Idaho History Aug 26, 2018

Mount Idaho, Idaho County, Idaho

(Part 3) Transportation

Lewiston Mount Idaho Wagon Road

The Lewiston-Mountain House [Mount Idaho] Wagon Road began in Lewiston, Idaho and ended at Mount Idaho, some 75 miles later. The route climbed out of the Snake River Canyon, crossed through the Craig Mountain area and ended at the eastern edge of the Camas Prairie. It was used by miners, trappers, gamblers, outlaws, girls of the night, immigrants, farmers, merchants, the Chinese, and the U. S. Army. The road was a major route into Idaho County from the spring of 1862 to June of 1924.

The Lewiston-Mountain House Road from Mount Idaho to Cottonwood has been obliterated by farming. Most evidence of the road has succumbed to the plow. However, some evidence might be found where the road crossed Shebang Creek.

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This picture taken northwest of Cottonwood on the Lewiston-Mountain House [Mount Idaho] Road Courtesy of the Idaho County Genealogy Society

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Stage coach leaving Grangeville, Courtesy of Idaho State Historical Society (copyrighted)

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Mr. Jackson with coach in front of Jersey Hotel, Grangeville, Idaho. Courtesy of Idaho State Historical Society (copyrighted)

source: Lewiston-Mountain House Wagon Road, The Mapping And Location Of The Road And Associated Sites In Idaho County, For the Idaho County Historic Preservation Commission, & Idaho State Historical Society, Assessment prepared by James G. Huntley, Winter of 2013-2014
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North Idaho Stage Lines Lewiston-Grangeville-Mount Idaho

Mining excitements at Florence, Elk city and other interior locations bordering the Salmon River created a need for adequate transportation routes. Lewiston became the supply headquarters for the new mines and Mount Idaho the dispersal point. Suitable wagon and stage roads soon developed between those two points, but beyond Mount Idaho pack trains remained the standard for supplying the mines until the emergence of wagon roads in the 1890’s. Following the Nez Perce War in 1877, Camas Prairie rapidly developed as an important agricultural and stock area and Grangeville became the leading town, eventually surpassing Mount Idaho as the dispersal point for the interior mining camps.

In the summer of 1862, Francis and Company initiated a stage line between Lewiston and Mount Idaho. Way stations emerged at Sweetwater (run by James Donnelly), Mason Prairie (C. W. Durkee and George Crampton), Cottonwood (Mr. Allen), and Mount Idaho (Mose Milner and his partner Francois).
(Idaho County Free Press, July 27, 1888, p. 4, c. 1-2, hereafter cited as ICFP)

The following May C. W. Durkee and George Crampton began a semi-weekly stage line to Mount Idaho. They ran the line with Concord coaches and carried Wells, Fargo & Co.’s express. The fare was $15 and their stage office was located in the Luna House.
(The Golden Age [Lewiston], August 8, 1863, p. 3, c. 6)

In the fall of 1863, George Crampton sold his share in the line and returned to Boston. Durkee also sold his share and traveled to Burnt River in Oregon, where he started the popular station known as Express Ranch. Frank Shissler succeeded the pair and continued to run the Camas Prairie line.
(History of North Idaho, p. 389.)

The success of a stage line depended upon the owner receiving the government mail contract, which was periodically placed open for bids. If a stage owner failed to receive the bid, he was usually obliged to sell his outfit to the successful bidder. Often individuals not familiar with the terrain and weather conditions would receive the bid, but soon let the contract lapse after realizing the folly of a low bid. Sometimes, though, the successful bidder would sublet the contract to the current owner and still be able to realize a small profit.

The Walla Walla, Washington, paper in March of 1864 noted, “New Mail Contract.–The former contractor having failed to fulfill his contract, the Department of Washington has made a new contract with Capt. John Mullan to carry mails from here to Lewiston, Oro Fino, Florence, Colville and Helgate. New contract will be effective in April.”
(Washington Statesman, March 26, 1864, p. 3, c. 1)

Between 1859 and 1862, Mullan had been in charge of the construction of a military road between Fort Benton, Montana, and Walla Walla, Washington, which became known as the Mullan Road. He would later attempt to start a stage between Boise and the South Boise mines and one from Silver City to California. In the spring of 1870, the Lewiston and Warrens mail contract was let to Samuel Phinney for $2,575 a year.
(Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, April 12, 1870, p. 2, c. 3)

By 1874 Ezra Baird and his two brothers, Lewis and William, were running an express line between Lewiston and Warrens. They operated stages to Mount Idaho and provided saddle horses for the remainder of the journey.
(The Northern [Lewiston], September 12, 1874, p. 1, c. 3)

… In 1878 L. Dunwell and D. Merrill received the mail contract and purchased the stage and stock of the Baird brothers.
(Lewiston Teller, June 28, 1878, p. 3, c. 1)

