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
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.