The Butterfield Overland Mail Route

As the US population expanded westward due to the gold rush and land grabs, the need for doctors and shipment of essential goods, rose significantly.  On March 3, 1857, a bill was passed in Congress to authorize the Postmaster General to select a contractor and to create a route to deliver mail and passengers to meet the expansion westward.  The contract was awarded to John Butterfield of Albany, NY for $600,000 ($18.7 million in 2019) semi-weekly service.  The Butterfield Overland Mail Route was a passenger and mail stage service that ran in the US from 1858 to 1861.  It was the first transcontinental delivery service with two starting terminal points; St Louis, MO and Memphis, TN, which joined in Ft Smith, AR to complete the trek to San Francisco, CA in 25 days; then return the journey back east.  Up to that point, mail delivery to what we now refer to as the “west coast” was done by steamer ships, twice a month.  There were almost 200 major and minor stage stops and mail collection locations along the route, from Tipton, Missouri to San Francisco, California.  The stage stops were ten minutes long, meal stops were longer, but just long enough to change horses, discharge and pick up the mail.(1)  The stage averaged 120 miles per day.

 

Passenger fare was $200 ($6,258 in 2019) for westbound, $100 ($3,129 in 2019) for eastbound and ten cents per mile for way fare ($3.13 in 2019), either direction.  There was a limitation on baggage of 40 pounds and carrying of large amounts of valuables, to prevent hold-up attempts.  The postal-rate was ten cents for letters marked “via overland” or “per overland”.(1) 

One of those stops was here, just on the outskirts of Ebenezer, known as Evans Station.  The location, today, which is on private property, is in a pasture, just about ¼ mile east of Highway 13, between State Hwy WW and O; northeast of where the old section of “old” Highway 13 or Farm Road 141 comes to a dead end.  The route from Tipton, Missouri to Ft. Smith, Arkansas ran on the Boonville Road. 

Evans Station was the home of Joseph and Elizabeth Evans.  The two story house, dressed walnut log building, with porches and red brick chimneys, was approximately thirty-seven feet six inches long by thirtyfeet six inches wide, with a

evans google and road.jpg

Google Map satellite image taken from Matt Brothers expedition.  Identifying location of where Evans Station is located though no buildings remain today.(4)

sixteen by sixteen foot addition attached on the northwest end of the house.(2) The house was situated on the west side of the Boonville Road, the stables on the east side, directly across the road from the home.

floor-plan_edited.jpg

Joseph Evans and his family moved to Greene County, Ebenezer in 1840.  He was a millwright and a farmer.  He built the first frame house, the first saw mill and grist mill in the county, and became a prosperous and influential citizen here.(3) Joseph also built the first building of the Southwest Missouri High School, later known as Ebenezer College, at Ebenezer for the Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1847.

 

Due to the impending divide of the Civil War, in March 1861, the Butterfield Overland Mail contract was amended and the route was transferred to the Union held Central Overland Trail.  This trail would be used to avoid travel through secessionist states and would include the Pony Express.  The coming of the US Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 eventually phased out the stagecoach runs. 

 

Sketch of Joseph & Elizabeth Evans home - Evans Station

from, "The Butterfield Overland Mail, 1857-1869," R.P. Conkling.

1Steele, Phillip W; Butterfield Run Through the Ozarks;published by the author; 1966.

2Conkling, Roscoe P. and Margaret B.; The Butterfield Overland Mail, 1857-1869 (3 vols); Glendale, CA: A.H. Clark Company, 1947.

3Fairbanks, Jonathan and Tuck, Clyde Edwin; Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri; Indianapolis, IN: A.W. Bowen Company, 1915; 1444.

4Matt, Don & Paul Matt: The Great Butterfield Stage Expedition; Internet Publication; http://butterfieldoverlandmail.blogspot.com(accessed Sep 10, 2019).

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