By Jennifer Uhlarik
I’m so excited to share the news that my next release comes out in a matter of a few weeks. July 1st, to be exact. The story is one of nine novellas found in The Courageous Brides Collection. My novella, Mountain Echoes, focuses on Hannah Rose Stockton, a spinster who works for the California School for the Deaf (see my earlier blog post on the school here). As the story opens, Hannah has traveled by stage across the Sierra Nevada to collect a young deaf boy who is to be enrolled in the school in San Francisco. But on the return trip, an accident leaves Hannah to care for the wounded and lead the survivors out of the rugged mountains.
In order to write such a story, I needed to research stagecoaches—and that’s what I’m sharing with you today.
The Concord Stagecoach was made by the Abbott-Downing Company, which was located in Concord, New Hampshire. The first coach was built in 1827 and weighed in at 2000 pounds. By today’s standards, it was a rough ride, but the Concord coach used a rather revolutionary suspension system, which made it a smoother ride than other wagons and conveyances of its time. Most wagons and carriages used springs to cushion the ride, which lead to a bumpy up-and-down motion. The Concord stagecoach used leather straps, called thoroughbraces, which stretched from the front to the back of the coach, and cradled the stagecoach much more gently. These thoroughbraces led to a swaying motion, far gentler than the harsh jostling of a spring suspension.
A typical Concord coach would seat nine passengers on three benches inside the cabin. Three passengers would face backward, leaning against the front wall of the coach. Three would sit facing forward, leaning against the back wall, and three would sit on a backless bench in the middle, holding straps suspended from the ceiling in order to keep their balance. This middle bench was hinged in the center and folded in half to allow passengers the space they needed to get in and out of the coach. Once everyone was aboard, they would unfold the bench seat and lock it in place. Both the driver and shotgun rider would sit on the bench atop the coach, and another six passengers could fit on top of the coach when the passenger space was needed.
|An overloaded stagecoach|
Passenger luggage was stored in the rear boot, a triangular shaped compartment at the back of the coach. It was secured in place by a leather cover which buckled in place. Larger chests and trunks could be placed on the top of the coach. Under the driver’s feet, a second boot contained the strongbox, mail, and other precious cargo the stagecoach might be carrying.
|Historical advertisement for the Overland Mail Route.|
Look at those prices!
Each Concord was pulled by a six-horse team. The average speed of the stagecoach was 8 miles per hour, and a fresh team would travel twelve to fifteen miles before the stage stopped to change teams. Every forty miles or so, the stage would stop for a brief rest, allowing passengers to partake of a meal before continuing the journey. An average day’s travel was roughly sixty to seventy miles.
|Historical Advertisement for the Pioneer Stage Company,|
which is the line featured in my novella, Mountain Echoes.
You can get a feel for the distances they would travel in each leg of the journey.
One of the funny things I found about stagecoaches were the “rules of etiquette” when riding on the stage. Some of them were as follows:
1. Abstinence from liquor is requested, but if you must drink, share the bottle. To do otherwise makes you appear selfish and unneighborly.
2. If ladies are present, gentlemen are urged to forego smoking cigars and pipes as the odor of same is repugnant to the Gentle Sex. Chewing tobacco is permitted but spit WITH the wind, not against it.
3. Gentlemen must refrain from the use of rough language in the presence of ladies and children.
4. Don’t snore loudly while sleeping or use your fellow passenger’s shoulder for a pillow; he or she may not understand and friction may result.
5. In the event of runaway horses, remain calm. Leaping from the coach in panic will leave you injured, at the mercy of the elements, hostile Indians and hungry coyotes.
6. Forbidden topics of discussion are stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings.
7. Gents guilty of unchivalrous behavior toward lady passengers will be put off the stage. It’s a long walk back. A word to the wise is sufficient.
It’s your turn: Would you have traveled by stagecoach if you lived in the 1800’s? Why or why not? Leave your contact information with your comment to be included in the drawing for a signed copy of The Courageous Brides Collection. Drawing will be held tomorrow, June 4, 2016.
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.
Ride into adventures alongside nine determined women of yesteryear whose acts of compassion and bravery attract male attention. Marcy helps displaced Indians. Emmy tends wounds at Fort Snelling. Ronnie stows away on a cattle drive. Daisy disguises herself as a Pony Express rider. Elinor becomes an abolitionist. Mae tames wild horses. Hannah gets help for accident victims. Lucy’s curiosity unnerves criminals. Kate nurses soldiers on the battlefield. Will real dangers douse the sparks of love?