Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Stagecoaching in the Northern Valley

A Mud-Wagon


Between steamboats and the railroad, was the stagecoach...

"The Minnesota Stage Company had learned in the past what railroads meant for them..." - Opening of the Red River Valley of the North to Commerce and Civilization by Captain Russell Blakeley (Minnesota Historical Society, Published 1898)
Excerpts from Old Georgetown, Fort Abercrombie, and Stagecoaching:

"The snow-covered timber, how beautiful it appeared in the bright moonlight, with now and then a tall oak , snowcapped, standing sentrylike, to tell us about the past and point out the future of this lovely and fast becoming populated valley of the Red River of the North."

These words were written in November of 1871 by a passenger of the stagecoach line along the Red River between Pembina and Moorhead as he observed the passing scene, crouched under blankets during a night ride with five other passengers, the mercury at 30 below. The writer was George I. Foster, a new arrival from Yankton, Dakota Territory, who had come to the valley to be clerk and commissioner of the United States Court, first at Pembina, then later at Fargo...

Foster's letter reflected the fact that the early settlers were aware of the beauty of the Red River county in the cold months and that the winter wonderland appearance of the countryside was worth writing about. His letter was devoted mostly, however, to a denunciation of the state line. It throws a revealing light on the difficulties of winter travel in the valley during frontier times. The owners of the stage line, the Minnesota Stage Company, at that time were Capt. Russell Blakeley, formerly a Mississippi River steamboat man, and Cephas W. Carpenter, a long-time former onfidential clerk of the preceding parent stage line. They had extended the service to Winnipeg in September 1871.
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Trivia re Captain Blakeley...

From A Soldier's Reminiscences in Peace and War By Richard W. Johnson:

Captain Blakeley occupies himself with the affairs of various stage-lines, which penetrate every portion of the West not reached by rail or boat.