The new company placed the following advertisement in the Teller: Dunwell & Morrill, proprietors of the Lewiston and Mount Idaho Stage line, transacting business with Wells, Fargo & Co.’s Express. Also carrying the U.S. Mail from Lewiston to the above named places, and intermediate points. Always supplied with the best of horses, coaches and “accommodating drivers,” never failing to go through on time. Transportation of passengers, treasure, collections, orders &c made a specialty, and any and all business entrusted to them will be attended to promptly. Tri-weekly trips to and from Lewiston, I. T. and Mount Idaho, I. T. Leave Lewiston 4 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday. Leave Mount Idaho at 5 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday & Friday of each week, make weekly connections with the expressmen from the upper mining camps.
(July 5, 1878, p. 2, c. 5)

Winter travel was often hazardous for stage drivers, and in January 1879 the upward-bound stage became lost in a snowstorm between Cottonwood and Grangeville. The driver wandered around all night on the prairie and did not arrive at Mount Idaho until after dawn. The newspaper article describing this ordeal noted: “Who would not be a stage driver at $50 per month.”
(Ibid., January 17, 1879, p. 3, c. 2)

In August 1879 the Teller mentioned the possibility of a new route to Grangeville from Lewiston. “We learn that it is contemplated soon to have opened a new route to Camas Prairie via Waha Lake and along the mountains south of the traveled road just this side of Cottonwood.”
(August 15, 1879, p. 3, c. 1)

In January 1880 the Utah, Idaho and Oregon Stage Company received the mail contract and John Hailey, superintendent of the line, arrived in Lewiston to make the necessary arrangements. The company hired Ezra Baird to carry the mail at $20 per day on a temporary basis. Baird set out and stocked the road in order that the mail could be carried through in one day on a daily schedule.
(Ibid., January 30, 1880, p. 3, c. 1)

After Dunwell & Co. lost the contract to Hailey’s company, residents of Camas Prairie passed a resolution praising the fine stage and mail service provided them by Dunwell and asked the sheriff to find him a good job.
(Ibid., February 6, 1880, p. 4, c. 1-2)

In the spring of 1881 a Chinese was running a four-horse team and presumably would also haul passengers for a price.
(Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman, April 23, 1881, p. 3, c. 1)

By April 1881, the Lewiston and Mount Idaho line was owned and operated by the Baird Brothers. They made daily trips, Sunday excepted, and left Lewiston at 3 a.m. and Mount Idaho at 5 a.m., arriving at both places by 6 p.m. They maintained an office in Lewiston at the Raymond House.
(Nez Perce News [Lewiston] April 28, 1881, p. 1, c. 3)

On May 16, 1881, Loyal P. Brown, a prominent Mount Idaho businessman, purchased the stage line from the Baird brothers and kept the line on the same schedule as that of the previous owners. Brown maintained an office at the Hotel de France in Lewiston.
(Ibid., May 19, 1881, p. 2, c. 2; May 26, 1881, p. 3, c. 2)

Baird kept his hand in the stage business and commissioned L. Wiggins and a Mr. Wishard to construct some new coaches.
(Lewiston Teller, June 30, 1881, p. 3, c. 2)

In the spring of 1882, a Mr. Campherson of San Francisco received the mail contract between Lewiston and Mount Idaho for $2,780. Apparently, he never became actively involved with the route, as in August Postmaster Hunt, of Lewiston, received a telegram from Washington authorizing temporary service on the daily route at the rate of $5,000 per year or $16 for each round trip. Ezra Baird again returned to the line and started on the road to perform the service while the roads were still in good condition.
(Ibid., March 16, 1882, p. 3, c. 1; August 10, 1882, p. 3, c. 1)

In August 1884, G. D. Smith was operating the line and ran the following ad in the Teller: “Lewiston to Mt. Idaho Stage Line. Transacting business with Wells, Fargo & Co.’s Express. Also carrying the U.S. Mail from Lewiston to the above named place, and intermediate points. Always supplied with the best of horses, coaches and accommodating drivers. Never failing to go through on time. Transportation of passengers, treasure, collections, orders &c. Daily trips (Sunday excepted), to and from Lewiston and Mount Idaho, I. T. Leaves Lewiston at 3 a.m. and leaves Mount Idaho 5 a.m. Agents – Lewiston, E. J. Bonore, post office bldg.; H. Titman, Grangeville; L. P. Brown, Mt. Idaho.”
(August 14, 1884, p. 1, c. 4)

In February 1886, L. P. Brown was back at the helm of the line and the Nez Perce News complimented Brown on the efficiency of his operation.
(February 4, 1886, p. 5, c. 1)

The Free Press on August 6, 1886, p. 1, c. 3, remarked: “The Hon. L. P. Brown is determined that the efficiency of his stage line not be allowed to retrograde. Several fine hacks have been placed on the route lately, the stock is in excellent condition, and is cleverly handled by those efficient and gentlemanly drivers, George Anderson and Steve Fenn. We learn the former has been steadily ‘throwing the braid’ for the last eighteen months.”

