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March 05 , 2009

Butterfield's Byway

America's First Overland Mail Route Across the West


John Butterfield’s mail service connected the East and West Coasts in one of the great entrepreneurial and pioneering stories of the American West. Until 1858, California’s gold fields were reached only by horseback, wagon or ship around Cape Horn. Congress decided a 2,800-mile, twenty-five-day stagecoach line would roll from St. Louis to San Francisco. Former Utica, New York mayor Butterfield hired one thousand men and bought 1,200 horses, 600 mules and 250 wagons. Surveying the wilderness, he built roads and two hundred way stations, graded river fords and dug one hundred wells. Join author Melody Groves on a cross-country trip from Missouri to California, and all points in between, as she recounts the Butterfield Stage Line’s amazing odyssey.

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