Along the
Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage Trail

From Wyoming Tales and Trails

This Page: Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage Road, Lusk, Douglas, Calamity Jane

Visit these other Photo Collections*
Casper College*
Union Pacific* Big Piney, 1885-1920*

Home Big Horn Basin Black Hills Thermopolis Buffalo Cambria Casper-N. Platte Valley Centennial Cheyenne Chugwater Cody Encampment Evanston Deadwood Stage Douglas Dubois Ft. Bridger Ft. Fetterman Ft. Laramie Ghost Towns Tom Horn Jackson Kemmerer Lander Laramie Lusk Medicine Bow Photos II Photos IV Photos V Rawlins Rock Springs Rudafeha Mine Sheepherding Sheridan Sherman Shoshoni Superior USS Wyoming Yellowstone

*Linked, use browser back button to return

Deadwood Stage at Chugwater Station, 1884

The Above photo shows the Deadwood Stage, with George Lathrop driver, at the home ranch of the Swan Land and Cattle Co. Ltd., in Chugwater. The building to the right was the manager's house. The station burned in 1918. Presently, the Swan office building sits on its site.

Although not as significant as the Overland Stage, probably no stage line has attracted more attention than the Deadwood Stage, more properly, the Blackhills Stage and Express Line. The attack upon the Deadwood Stage was a centerpiece of Wm. F. Cody's Wild West Show, photo of Cody next to Deadwood Stage, left. The coach depicted was constructed by the Abbot-Downing Co., Concord, N.H. in 1863 and was shipped to the Pioneer Stage Co., San Francisco, around Cape Horn on the clipper ship General Grant. The coach was taken by Cody to Europe twice where it was billed as the "Most Famous Vehicle Extant." Among those given rides in the coach on its European tours was the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. The coach currently on an touring exhibit sponsored by a British museum is an original Deadwood Stage purchased by Col. Cody in 1911.

In the Summer of 1876 several attempts were made to reach Deadwood by stage from Cheyenne but turned back due to the danger of marauding Indians following their defeat of Custer at the Little Big Horn. On Sept. 25, however, Dave Dickey brought the first stage into Deadwood.

"After the Holdup"

The above photo was, pardon the expression, apparently staged, but does depict the Deadwood Stage. For another view of a Deadwood stage, see view of stage parked next to the Lusk Museum below. The stage line initially ran from Cheyenne via Horse Creek, Bear Springs, Chugwater, Chug Springs, Eagle's Nest, Fort Laramie, Rawhide Buttes, Hat Creek north of Lusk (pictured below left, Stage Barn near Lusk, below right), Cheyenne Crossing and on up to Deadwood through Custer City. The line used both smaller coaches drawn by four horses and giant 18-passenger coaches pulled by six horses. The drivers often in arriving at their final destination would make "a show of it", thundering into town with the red and yellow Gilman and Salisbury coaches "licky-cut", pulled by a matched team of six horses.

With the stages carrying gold, the danger from road agents was always present, indeed, to such an extent that the line used a ironclad coach named the "Monitor" for transporting gold. The Monitor, itself, was held up by road agents on September 26, 1878, near Canyon Springs Station. The guard, Gale Hill, was wounded and one passenger killed. The agents had little difficulty in breaking open the supposedly impregnable safe used for carrying the gold. Hill died several years later from complications from his wounds. An armored stage known as "Old Ironsides" was also used for a three-year period on the Deadwood-Sidney run and was robbed only once.

During one two-month period the Deadwood stage was held up four times by the Sam Bass Gang, consisting of Bass, Joel Collins, Tom Nixon, Bill Heffridge and Jim Berry. The first driver killed was Johnny Slaughter on March 25, 1877, driving a stage bearing eleven passengers and $15,000. The stage was delayed by spring snow and mud and a breakdown five miles north of Hill City. Two miles outside of Deadwood road agents led by Sam Bass attempted to rob the stage a fifth time. In the process Slaughter was killed, the horses bolted, running off toward town only to be stopped when the lead horses became entangled in the leads. Slaughter's body was returned by special coach to Cheyenne, where his hearse was drawn by six dappled grays matching the team he had driven in Deadwood.

The gang fled to Nebraska where they robbed the Union Pacific train at Big Spring of $60,000 in freshly minted double eagles from the San Fransisco Mint, $450.00 from the mail car safe and $1,300.00 from the passengers. Following the robbery Collins and Heffridge were killed by a sheriff's posse near Buffalo Station, with $25,000 being recovered. Berry was captured at Mexico, Missouri and Nixon disappeared carrying, according to Berry, $10,000, never to be seen again. Another alleged member of the Bass Gang, Frank K. Towle, was killed later the same year while attempting to rob the stage. One of the guards on the stage, Boone May, upon his return to Cheyenne discovered that there was a price upon Towle's head. May then returned to the scene of the attempted crime, found Towle's remains, cut off the head, and returned with his gory proof to Cheyenne in order to collect the reward. Unfortunately, word had already gotten out about Towle's demise and the reward had been cancelled. Thus, May's trip was for naught and all he had for his efforts was a rather unusual souvenir. It has been written of May, reputedly the "fastest gun in the Dakotas," that "his corpses were invariably those of undesireable citizens, never of the law abiding."

