In 1857, the government awarded John Butterfield a contract to carry mail by stagecoach between St. Louis and San Francisco. The 2,800-mile route was to be traversed within 25 days. A year later, as the stagecoaches prepared to roll, Butterfiled charged his men, "Remember boys, nothing on God's earth must stop the United States Mail!" He did not reckon on future collisions with an embittered Cochise.
For over two years the Chiricahuas permitted the mail and passenger stages safe, if uneasy, passage through Apache pass. In exchange for gifts, they provided firewood for the stage station.
Butterfield had the Celerity wagon designed for the central segment of his route. Unlike the large Concord coaches used at both ends of the line, mule-driven, lighter Celerity could more easily negotiate the rugged mountains and rocky canyons of the Southwest.