In the summer of 1886, Brown traveled along the new Lake Waha road to ascertain the feasibility of transferring his stage to that route. “He says it can easily be made a good road and will do much to stimulate settlement on that part of the mountain. The Nez Perce county commissioners have already appropriated $200 to be used on their side just as soon as viewers from both counties can meet on the county line and arrange a point of departure each way.”
(Ibid., August 27, 1886, p. 1, c. 3)

In October 1887, Brown applied to the Interior Department for permission to establish a stage station on the Nez Perce Indian reservation at Willow Creek. The erection of this station was to insure that the mail would not be stopped by a build-up of snow on the mountain, as had happened in the past.
(Ibid., October 21, 1887, p. 1, c. 4)

An early spring thaw allowed the stages to begin their summer schedule on May 1, 1888, with Jay Rhoads and Neil McMillan handling the driving duties.
(Ibid., May 4, 1888, p. 1, c. 4)

The popularity of a stage line was often determined by the food and conversation served at the stage stops. The Free Press on March 22, 1889, p. 1, c. 5, wrote: “The eating houses on the stage road between the Prairie and Lewiston were never in better hands and it is now almost a pleasure to travel. At Riley Dixon’s and at Fountain’s, the tables are liberally supplied with substantial food and excellent service.”

A change of mail contracts in 1889 saw Felix Warren take charge of the line on July 1. He bought all the stock of the former owner and prepared to run the line until the new mail contracts were let the following year.
(Ibid., July 12, 1889, p. 1, c. 6)

Warren soon hired John Lemmon, a former division agent for the Northwestern Stage Company who had at one time managed Rattlesnake Station on the Overland Road, to oversee the Lewiston and Mt. Idaho Line. The Free Press noted that “Felix now owns every stage line running out of Lewiston except the Asotin and Pierce City routes, and he has bought Baird Bros. stable in addition. He is a rustler and a thorough stage man.”
(July 19, 1889, p. 1, c. )

In September the stage made its first trip over the Lake Waha route and the Free Press commented: “The stage was three hours late Monday evening. The trip was made for the first time ever over the new road and was found to be too rough for the mechanism of the vehicle, consequently there was a breakdown on the other side of Mason and the rest of the distance had to be traversed in a lumber wagon.
(September 20, 1889, p. 1, c. 4)

Despite this setback, Warren reported that the stage would continue to travel the new road and take in the Lake Waha and Tammany settlements.
(Ibid., September 27, 1889, p. 1, c. 3)

Further changes were made in the road in November: “Another change in the stage, throwing it still further to the southward, has been made on the Cottonwood side, and if the stage drivers were not Sunday school graduates they would swear lustily at having to break new roads so frequently.”
(Ibid., November 1, 1889, p. 1, c. 5)

The Free Press reported: “Stage men and passengers claim that the new stage route via Waha Lake and on the Willow creek is superior to the old route across the reservation. They find settlers all along the route and much more business and some claim it is a shorter distance.”
(December 13, 1889, p. 1, c. 6)

In May 1890 Warren hired Charley W. Austin to assume the management of all his stage lines.
(Ibid., May 30, 1890, p. 1, c. 5)

During the winter of 1891-1892 grain and freight haulers used the old stage road, and in April 1892 the stages once again resumed operations over the old road by way of Spring Ranch and Sweetwater.
(Ibid., March 18, 1892, p. 4, c. 2; April 22, 1892, p. 1, c. 5)

In the summer of 1892, a Mr. Graham, of Moscow, began a stage line to the Prairie from Lewiston. He planned to put on four horses between Lewiston and Denver and a fast team from the latter place to Grangeville.
(Ibid., August 12, 1892, p. 1, c. 5)

In the spring of 1893 Felix Warren was planning big changes for his stage operations. “Felix Warren has traded his Pomeroy and Lewiston Stage line to C. A. Lundy for the latter’s Elk City route. Felix talks of putting on a four-horse team and coach between Lewiston and Grangeville when the summer schedule goes into effect, and arriving here at six o’clock sharp, every evening. He also contemplates putting in a barn, feed yard and livery stable here, to feed his stage stock, and also the horses he has bought for his new saddle train and express line he is going to run between Grangeville and Elk City this spring. If Felix carries out these improvements he will mount the pedestal of fame at a single leap, and all hands this way will rise up and bless him as a public benefactor.”
(Ibid., March 31, 1893, p. 1, c. 6)

The following month Warren disposed of all his stage lines with the exception of the Lewiston-to-Grangeville and Grangeville-to-Elk City lines. He made arrangements to make Grangeville the headquarters for the two lines and planned to put on four horses and Concord coaches on the Grangeville and Lewiston run. Until completion of the wagon road, he would continue to run a saddle train to Elk City.
(Ibid., May 12, 1893, p. 1, c. 5; July 7, 1893, p. 1, c. 3)

Another change in the stage road occurred in May and the Free Press remarked, “the new road now traverses a wet, soft and marshy lane lying on the north side of Dave Yates’ and the south of the land owned by the Denver syndicate. A softer piece of ground than this land cannot be found on Camas Prairie; and it can never be made into a good road . . . .” (Ibid., May 5, 1893, p. 4, c. 2) The article further commented that the road had only been opened a few days and already numerous teams had mired in the mud at the side.

