Near Garfield in Benton County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
The Butterﬁeld Overland Mail Route
In 1857, John Butterfield won a lucrative $600,000 contract that called for six years of semiweekly mail service to deliver the mail from St. Louis to San Francisco in 25 days. As soon as the contract was signed, 56 year old John Butterfield set out to complete a rapid survey of the route, taking a staff of helpers from four other express companies. He divided the route into 200 way stations and relay posts.
During the year of preparation, Butterfield drove his men relentlessly, and spent more than a million dollars to get the mail route into operation. In September of 1858, they had the items listed at right ready to go.
The Overland Stage Company continued to make two trips a week for 2 ½ years. Each Monday and Thursday morning the stagecoach would leave Tipton and San Francisco on their transcontinental journey, conveying passengers, freight and up to 12,000 letters. The western fare one-way was $200 gold (equivalent to about $3,000 today), with most stages arriving at their final destination 22 days later.
The nation’s first trans-continental mail line passes through a future Civil War battlefield
The first run of the Butterfield Overland Mail departed St. Louis, Missouri on September 16, 1858. The stage entered Arkansas sometime after midnight on Saturday September 18, 1858 a few hours later it passed the Elkhorn Tavern on its way to the first official stop at Callahan’s Station about 8 miles from here and then on to Fayetteville, Arkansas which was reached at 11:00 a.m.. Although the Elkhorn Tavern was never an official Butterfield Station it is probable that brief stops were made to rest and water the horses. Twenty-three days and some 2,800 miles later, the stage and mail would arrive in San Francisco, California.
This first west-bound mail stage also carried a distinguished passenger list including: Mr. And Mrs. John Butterfield, Judge and Mrs. John Wheeler and their two children from Ft. Smith, T.R. Corbin of Washington, D.C., and Waterman Lily Ormsby, a correspondent for the New York Herald Newspaper.
Ormsby said of the trip to Fayetteville, “We kept traveling all day and night ... our way during Friday afternoon and evening being through extremely dusty,
After leaving Fayetteville, he wrote, “Even among these hills you do not lose site (sic) of the prairie nature of the West; for just after leaving Fayetteville, you see a fine plain, surrounded by Hills -- in fact, a prairie in the mountains. After a rather rough ride of 14 miles, which we accomplished with our excellent team of four mules to cross the much dreaded Ozark range, including the Boston Mountain. I had thought before we reached this point that the rough roads of Missouri and Arkansas could not be equaled; but here Arkansas fairly beats itself.”
The Civil War brought a sudden end to the Butterfield Overland Mail. Despite its short life, the Butterfield Overland Mail was the first successful attempt to bridge the nation sea to sea.
A correspondent’s first journey through Arkansas
Waterman Ormsby, a correspondent for the New York Herald, recalled the first journey through Arkansas: “We kept traveling all day and night. The route leads over those steep and rugged hills which surround the Ozark range in this section of Arkansas.
Fayetteville was a major stop. The route from Fayetteville through the rugged Boston Mountains to Ft. Smith required that the horses be exchanged for mules, animals that could better make the arduous trip.
The trip must have been brutal traveling day and night and more than 100 miles a day. Ormsby remarked after his trip west, “Had I not just come out over the route, I would be perfectly willing to go back, but now I know what Hell is like. I’ve just had 24 days of it.”
Erected by Heritage Trail Partners and Pea Ridge National Military Park Foundation.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Butterfield Overland Mail marker series.
Location. 36° 27.236′ N, 94° 0.912′ W. Marker is near Garfield, Arkansas, in Benton County. Marker can be reached from Military Park Road (County Road 65). Touch for map. Marker
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Elkhorn Tavern Taken (a few steps from this marker); Vulnerable in Victory (within shouting distance of this marker); Disastrous Retreat (within shouting distance of this marker); Lifeline for Two Armies (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Pea Ridge and the Trail of Tears (about 400 feet away); Remembrance and Reunion (about 500 feet away); Reunited Soldiery Monument (about 600 feet away); Pea Ridge (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Garfield.
Also see . . .
1. Butterfield Overland Mail - Wikipedia entry. (Submitted on June 18, 2015.)
2. Butterfield Overland Express (in Arkansas). From the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. (Submitted on June 18, 2015.)
Categories. • Communications • Roads & Vehicles •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 18, 2015, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas. This page has been viewed 400 times since then and 105 times this year. This page was the Marker of the Week September 13, 2015. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on June 18, 2015, by Duane Hall of Abilene, Texas.