Today, the California and Missouri State Quarter Coins remember when the first daily overland mail coaches arrived at their destinations on July 18, 1861 in less time than expected.
From The Overland Stage to California, Personal Reminiscences and Authentic History of the Great Overland Stage Line and Pony Express from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean by Frank A. Root and William Elsey Connelley, published in 1901:
The first through daily stages on the central route left St. Joseph and Placerville simultaneously on July 1, 1861.
Both coaches reached their destination on the 18th, the time occupied in making the trip being a few hours over seventeen days, whereas, the schedule was twenty-five days by the southern route.
Notwithstanding the initial trip was attended with a number of perplexing and what at first seemed almost insurmountable difficulties, the announcement of the safe arrival of the first overland daily mail in six days less time than over the original Butterfield route proved that the gigantic enterprise — pronounced an impossibility by the preceding national administration — was a complete success.
Soon after the completion of the Hannibal & St. Joseph rail road, St. Joseph became an important shipping point. When the Government decided to make it the starting- point for the daily overland mail, long wagon trains were at once put on the great thoroughfare, and transported supplies across the plains to the various stage stations on the frontier.
It required a train of twenty-five or thirty wagons to haul the provisions, forage and necessary supplies for each division of the line, as it took a large quantity of these to feed the vast army of employees, many hundred head of stock, with blacksmiths, harness-makers, carpenters, and wagon-makers.
It was necessary to have at each station extra teams for use in case of loss from raids or other losses incident to the perils of more than a thousand miles of wilderness.
The first through passenger on a Concord stage-coach from California to St. Joseph by the central route was Maj. J. W. Simonton, one of the editors of the San Francisco Bulletin. He came on the first coach.
As Gen. Bela M. Hughes aptly said at the time, it “solved the problem of overland transportation,” and was “the avant courier of the great railroad line.”
At each end of the line the event was celebrated with much pomp, it being regarded as an undertaking of vast importance, not only to the east and west ends, but also an enterprise of considerable magnitude to the entire country.
From the Nevada Democrat newspaper of July 18 and 25th, 1861:
Placerville, July 18. 2 pm
The first overland mail arrived here this morning at half past 5 o’clock, and was received by a large turnout of citizens, who were aroused at 4 o’clock by the firing of cannon and ringing of bells.
The procession consisted of three fire companies and one hook and ladder company in uniform, stages and carriages filled with ladies and gentlemen, and citizens on foot.
The state was met at the upper end of town, and escorted to the post office, where the procession opened and the stage passed through and delivered the mail.
The procession then moved on to the Cary House where three hearty cheers and a tiger were given for the first Daily Overland Mail, when the crowd dispersed.
The second mail left Carson City for this place at half past 8 o’clock this morning.
The passenger fare by the coaches of the overland mail company, which was first fixed at $200, from Sacramento to St. Joseph, has been reduced to $155 and $150 from Placerville.
The mail which arrived on Tuesday last, brought over 10,000 letters.
The mail company are allowed thirty-five days for carrying papers, but the Union says a separate bag for exchanges will be made up daily in New York City, and opened again at St. Louis for Western exchanges, for the California papers.
It is also the intension of Wells, Fargo & Company to send an express bag of the latest exchanges, and when the line gets fairly in operation, the California journals will receive daily exchanges from the principal Eastern cities.
The California and Missouri State Quarter Coins show with an artist’s image of the first daily overland mail coach of 1861.