In May 1893 John Riggins began a competitive Grangeville-to-Lewiston line. He ran four-horse stages three times a week and made connections with the steamers in Lewiston. The stage left both places in the morning and met on the mountain. Here passengers were exchanged and each driver returned to his place of origin.
(Ibid., May 12, 1893, p. 1, c. 5; July 7, 1893, p. 1, c. 3)

By the fall of 1893, Warren was running stages from Lewiston to Mount Idaho, Uniontown, Pomeroy, and Moscow. His Lewiston-to-Mount Idaho line made four stops to change horses. The noon dinner stop was at Soldiers Meadow, where the meal was served by Mrs. Smalls and Mrs. Warren.
(Lewiston Tribune, October 5, 1893, p. 2, c. 6)

In January 1894 another change of ownership for the mail contract transpired; “C. F. Taylor, of San Francisco, has been awarded the mail contract from Lewiston to Mount Idaho for the four years commencing July 1, 1894, for the sum of $2,600 per year. The present contractor gets $3,400 per year for the same service. We presume Mr. Taylor intends making a horseback route of it. It is a matter of indifference to our people whether our mail comes in a stage or a wheelbarrow. All we ask is that it shall be delivered on time.”
(ICFP, January 5, 1894, p. 1, c. 6)

In April 1894 Grangeville was made the distributing post office for Idaho County and Felix Warren reduced his stage fares between Grangeville and Lewiston from $8 to $6 one way, and $12 to $9 round trip.
(Ibid., April 13, 1894, p. 1, c. 6; April 20, 1894, p. 4, c. 2)

Also during April, Warren changed his office from Pearson & Bonebrake’s to the Jersey House with Auchinvole & Fitzgerald as agents.
(Ibid., April 27, 1894, p. 1, c. 6)

C. F. Taylor, after receiving the mail bid, must have had second thoughts after investigating the line, as “Felix Warren has signed the contract papers to carry the mails between Lewiston and Mt. Idaho for four years ending July 1, 1898. He has bought two fine Concord coaches costing $450 each, and is going to hook on six white horses and a spotted dog to each coach and otherwise run the line as it ought to be run. The government allows $570 per year compensation for the new Sunday service. Felix promises the best stage service we have ever had.”
(Ibid., May 25, 1894, p. 1, c. 3)

In June Warren reported the roads in bad condition over the mountain and that a storm had blown down forty-one big pine trees at his place on Soldier Meadows.
(Ibid., June 15, 1894, p. 1, c. 3)

In order to better outfit his line, he ordered the construction of two new Concord coaches from a firm in Stockton, California.
(Lewiston Tribune, July 26, 1894, p. 4, c. 1)

By March 1895, new owners were once again in charge of the route. Messrs. Baird & Stonebreaker, proprietors of the Lewiston and Mt. Idaho Stage line, are progressive wide-a-wake and up-to-date men. Their latest move is to transfer their coaches and stock to the Fountain route for the accommodation of passengers and through freight, thus saving from two to four hours travel, both coming and going. When summer schedule goes into effect they will take breakfast in Lewiston at 6 a.m., have an early dinner at Fountains’s, and put their passengers up in Grangeville in good time for supper . . . . The way mail will come by Waha in a light rig so that passengers will not be delayed by stoppages at small offices on the mountain. Covered coaches and four or six horses if required will be on the route at all times.
(ICFP, March 9, 1895, p. 1, c. 3)

Baird and Stonebreaker’s winter schedule called for the stages to leave Lewiston at 4 a.m. and arrive in Cottonwood at 5 a.m., leave Cottonwood at 5 a.m., and arrive in Grangeville at 9 a.m. On the return trip the stages left Grangeville at 2 p.m. and arrived in Cottonwood at 6 p.m. They left Cottonwood at 5 a.m. and arrived in Lewiston at 6 a.m.
(Ibid,, March 15, 1895, p. 4, c. 5)

In May Ezra Baird purchased Stonebraker’s interest in the line and planned to run it by himself. “The service by way of Fountain’s will be discontinued, and Mr. Baird will devote his entire attention to putting mails and passengers through by way of Waha promptly on schedule time. The summer service is now in effect, so that travelers can leave Lewiston in the morning and take an early supper in Grangeville. The same coaches and four-horse teams will be continued right along.”
(Ibid., May 13, 1895, p. 1, c. 4)

The summer schedule had the stage leaving Lewiston at 4 a.m., arriving Cottonwood at 3 p.m., arriving Denver at 5 p.m. and reaching Grangeville at 6 p.m. The return stage left Grangeville at 4 a.m., arrived in Denver at 5:30 p.m., made a stop in Cottonwood at 7 a.m., and reached Lewiston at 5 p.m.
(Ibid., May 10, 1895, p. 4, c. 4)

