalry. Mr. Hunton came West before the Union Pacific was built, and drove a mule team from the Missouri River to old Fort Laramie. Altho nearing his ninetieth year, Mr. Hunton is keen mentally and his mind is a veritable storehouse of facts and figures. One of the stories he delights in telling is the time Buffalo Bill killed the Indian Yellow Hand, in a conflict on the plains to the east of where Lusk now stands.
Harry P. Hynds of Cheyenne, owner of the Plains Hotel, and Wyoming oil operator, was the blacksmith and repair man for the stage line, and a close friend of Luke Voorhees and Russell Thorp, Sr., and he took his seat atop the old coach for his last ride on the old vehicle. Mr. Hynds inspected the coach for the final trip and pronounced it "fit for any trip."
Tom Black of Willow Creek, Wyo., who was a stock tender and station master for the stage line, took a seat on the coach beside Miss Helen Cook, daughter of Ed Cook, now dead, who was the best-known of the old stage drivers until his death last year.
In the absence of Fred Sullivan, the only surviving stage driver on the Cheyenne-Deadwood line, who was to have handled the ribbons, but who was too sick to be present, Mr. Thorpe showed the result of his early training and cut a few figure 8's around the streets in expert fashion, bringing his four-horse outfit up in front of the Snyder Mercantile Co. for the ceremonies.
The stage coach was presented to the Lusk Lions Club on the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the stage line and the completion of the telegraph line from Cheyenne to the Black Hills. The stage line was established under the supervision of the late Lusk Voorhees, formerly of Lusk, for Gilmer & Saulsbury, who had a contract with the United States government for carrying the mails from Cheyenne, the terminus of the Union Pacific, to Deadwood, during the gold excitement of the seventies.
This coach is the sole survivor of several four- and six-horse coaches which were placed in the service at that time. The only other coach which saw service on the Cheyenne-Deadwood line is now preserved in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Another coach, made with a steel body so as to protect the passengers and treasure box, which was bolted to the floor, from the road agents and Indians, was loaned to Buffalo Bill when he established his first Wild West Show, and its whereabouts is now unknown, if it is still in existence. It was a 16-passenger coach and bore the marks of many a battle with the road agents.
In the early days of the stage line one coach left Cheyenne every morning for Deadwood, and a treasure coach, carrying valuables and gold bullion, made a trip once a week. It was on these treasure coaches that the road agents preyed, and was a source of much loss to the stage companies which had to guarantee safe delivery. The treasure coaches were always armed with four guards known as "shotgun men," and only one of these men is known to be alive today.
The coach which will be preserved by the Lusk Lions Club was built by Abbott & Downing at Concord, N. H., in 1860. It was first used on a stage line to the gold fields of Nevada, and later brought to Wyoming when the Cheyenne-Deadwood line was established.
Besides those present, there are only five known survivors who were active in the operation of the Cheyenne-Deadwood stage line: Capt. James H. Cooke, author guide, Indian scout and hunter, of Agate, Neb; Pete Kinney of Newcastle, Wyo.; Jess Brown, a guard on the treasure coach; Fred Sullivan, sole surviving stage driver, who was too sick to be present at the celebration; Calvin H. Morse, manager of the Cosmopolitan Hotel of Cheyenne, Wyo.
The presentation to the Lions Club was made by Mr. Russell Thorp, in an appropriate speech which held the strict attention of the crowds on the street in front of the Snyder Mercantile Co. store at 10 o'clock Monday morning, and the entire scene was filmed by Bert Bell, Pathe News cameraman throughout the country served by the Pathe News reel.
R. J. Olinger and D. E. Goddard were selected as a committee from the Lions Club to have charge of the coach and a committee composed of H. E. Read, W. C. Smith and Mr. Olinger had charge of the arrangements for the film scene.
In presenting the old coach to the club Mr. Thorp said:
"Mr Goddard, Members of that Splendid Organization, the Lions club, Citizens of Lusk and Niobrara County:
"This is the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Cheyenne-Black Hills stage and express line, and the construction of the telegraph line from Cheyenne to Deadwood. It is established under the supervision of Luke Voorhees for contract with the United States government for carrying the mails to the Black Hills. There was placed in service four and six-horse coaches, which required a tremendous amount of equipment, as there was a stage which left Cheyenne and Deadwood every morning, with a treasure coach leaving Deadwood once a week. The stations were established 14 to 16 miles apart, and the distance from Cheyenne to Deadwood was a little over 300 miles. The coaches traveled night and day, requiring three days and three nights to make the trip. Every horse had his harness, and the changes were made at the station in usually three minutes' time. In those days it was considered remarkably fast time to travel a little better than 100 miles in 24 hours. Mr. Hynds drove from Cheyenne to Lusk this morning, a distance of 142 miles in 3 hours and 50 minutes. this gives you a good idea of what was considered remarkable time in those days compared to now.
