The Pinery Station
Butterfield Overland Mail
First Overland Mail Route from St. Louis, Missouri to San Francisco, California.
As a forerunner of the Pony Express and Transcontinental Railroad, the Butterfield Overland Mail was the first successful attempt to link East and West with a reliable transportation and communication system. Much of the route in this part of the county followed the well-defined path of thousands of emigrants and gold-seekers traveling westward during the previous decade. The arduous 2,700-mile wilderness journey between St. Louis and San Francisco was always completed within 25 days as stipulated in John Butterfield's federal mail contract.
The six-year federal mail contract awarded to John Butterfield, a wealthy and popular businessman, was cut short by the onset of the Civil War in 1861, yet the Butterfield Overland Mail was heralded by some as one of the "greatest events of the age."
"Remember boys, nothing on God's earth must stop the United States mail!"
-John Butterfield's instructions to his drivers
The Pinery Station
Pinery Station, named for the surrounding stands of pine, has the distinction of being the only ruin of an original company-built, Butterfield station standing in close proximity to a national highway. At 5,700 feet in elevation, it was also the highest, and was especially attractive because of its excellent grazing land and dependable water sources.
Butterfield stations were located an average of 20 miles apart. For eleven months from September 1858 to august 1859, coaches regularly stopped here for water, food, rest, fresh mule teams, and protection. Drivers and passengers kept company with the station keeper, cooks, blacksmith, freighters, gold seekers, adventurers, and settlers. Long after the station was abandoned for a more adequately protected route designed to better serve a chain of forts further south, the limestone walls continued to provide refuge for freighters, soldiers, drovers, outlaws, and emigrants.
The Celerity Coach
Speed was imperative; a Celerity coach traveled day and night averaging 120 miles a day carrying up to nine passengers, essential baggage, and 12,000 letters. Six horses or mules pulled each coach. These coaches, similar to what were later known as mud-wagons due to their low center of gravity, were well adapted to the rough mountains and desert country. They were either painted or varnished red or a dark bottle green. Wire pattern candle lamps provided light inside the leather-lined coaches. One hundred of these wagons were built in 1857 at a cost of $1,500 each and placed in the Butterfield Overland Mail service in 1858.