In November the Free Press made note of the winter schedule: “From Lewiston, by Waha, Forest, Westlake, Cottonwood, Denver and Grangeville to Mt. Idaho, 69.50 miles and back, seven times a week. Leave Lewiston daily at 12 m., arrive Waha by 6 p.m. Leave Waha at 5 a.m., arrive Grangeville by 6 p.m. Leave Grangeville at 6 a.m., arrive Waha by 6 p.m. Leave Waha at 6 a.m., arrive Lewiston by 12 m.”
(Free Press November 29, 1895, p. 4, c. 3)

In April 1897 the Free Press reported another change of ownership:

Jerry S. Baker and Frank Coston have purchased from Ezra Baird the Lewiston and Mt. Idaho Stage line and took possession yesterday. Mr. Baird has been running the line in good style, with good stock and frequent changes, and Mr. Baker assures us that the new proprietors will keep running it right up to the handle, with new stock and will himself be over the road twice a week to give his personal attention to all the details. Messrs. Baker and Coston also own the stage line from Grangeville to Florence and will operate both together. They are both experts on stage business and will do their best to give the public good satisfaction.
(Free Press April 16, 1897, p. 4, c. 1)

Apparently the deal with Baker and Coston failed to materialize, as the next month the line was reported as having been sold by Baird to Felix Warren. (Ibid., May 14, 1897, p. 1, c. 5) In October the Free Press wrote, “Felix Warren was over the road last week. He is erecting a fine barn at Soldier Meadows with the intention of making Meadows the stopping place for the stage over night, after December 1, instead of Lake Waha as heretofore. This should insure you an earlier arrival of your mail during the winter.”
(Free Press October 15, 1897, p. 4, c. 2)

The following month the stage changed to its winter schedule. This meant that the stage left Lewiston at 1 p.m., spent the night at Waha Lake, and arrived in Grangeville the following night. On the return trip the stage left Grangeville about 5 a.m., laid over at Waha, and reached Lewiston in the forenoon.
(Ibid., November 24, 1897, p. 1, c. 4)

In December the stage to Lewiston was held up by a couple of inexperienced robbers. The driver threw down the mail sacks as ordered but kept the locked mail pouch under his feet. After relieving two passengers of $28.30, the robbers left the scene. A halfbreed named Frush and his accomplice Dan Hurley were arrested soon after the incident occurred.
(Ibid., December 31, 1897, p. 1, c. 5)

By the summer of 1898, the line had been purchased by the Idaho, Nevada and California Stage Company. “W. E. Travis, of Salt Lake, who is connected with the Idaho, Nevada and California Stage Co., is in Lewiston. He has purchased the Mt. Idaho line from Felix Warren and in the future his company will handle the mails and passenger traffic between Lewiston and the Idaho County towns. He states he will immediately put new wagons and horses into service and make available the best of accommodations possible for passengers.”
(Lewiston Tribune, July 2, 1898, p. 2, c. 6; August 26, 1898, p. 5, c. 1)

The Tribune noted the following activities of the new owners along the line: “W. E. Travis, owner of the Lewiston-Mt. Idaho stage, arrived in Lewiston with three stage coaches, three large hacks and sixteen head of horses which he will put immediately on the line. He has decided to establish a relay station seven miles from Lewiston at the Nelson farm in Tammany Hollow thereby providing a change of fresh stock between Lewiston and Waha. From Waha, the stations will be fifteen miles apart. He hopes to reduce running time by three hours.
(September 30, 1898, p. 4, c. 6)

In July O. E. Clough, of Cottonwood, provided the new company with a little competition by running a four-horse covered passenger rig between Grangeville and Lewiston, but his efforts did not last long.
(ICFP, July 22, 1898, p. 1, c. 4)

In September, W. E. Travis ordered four coaches and fourteen horses delivered to Grangeville for use on the line. The horses and coaches arrived in Grangeville the last part of September and were immediately placed into service. Travis informed the Free Press that he would put on stations every twelve miles and run the line on schedule time or go broke in the effort.
(Ibid., September 23, 1898, p. 1, c. 3; September 30, 1898, p. 1, c. 5)

Travis reported the establishment of a new station at the Nelson farm in Tammany Hollow and related that the stage would continue to come through from Lewiston in a day as long as the weather permitted. He made Grangeville the terminus of the line for passengers and planned to deliver the Mount Idaho mail by horseback.
(Ibid., October 7, 1898, p. 1, c. 4)

With the coming of the railroad, the Free Press noted the following decline in areas formerly serviced by stage: “The stage system of Lewiston has been generally reorganized. The Leland and reservation mails now go by train to Spalding and are from there distributed to the reservation points. The Mt. Idaho stage now leaves at 6 a.m. and goes through to Cottonwood in one day and to Grangeville and Mt. Idaho the next day. Lewiston’s stage days are becoming things of the past. The Mt. Idaho line is the only one that is a public necessity. It is increased in importance. The others are auxiliary connecting links, that are only shadows of former importance.”
(December 9, 1898, p. 2, c. 5)

