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Stagecoaches

The June 6, 1879, issue of the Sidney Plaindealer told about the building and repair of stagecoaches used on the Sidney to Deadwood Trail. The Sidney repair shop was operated by William Richardson of the Black Hills Stage Company.

"The first vehicle our attention was directed to was a coach that has been thoroughly overhauled and is to be put on the road between Rapid City and Deadwood at an early day. 'Rapid City,' as the neat gilt name on the sides gives the observer to know, is one of the neatest stages Mr. Richardson has turned out of his shop since his location here. The 'Rapid City' was made from a coach formerly used on the Cheyenne route. . . . The coach has been substantially rebuilt, a large amount of woodwork having been done upon it, and has received a complete re-ironing on parts liable to great strain and friction. The running gear is painted a straw color striped with black, the top white, curtains drab, the boot black, and the bed proper light lake [a purplish red or carmine] with gilt ornaments and stripes. Rapid City people may well be proud of it."

The article went on to note that two other coaches, "Sidney" and "Deadwood," were under construction. Both were to resemble the "Rapid City" in design and decoration.

Several years later in 1881 George W. "Dad" Streeter applied for a stage-driving job with the Niobrara Transportation Company of Sidney. During the Depression workers of the Writers Program of the Work Projects Administration compiled reminiscences of early-day Nebraska residents, including those of Streeter.

Streeter was at first employed to drive bull and mule teams. He succeeded at these preliminary jobs and recalled: "I had only made one trip to Deadwood with the mule team when one of the stage drivers quit. That gave me the job I had been waiting for, which consisted of driving from four to eight horses hitched to a Concord coach. The size of the stage and the number of horses used depended on how many passengers were leaving Sidney, which was the starting point. Some of the rigs could carry twenty passengers and their baggage. Our average time was ten miles per hour, over all kinds of roads--there were no good roads. All the driver was required to do was to drive. The hitching and unhitching was done by flunkies, who were kept at the stage stations along the route for that purpose."

Streeter recalled his subsequent difficulties as a driver, including an incident in which his stagecoach descended a hill too fast and became stuck at the base of an incline. Both Streeter and a passenger were thrown off the top of the coach but escaped unhurt. Streeter got the coach underway again and even gained the next station without much loss of time, but the passenger later denounced him (to Streeter's disgust) as a poor driver.

(May 1999)

 

 

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