This is part 3 of the Elk Grove Stage Stop and the stage lines that came through this area. The previous articles were on March 19 and May 28 (2010), and this continuation is part 3. For new readers who may be wondering why I am focusing on long ago stage lines, here is some background for you.
The city of Elk Grove will celebrate its 10th anniversary on July 1, 2010. We became a city instead of a part of Sacramento County on that date, so as we prepare to celebrate this momentous occasion, it is good to look back to see where we got our start. Elk Grove began in 1850 as a stage stop located on what was getting to be a busy Monterey Trail, the route from Sutter’s Fort to San Jose. The road was later called Upper Stockton Road, and we know it today as Highway 99. The reconstructed stage stop is on the western edge of Elk Grove Park, a wonderful historic reminder of those long ago days. The building, torn down in 1957 when Highway 99 was constructed, was rebuilt by the Elk Grove Historical Society and is now the home of the society and our own local museum.
The Elk Grove Historical Society and the city of Elk Grove are preparing a Time Capsule as a record of the first decade as well as the years that preceded the beginning of the city. Special stage stop pins have been designed by Paula Maita & Company for this historic time of our city. The pins are available for $5, and they are selling fast, so if you want one, you need to get it soon. EG Historical Society members have them for sale and so do other Time Capsule committee members. Or you can send me your check and I will either deliver your pins or will ship them to you.
Our Elk Grove stage stop was built by James Hall in 1850. He named it Elk Grove because the tule elk crossed through the grove of oak trees (now Elk Grove Park) behind his hotel on their way to the Cosumnes River. Now on with the story of our stage stop and the stage lines that came through here.
So who started the first stage line in California—and when? It appears that it was James Birch, a native of South Carolina who started it all in 1849. Not surprisingly, the route he chose was from Sacramento to Coloma. Although he started with only one wagon and one driver, in a short time, he expanded greatly. With an eye to the future, Birch was able to establish the Telegraph Line from Sacramento to Nevada in 1851. Then, in 1853, he consolidated most of the stage lines in northern California and created the California Stage Company.
Now here is a piece of history that fascinates me, and I am trying to find out more about it. In 1850, just a year after Birch’s historical venture, there was a stage company named Hall and Crandall. In some records it is listed as Hall, Hall and Crandall with the Halls as William and Warren, and J. B. as the Crandall. Now, remember, our stage stop person was James Hall, and he built that stage stop in 1850. So here we have all these Halls in the stage business at the same time. Is it a coincidence? Or are the Hall men related? They could be cousins, but we have no records that tell us anything. Even our super history searcher, Jeanette Lawson, was not able to find a connection between them.
Here is another connection to the Hall name. When we had the groundbreaking for the Elk Grove Hotel & Stage Stop in 1982, our Elk Grove postmaster was named Robert Hall! As far as he knew, there was no connection, but with genealogy what it is today, who knows, maybe Robert Hall was the 20th century cousin of those original Elk Grove Halls. Jeanette – here is another little mystery for you!
Back to the stages though, Hall and Crandall ran stage lines in Mexico and then tried out San Jose, first to San Francisco and then to Monterey. And, it is quite likely that the first line that went south from Sacramento to San Jose was that of Hall and Crandall. One of the stops on that line was surely at the Elk Grove Stage Stop, 14 miles down that road, and the 7 Mile House at what are now Florin Road and East Stockton being the first stop out of Sacramento.
As with much of the business activity during the gold days, the stage lines went through many changes. I think it must have been a very lucrative business as it was the only way that anything moved from one place to another—passengers, freight, and mail.
The next person to enter the stage business that affected our area was John Butterworth with the Butterworth Overland Express. His famous phrase is much repeated in the literature, “Remember boys, nothing on God’s earth must stop the mail!”
Butterworth convinced Henry Wells and William Fargo to consolidate their express company with his Butterworth and Wasson line, and they became the American Express Company, hauling mail, freight, and passengers. By 1860 the company had nearly 1,000 employees and 150 relay stations. But Butterworth was overextended and he owed so much money that he was forced out and the company was taken over by Wells, Fargo and Company. That began the connection between Elk Grove and Wells, Fargo and Company.
When I was president of the Elk Grove Historical Society in 1982 I had a lot of communication with folks in San Francisco who handled Wells Fargo history. They went through all their records to see what they could find that could be connected to Elk Grove. But, since Wells Fargo did not officially come into our area until 1875, the list of Elk Grove agents that I received from the History Room did not answer many of my questions: 1875, J.N. Andrews; 1894, A. I. Gray; 1896, E. H. Wolf; 1897, G. W. Mead; 1902, J. F. Gwin; 1903, D. E. Ronk; 1906, E. F. Welch; 1909, A. L. Gale; 1910, E. F. Welch.
Here is a notice from the Sacramento Union, June 24, 1856: SACRAMENTO AND STOCKTON – LINE OF STAGES – FARE REDUCED: SUMMER ARRANGEMENT: On and after June 25th, the Telegraph Line – Lower Road – via Benson’s Ferry, will leave Daily at two o’clock p.m. arriving by 9 o’clock the same evening, thereby passengers from all parts of the Southern Mines can travel through Sacramento the same day. And from any part of the Northern Mines, as far as Nevada, to Stockton, same day. FARE: FIVE DOLLARS – Also, U. S. Mail Tri Weekly Line - Upper Road – via Staple’s, Dr. Elliott’s, Hicks’ and Buckner’s Ranches. [Clarification: Lower Road is Franklin Blvd; Upper Road is Highway 99; Hicks’ Ranch was on Arno Road, earlier known as Hicksville; and Buckner’s Ranch was at today’s intersection of EG Blvd and Highway 99.]
Travel by stage was very different from today when we think nothing of hopping into our car and head to Sacramento, Sutter Creek or Stockton. We have our cell phone with us and the radio in the car, and for travel, we can also take trips by train, air, or bus.
When you see that miniature stage coach that will house the Elk Grove Time Capsule, know that it is our reminder of the beginnings of Elk Grove.
Imagine Birch, Hall, Butterworth, Wells or Wells Fargo anticipating that they were paving the way for a great city of 172,000 people in 2010!
1. History Happened Here, Book 1-River, Oaks, Gold — $20
2. History Happened Here, Book 2–Fields, Farms, Schools — $20
3. Images of America-ELK GROVE — $20
4. We the People, A Story of Internment in America - $30
Tax is included…$3.00 for shipping 1-2 books. YOU CAN PURCHASE ALL FOUR BOOKS FOR $70, a savings of $20. Add the $6 for shipping, and remember that all book proceeds go for scholarships. Make your check payable to Laguna Publishers. Tell me who you want the books signed to and send me your order - P.O. Box 692, Elk Grove CA 95759.
Take a trip to the Davis Ranch in Sloughhouse—all the books are available there along with your great fruits and vegetables!