As noted, other stage lines declined in popularity with the coming of the railroad, but the Grangeville route continued to gain in popularity, if only temporarily. “Two stages will go out this morning on the Mt. Idaho line loaded with passengers, says the Lewiston Tribune. Mr. Travis bought twenty-four head of stock yesterday for his line, and expects two of his new stages today from California. In a few days two stages will be run regularly every day.”
(Ibid., March 10, 1899, p. 2, c. 2)

Most of the increased traffic on the line was due to the discovery of rich quartz at Buffalo Hump in August 1898, and Grangeville became the jumping-off place for the new mines. In March the stage company was forced to hire an extra four-horse rig at Cottonwood to handle an overflow of passengers heading for the new mines.
(Ibid., March 17, 1899, p. 2, c. 2)

Since the stage did not go to Mount Idaho, Bibby & Jerome started a line between Grangeville and Mount Idaho in an attempt to receive some of the passengers heading for the Hump.
(Ibid., March 24, 1899, p. 3, c. 7)

In April W. E. Travis reported that his company had added three more stations, Westlake, Denver, and Meadows. He also stated that the distance between stations was not more than twelve miles.
(Ibid., April 7, 1899, p. 3, c. 7)

During the same month Travis and veteran stage driver Felix Warren made an inspection trip over the line. Travis reported that the company had 100 head of horses on the line between Lewiston and Grangeville and that he had purchased 65 more head. “He now runs six horses from Lewiston to Waha, four from Waha over the snow to Westlake and six from Westlake to Grangeville. Additional stations have been established at Tammany, Soldier Meadows, Westlake and Denver, making seven changes in all or an average of nine miles between stations along the 65 mile route. . . .”
(Ibid., April 14, 1899, p. 2, c. 3)

The company also ran a six-horse baggage wagon three times a week and boasted of having three of the largest and best coaches that money could buy, each holding seventeen passengers.

The Free Press remarked: “There are two stage roads from Lewiston to this place, one known as the mail route running through the mountains by way of Waha Lake and the other coming around to the north and east via the Fountain road. The latter road is a little shorter than the main line and passengers are given their choice of the two routes. It requires about the same amount of time on each as the Fountain line joins the mail route at Westlake. First stop is at Nelson’s, 8 miles out–next is Waha Lake–steepest part of route is beyond Waha, stage next stops at Meadows–goes on to supper stop at Westlake, here passengers from the Fountain road join forces–Stop at Cottonwood and Denver–One way fare is $6.50. Two stage companies are operating between the two points.”
(Ibid., April 28, 1899, p. 3, c. 3)

W. E. Travis placed the following advertisement in the Lewiston Tribune: The Idaho, Nevada and California Stage Co. daily service from Lewiston to Grangeville and intermediate points, making close connections at Grangeville for the Buffalo Hump Mining District. This line affords a daily service to all the following points: Buffalo Hump, via Florence, Slate Creek, Adams Camp, Mt. Idaho and Grangeville: Buffalo Hump via Badger, Elk City, Bridgeport, Grangeville, Denver, Cottonwood, Westlake, Morrow and Waha Lake. C. F. Leland, General Agent, Lewiston. Six-horse stock, seventeen passenger coaches, Buffalo to Lewiston in 36 hours, all daylight travel. First class eating stations. W. E. Travis, General Manager, Salt Lake City, Utah.
(May 24, 1899, special edition to paper in magazine form. Cited in Elsensohn, V. I, P. 202.)

Travis also hired Felix Warren as superintendent of the line. Following a tour of inspection along the route, Warren stated that in the future the stage would start from Grangeville at 6 a.m. and make the trip to Lewiston in thirteen hours.
(ICFP, May 19, 1899, p. 4, c. 4)

An opposition line, the Lewiston and Buffalo Hump Stage Company, advertised a twelve-hour trip between Lewiston and Grangeville made in the comfort of Concord coaches. This company maintained its office in Lewiston at the corner of 5th and C streets and another at the Great Northern Express office.
(Lewiston Tribune, June 2, 1899, p. 2, c. 6)

In July, L. J. Dimmick, who had been running a stage between Grangeville and Mount Idaho, discontinued the line to devote his time to freighting.
(ICFP, July 21, 1899, p. 4, c. 3)

The following month, the Wilson Stage Line, which had been operating a stage line between Lewiston and Grangeville, also discontinued service. The stock used on this line were sent to British Columbia. Travis responded to this notice by stating that his company would soon begin supplying a six-horse service along the route and noting that all of his coaches had recently been refurbished.
(Lewiston Tribune, August 4, 1899, p. 3, c. 2)

