By Susan Page Davis
Stagecoach lines proliferated in Idaho after the Civil War, and the variety of stagecoach stops and the people who ran them was amazing.
For instance, along the long and arduous road from Boise to Silver City (which is high in the mountains and now a ghost town), you would find the Democrat Station. This was a house between Dobson and Reynolds Creek that was started by a man who was a Democrat. Apparently he was the only one of that persuasion who owned a station along the road, so people would say, “We stopped at the Democrat’s house last night.” I imagine his political leanings started a lot of debates over the dinner table.
The Share House was another well-known stop along this line. Charlie Share was a veteran stagecoach driver, and he drove the run from Boise to Silver City for many years, staring in 1874. At this time the company running the line was the Northwest Stage Line. After a few years, he retired from driving and started the Share Stage House along the way, and he and his wife ran it for 28 years. Later they moved to Nampa and opened a hotel (1906) which was also called The Share House.
The Share Stage Stop was located on Charlie’s farm, which included a 25-acre orchard and 35 acres of timothy and alfalfa hay. In the mountain country, feed for animals was at a premium, as was fuel.
Another stop was Record’s Station, known for good cooking. You could buy a “first-rate meal” there for ten bits—$1.25—in 1865, in gold dust if that was your currency. This was during the mining frenzy, and prices were high. At that time, you still had to cross the Snake River on a ferry “run by manpower,” as reported in the newspaper Owyhee Avalanche.
Wages for workers at the stage stops in the 1880s was around $30 to $45 a month. The stage stops would put up travelers and feed their animals for a price. At the Share Stage Stop in 1888, a man paid $4 to have his eight mules “put to hay” and 75 cents for his dinner and his horse’s feed.
Hostile Indians were a concern along the stage lines until the late 1870s. One of the drivers was killed on this run in 1878. Passengers in the late 1860s reported Indian troubles, and the stage stop owners had horses stolen and other problems up until the end of the Bannock War.
“Road agents” or stagecoach robbers also played their part, especially during the height of the gold mining period. In 1868, a gang plagued the stage lines. The Blue Mountain Gang was eventually splintered and many of them caught.
This area is rich in history and drama, and I loved researching it for my Ladies' Shooting Club series. Much of the information in this article comes from the book Sagebrush Post Offices, by Mildretta Adams. Other books I used in my research for the series include a reproduction of A Historical, Descriptive, and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho (first published in 1898), and Ben Holladay the Stagecoach King, by J. V. Frederick.
To celebrate old stagecoach stations, I am giving away a copy of my book The Blacksmith's Bravery, featuring a young woman determined to become a stagecoach driver. To enter, comment and leave your contact information. Choose a paperback or an e-book.
Susan Page Davis is the author of more than forty published novels. A history major, she’s always interested in the past. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com .