"The popular conception of a stage coach is that it is a vehicle that appears in a very run-down and dilapidated "shot-up" condition. This is quite contrary to the rule for the days of the stage coach. all the horses, harness, stages and equipment were kept in splendid condition at all times. String mule teams were required to haul supplies and grain to the different stations to feed the great number of horses all the way from Cheyenne to Deadwood.
"This particular stage coach was built by Abbott & Downing, at Concord, N.H., in the sixties. It was first used on a stage line in Nevada, and brought to this line, together with other coaches when it was established to the Black Hills. You will note that there are no springs, but that the body is hung on leather rockers, or what is known as "thorough braces." The material and the leather in the coach are the same as when it was built except a few minor details. There are none of these coaches in existence today that were used on the Black Hills stage line except one in the Smithsonian Institute at Washington, and this coach.
"On this Memorial Day I wish to take occasion to pay a tribute to those pioneers who have left us - Mr. Luke Voorhees, who established this stage line; R. Scott Davis, captain of the guard on the treasure coaches; George Lathrop, Tom Cooper, Tom Duffy, George Drake, and others. When Mr. Olinger invited me to be present at this ceremony, I raked my brain to think of those men who are living today that were employed by and closely associated with the stage line. I find there are too few of them. Years ago one of our own friends and citizens came from the East as a boy, and his first employment was on this stage line, first as a stock tender, and afterwards as a driver. He, together with those mentioned, has passed on to their Great Reward. We have with us, however, his daughter, and I wish to present to you Miss Helen Cook, daughter of Ed. A. Cook.
"I regret that those others are not with us - Capt. James H. Cook, author, guide, scout and hunter, now of Agate, Neb.; Pete Kinney of Newcastle, Wyo.; Jesse Brown, one of the guards on the treasure coach; Fred Sullivan, sole surviving driver, and Calvin H. Morse, manager of the Cosmopolitan Hotel of Denver, Colo.
"We have with us a man who was in the active employment of the stage company, and my life-long friend, Mr. Tom Black of Willow.
"And I also want you to know the man who was the blacksmith - the man who shod the horses on this line - whose first employment was with the stage company, one of the most popular and best-known men of the entire West, Mr. Harry P. Hynds of Cheyenne.
"One of the greatest privileges and honors that has come to me is to introduce a man who came to Wyoming years before the stage line was established, when little or nothing was known of the Black Hills. He came to Wyoming before the Union Pacific Railway. He drove a mule team from the Missouri River to Fort Laramie in the early sixties. I wish to present to you the dean of pioneers, Mr. John Hunton of Torrington.
"Mr. Goddard and the Lions Club, it affords me great pleasure in presenting this stage coach to the town of Lusk, not as a relic, or curiosity, or something of mere historical value, but I present this stage coach to you as a tribute to the memory of those men, as Mr. Harry P. Hynds, Mr. Tom Black, Mr. John Hunton, Ed Cook and all those men who have passed to their great reward, who blazed the trail, fought the Indians, subdued the outlaws and road agents, and made it possible to establish and maintain communication with the outer world, and have made it possible for you and I and all of us to establish our homes that we may live in this wonderful country in peace and happiness forever.
D. E. Goddard, who is one of the few old-timers in Lusk who had actually been a passenger on the coach, accepted the tribute from Mr. Thorp for the Lions Club in the following appropriate speech:
"Mr. Russell Thorp, Our visitors, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Members of the Lions Club:
"I feel that I have been highly honored on this auspicious occasion to have been selected by my fellow members of the Lusk Lions club to make acceptance of this wonderful old stage coach, which was a familiar object to a few of us about forty years ago.
"I believe I am correct in making the statement that there are only two of these relics of by-gone days that are in perfect condition, one being in the Smithsonian Institute, and the other here.
"The history of this vehicle, which has been so ably outlined by Mr. Thorp was a matter of great interest, and is historical. It shows how our age is progressing, when you consider the reference made to the trip of Mr. Hynds from Cheyenne this morning in a comparatively short time, as against the many weary hours it took for him to make the trip in his coach years ago.
"We are truly progressing, and the old West is passing.
"On behalf of the Lusk Lions Club and the citizens of Lusk and Niobrara County, I thank you for this magnificent gift, and assure you it will be properly taken care of, and in my opinion a fitting place for this 'relic of of by-gone days' to be kept would be no other place than in the Courthouse of Niobrara County. I thank you."
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