The Stagecoach Comes to California

003stagecoach sketch 003 The California Gold Rush revived the stagecoach industry, which was waning in New England by the end of the 1840s due to a regularly scheduled, sophisticated system of steamboat transport and the spread of east coast railroads. California only had two navigable rivers, and its first railroad wasn’t completed until 1856. The stagecoach was the obvious answer for transportation and communication between burgeoning cities and the far-flung mining camps from the start of the gold-fevered “rush” into gold-producing districts. James Birch established the first stagecoach lines in California in July 1849, from his headquarters at the Sacramento riverfront.  In late 1853 Birch convinced 80% of the independent operators to consolidate as the California Stage Company, which became the largest, most successful staging concern in the world during the mid-19th century and made Sacramento the staging capital of the nation. By December 1860 the California Stage Company had 8 stage lines departing daily from Sacramento that spanned 1,100 miles leading north and east. Agents for the company purchased 545 tons of barley and 467 tons of hay in the year 1859-1860 alone to supply their lines. Read more about the California Stage Company in The Stagecoach in Northern California: Rough Rides, Gold Camps, and Daring Drivers.

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5 thoughts on “The Stagecoach Comes to California”

  1. One of my ancestors drove stage for Wells Fargo and another ancestor was a partner in the Wells Fargo building in Sierra City, Sierra, Co., CA. Charles Heintzen was the ancestor who drove the stage, sometimes hiding the gold from the North Yuba River mines in butter churns on their way to San Francisco, via Marysville. August Busch partnered w/ Mr. Herringlake in establishing the Wells Fargo building in Sierra City. Their children married, producing my great-grandmother, Jeannette Heintzen Busch; later Carey, later Lawrence.

    chris carey-flores

    1. Hi Chris–how exciting for you to have such fascinating ancestors! If you have more information about Charles Heintzen I’d love to write a post about him. Use the “get in touch” button on my site.

  2. I just read about your new book in the Sac Bee and have already ordered it from Amazon. I’ve been looking for information about this subject and can’t wait to read it!
    I think a book on the story of building all of the gold rush towns of northern California. For example: I’ve read about the town of Shasta, near Redding, and how every single brick, board, and nail had to be shipped all the way from Sacramento. I believe this was true for every gold rush town in the north state. Either by boat, wagon, or pack mule everything needed for life was transported at great expense and effort.

    1. Hi Al, thanks for writing. I hope you enjoy reading about the stagecoach as much as I enjoyed researching & writing its history. You’re right–many early gold rush towns were built with materials transported over great distances.

  3. I like how much stagecoaches were able to be used back then to transport a lot of stuff such as gold and other necessities as you’ve mentioned. Having a stagecoach in this day and age would be an awesome reminder of the past and a good way to teach the kids about history. I would try to look for an authentic stagecoach that I could purchase to have it displayed in our living room area. It would definitely suit our old ranch looking theme. Thanks for the idea and history of stagecoaches!

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