Sixteen months after the killing of Slaughter, Bass was ambushed at Round Rock, Texas, by Texas Rangers to whom Bass was betrayed by Jim Murphy, a member of his gang. A compatriot, Frank Jackson, escaped with an indeterminate amount of gold coin, which Bass had being carrying in his saddlebags. Two days later on his 27th birthday, July 27, 1878, Bass died from gunshot wounds received in the ambush, his last words, "The world is bobbing around."

Photo to right, L. to R. Bass, Collins and (possibly) Murphy

Others who traveled along the stage road included Martha "Calamity" Jane Cannary Burk, photo below, who achieved fame and, allegedly, her name as a result of her rescuing Capt. Egan from Indians at Goose Creek Camp (now Sheridan). Unfortunately, Calamity Jane, as a result of alcoholism was a continuous calamity. In 1874, she was working at a hog ranch five miles west of Ft. Laramie. She signed on for several military expeditions as a bullwacker but was fired when her gender was discovered. In 1876, she served several terms in the Cheyenne jail for disturbing the peace. She then drifted to Deadwood but, after James "Wild Bill" Butler Hickok's demise at the hand of Jack McCall, continued to drift. On one stage trip between Custer City and Rock Creek she was unable to pay her fare and her trunk was retained by the stage line. It was found to contain only clothes and a photograph of Hickok. Reportedly, the last place the trunk was seen was in the attic of the pump house at Ft. Steele.

She ultimately married Clinton Burk in El Paso by whom she had a daughter. In 1896, after returning to Deadwood, Burk departed town after embezzling money. Jane's daughter was taken from her and placed in a convent to be reared by the sisters.

In her "Autobiography", regarded today as primarily fiction, she claims to have driven the stage in after Slaughter's death. However, Wm. F. Cody, recollected that she told the same story with regard to a stage driven by one Jack McCall, allegedly wounded by Indians on the Deadwood to Wild Birch run. In 1901 Calamity Jane was found ill and drunk in a Negro parlor house in Horr, Mt. Two years later she died, delirious, in Terry, S.D with her last words being of her daughter.

Rawhide Ranch, Rawhide Buttes, 1908

The Rawhide Ranch was owned by Col. Charles F. Coffee whose home ranch was near Harrison, Nebraska. Coffee Siding, just across the Nebraska line near Van Tassell, was established by Col. Coffee. Cattle would be trailed to the siding from Niobrara and Goshen Counties in order to avoid higher freight rates for cattle shipped from Wyoming. At its peak as many as five train loads of cattle would be shipped daily from Coffee Siding. Today, Coffee Siding does not appear on many maps of Nebraska, although Van Tassell, one of the smaller municipalities in Wyoming, population either 8, 9, or 10 depending on who is doing the counting, remains on most maps of Wyoming.

The hog ranch at Ft. Laramie was not the only such establishment along the stage road. At Rawhide Buttes, south of present day Lusk, Mother "Featherlegs" Shephard kept a parlor where the lads could take their ease. She was called "Featherlegs" because her pantalettes gave her legs the appearance of chicken legs. In 1879 Mother Featherlegs was murdered for her money. In 1964 a 3,500 lb. granite monument was erected along the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage Road in her memory.

The Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage was not the only stage line that had problems with road agents and danger. In 1863, George Plumb, a young military officer had a harrowing journey on the Overland Stage. On July 7, 1863, he was a participant in an all day's engagement with the Ute Indians in South Pass, in which several soldiers were killed and several wounded. On his return to the fort he received orders to report to St. Louis. July 9, 1863, he took the stage. At Medicine Bow the Indians had destroyed the station and the driver refused to go on until Plumb agreed to ride shotgun. The station at Rock Creek was also destroyed and the stage was required to proceed on to the next station without a change of horses.

At "Cachlepowder" [Cache La Poudre] Plumb took the eastbound Denver stage [At Camp Collins, now Ft. Collins, a branch line from Denver met the Overland]. The stage had three passengers, one being David Moffat, a first cousin once removed of Webmaster's grandfather. At the Nebraska line, about two miles after Cottonwood Station, the coach was halted by road agents, but Moffat threw open the door on one side as did Plumb on the other. Both quickly climbed to the top while the driver whipped up his horses leaving the road agents in the dust. The rest of the journey was apparently uneventful.

The Blackhills route lasted only 11 years. Railroads reached much of the territory served by the line in 1886. Service was, thus, discontinued with the last coach, drawn by six horses and driven by George Lathrop accompanied by John Noonan, leaving Cheyenne from in front of the Inter-Ocean Hotel on Feb. 19, 1887. By that time ownership of the line had changed hands and was owned by Russell Thorp. The route had also changed, the Line's literature advertising service to Chugwater, Ft. Laramie, Lusk, Douglas, Buffalo and Deadwood

Deadwood Stage continued on next page.