In February 1900 W. E. Travis announced that his company would move all their equipment to Grangeville as soon as the Clearwater Short Line reached Stuart (known as Kooskia by 1902). At that time he would establish a daily service between Stuart and Grangeville, a distance of eighteen miles. He noted that arrangements had already been perfected to bring Camas Prairie mail from Lewiston to Stuart. He also planned to start a railroad ticket office in Grangeville and remarked that the people of the Prairie would no longer have to endure a long stage ride when traveling to Lewiston.
(Ibid., February 2, 1900, p. 1, c. 5)

In May the Free Press reported: “Commencing on Monday last [April 30] the stage left Lewiston at 4 a.m. and arrived at Grangeville the same night. This is the regular summer schedule and will be maintained until such time as the mails are sent to the Prairie by way of the Clearwater Short Line railroad.” (May 4, 1900, p. 1, c. 5) The following week the Free Press continued its report on the progress of the railroad and noted: “In a short time the stage company will discontinue hauling passengers over the Craig’s mountain route and will devote its energies to the line between Grangeville and Stuart. Until arrangements can be made with the postal department mails will continue to be brought over Craig’s mountain in a two-horse rig.”
(May 11, 1900, p. 2, c. 2)

Arrangements were soon negotiated with the postal authorities and mail for the Prairie began arriving on the train at Stuart about June 25. The Idaho, Nevada, and California Stage Co. At that time began hauling the mail and passengers on its stages between Stuart and Grangeville. At the same time, W. E. Travis reported that his company had received the mail contract between Grangeville and Florence and would be running a daily stage from Stuart to Florence. He would also arrange for stages to run from Adams Camp direct to Buffalo Hump.
(Ibid., June 22, 1900, p. 1, c. 4)

When the railway reached Stites in September, the stage company began running their line from that point.
(Ibid., September 7, 1900, p. 1, c. 4)

In the winter of 1902, Felix Warren received the mail contract between Lewiston and Cottonwood with a bid of $2,416 per year. He responded with an announcement that he would put on a daily stage line between the two points and take in many of the towns along the Culdesac-to-Grangeville extension of the Northern Pacific railroad. He ordered a new coach and planned to leave Lewiston every morning at 5 a.m., making stops at Tammany, Williams stage station, Morrow, Ferdinand, Cottonwood, Denver, and Grangeville. He also promised to put on an extra coach during the fruit season if the express proved too heavy for the regular coach.
(Ibid., April 25, 1907, p. 3, c. 2)

When the extension of the Northern Pacific railway reached Grangeville in December, 1908, the days of the daily horse-drawn stage between Grangeville and Lewiston were over. The train hauled its first passengers between the two towns on December 9, 1908. The train left Grangeville at 7 a.m. and arrived in Lewiston at 11:25 a.m. The return trip left Lewiston at 2 p.m. and reached Grangeville at 6:45 p.m.
(Ibid., December 10, 1908, p. 4, c. 4)

An era was over. After nearly fifty years of operation, horse-drawn stage coaches between Grangeville had become an item for old-timers to reminisce about at family gatherings and reunions.

The arrival of the automobile soon gave the railway some competition by offering an alternative form of travel. In the summer of 1915 S. C. Henderson initiated an auto stage between Grangeville and Lewiston. He made his first trip on Sunday, July 4. He announced that he would leave the Imperial Hotel at seven in the morning in his Winston Six and return from Lewiston at 2 p.m.
(Ibid., July 8, 1915, p. 8, c. 2)

On June 29, 1920, W. G. Peacock started an automobile stage line between the two towns, making a daily round-trip run. He left the Imperial Hotel at 7 a.m. and passed through the towns of Fenn, Cottonwood, Westlake, Forest, and Waha. He arrived at the Bollinger Hotel in Lewiston at 11 a.m. and started on his return trip at 2 p.m.
(Ibid., July 1, 1920, p. 1, c. 4)

Peacock continued to run his auto stage through the summer of 1921.
(Ibid., May 19, 1921, p. 1, c. 3)

During 1921, he encountered some competition from the 560 Transportation Company, which also offered a daily service to Lewiston. Their auto left Lewiston at 7 a.m. and reached Grangeville at 11:30 a.m. It left Grangeville at 1 p.m. and arrived in Lewiston at 6 p.m., making stops at Cottonwood, Ferdinand, Craigmont, Culdesac, Sweetwater, and Lapwai.
(Ibid., May 12, 1921, p. 5, c. 1)

As automobiles became cheaper and road systems improved, the small auto stages soon disappeared. Those who did not own an automobile could either ride the train or the vehicles of companies that began to offer a bus service throughout the state and nation.

source: North Idaho Stage Lines Lewiston-Grangeville-Mount Idaho, Idaho Historical Reference Series Number 814, 1985, Prepared by Larry R. Jones
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A stagecoach connection in Stites, 1907


source: Idaho County Free Press, Lauri Chapman, September 30, 2016
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Building the North South Highway

By the mid-1860s, two routes existed to get to Florence, the hotbed of mining, from the north. The first brought travelers south from Lewiston across the Camas Prairie, over White Bird Hill, and down the Salmon River to Slate Creek, where they turned up into the mountains to access Florence. The other route turned east from a point much further north on the prairie near what is now the town of Grangeville, and headed over Mount Idaho via the “Mose Milner” trail, constructed by Moses Milner in 1862.

