First Piggyback Shipment Just a Century Ago

Mud Wagon Stage Coach

1881 Mud Wagon Stage Coach.

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Buhl, Idaho 83316

Lewis Downing, a young blacksmith in 1825, had a shop and was building carriages and wagons. He experimented with intricate chaises. These did not turn out as good as he expected, so he sent for an expert on supervise the building of three coaches. This expert was young Stephen Abbot, a journeyman coach builder from Salem, not far from Concord, New Hampshire. Concord was almost every large town in New England during that period. In 1829, there were 77 stagecoach lines from Boston alone. Against this kind of a background, Lewis Downing began manufacturing stage coaches and resulted in the manufacture of more than 3,000 stages with trademark Concord Coach.

Abbot and Downing entered into their original partnership Jan. 1828. At one time they had over 200 men in the plant and had 200 forges in operation. Horsepower ran the saws, upright hand saws were used and the broad axe, jack plane, and jointer were used. The material was of the best seasoned wood, white ash and white oak. These were secured long before needed and stored.

In June 1850, the first Concord coach was unloaded from a ship that had brought it around the Horn California, marking he beginning of the coaching era that was to last until the railroads took over around the turn of the present century. The overland express coaches were made for the Western stage lines. The peak of the business was reached in 1868 when an order came from Wells Fargo & Co. of Omaha, for 30 'elegant' coaches. The work order was started April 1867 and it took all but five days of a full year to complete the order. Wells Fargo & Co. head officials from San Francisco met the special train at Omaha, with teams of horses to drive the stages to California. Lined up on the fifteen flat cars were the thirty stages. At the rear of the specially chartered train were four box cars carring sixty-four sets of harnesses made to order by James R. Hill & Co. Also in the four box cars were spare parts such as bolts, hubs, spoke thorough braces, etc. The Whole valued at perhaps $45,000. The bodies were painted red and the running gear was painted yellow.

Two types of coaches were made, one the Concord coach. This coach had curved sides and two doors, also side curtains. The Mud Wagon stage had straight sides and used side curtains only and was known as the poor man's stage, as the original cost was less. Both running gears were the same. The best part of 14 sides of leather were used upon each coach in the boot thorough braces etc. They were designed for nine persons inside and eight or ten outside. The average weight of the stages is 2,250 lbs.

Abbot Downing s reputation was established throughout the world. As early as 1859 orders were received from a firm in Melbourne, Australia for two coaches. Ben Holliday ordered 20 Mud Wagon Coaches in 1864 and 12 more for the next year. In Texas, the El Paso Mail Lines had 23 stages.

I have an Abbot & Downing Mud Wagon stage that ran from Roderson, Idaho into Jarbidge, Nevada, until 1920. This stage carried passengers and U. S. Mail. In 1917, the driver was killed, the horses turned loose and between $3,100 and $7,000 were taken. The towns people, when the stage did not arrive, rode out and found the driver and stage. I now work four mules on the stage coach.