Both routes charged users a $1 toll per pack or saddle animal.

… On February 5, 1889, the Idaho Territorial Legislature passed the Mount Idaho to Little Salmon Meadows Wagon Road Act financed by $50,000 in 20-year bonds. The act provided for state financing to cover the cost of the route’s initial construction, but required counties to continue maintenance. The press lauded the legislation, but the proposed route was controversial. The approved route originated at Idaho County’s Mount Idaho, the county seat, and traveled south via Florence and Warm Springs Resort (Burgdorf), then west to Little Salmon Meadows (Meadows) in Washington County, bypassing the Little Salmon River entirely.

(figure 2)

The state intended for this route to open more areas to settlement, connect the two regions of the territory, and provide easy transport of military supplies and troops in the event of Indian uprisings. But detractors felt that this mountainous route was far less sensible than the course of the proposed military road, which would have meandered lower along the Little Salmon River. Some felt that Governor Norman Willey’s experience as a prospector in Warren, a town more easily accessed by the mountain route, had unduly influenced the route selection.

Despite the controversy, the U.S. Congress ratified the Idaho territorial wagon road legislation in May 1890. Following Idaho’s admittance to the Union on July 3, 1890, the state legislature began taking bids for what came to be called the Mount Idaho-Little Salmon Meadows Wagon Road or hereafter the Mount Idaho Road. This route traveled from Payette Lake up and over Secesh Summit, past Burgdorf, and down to the Salmon River’s confluence with French Creek, well above the river’s confluence with the Little Salmon. Here, it crossed the Salmon River and continued north to Florence. Work on this road commenced immediately and continued to push through the ridges and valleys east of the Little Salmon River for the next few years.

As road construction progressed up in the mountains, advocates for the alternate route along the Little Salmon River did not give up their cause. The Mount Idaho Road did open rough access to mining areas (though it was incomplete), but the state still needed a road that easily facilitated settler access, and, perhaps more importantly, would remain open even during winter and inclement weather.

In January 1893, the State Legislature debated wagon road legislation that included a provision to connect Meadows with Riggins via a branch road along the Little Salmon. Riggins itself was already connected to Mount Idaho by the Salmon River Road. The measure passed, but required Idaho County to supply some of the funding. As Idaho County stalled, the state completed surveys of new state wagon routes, including a road that would connect the Salmon River Road with Meadows via the Little Salmon River rather than the mountains. The State Wagon Road Commission began advertising and awarding bids for construction of the road from Riggins south towards Meadows.

By February 1894, however, Idaho County still had not supplied any funds and the State Wagon Road Commission let half the contracts go. Road building stopped near Pollock, leaving the canyon along the Little Salmon River still untouched. The road gap between Meadows and Riggins had narrowed, but transportation between the two towns still required travelers to brave an incomplete road through the mountains. [This gap is represented on figure 2 above as the yellow area labeled “Little Salmon Canyon.”] In 1895, private parties took it upon themselves to connect Meadows and Pollock with a trail along the surveyed Little Salmon River wagon route. The trail allowed travel along the west bank of the Little Salmon River, but was not wide enough to be a road.

At this point it was clear to many in Idaho that the mountainous north-south route had been a mistake. The rugged terrain and wild water the Mount Idaho Road was supposed to traverse challenged engineers and the high elevation near Florence on the north side of the Salmon River and Warrens on the south meant long winters, which hampered road building. The state’s impassable route between north and south Idaho permitted the divide between the two regions of the state to persist.

Meadows to Riggins Travel Timeline

Meadows, Idaho ca. 1897

1862 – Population at Florence peaked, and settlers left to prospect in Boise Basin or Warrens. Residents of Florence and others had built two trails into the settlement. One trail travelled from Camas Prairie to White Bird and Slate Creek and then up into the mountains. The other travelled from Mount Idaho across the mountains to Florence, called the Mose Milner Trail.

1889 – The Territorial Legislature passed the Mount Idaho to Little Salmon Meadows Wagon Road Act, which used bond issues for financing. The route was to travel over the mountains, following the Mose Milner Trail, rather than down the Little Salmon River Canyon.

1893 – The Idaho Legislature passed the State Wagon Roads Act, authorizing the establishment of a system of state wagon roads and providing for construction of a branch wagon road to travel down the Little Salmon River, linking Meadows with the Mount Idaho Road at Slate Creek. It required Idaho County to fund part of the road.

source: “Road of No Return” The Story of Travel Through the Little Salmon River Canyon

Link to Mount Idaho (Part 1) Pioneers
Link to Mount Idaho (Part 2) History
Link to Mount Idaho (Part 3) Transportation
Link to Mount Idaho (Part 4) News clippings
Link to Mount Idaho (Part 5) More News clippings

page updated Aug 11, 2020