Memoirs of a Newspaper Lady
Stage Coach Lines in the Early Days
February 13, 2020
Dail Butler was born near Medical Lake, Washington on February 26, 1900. Her mother died when she was three years old and her family moved to Renton, Washington. Her grandfather, James Wing Butler, farmed on the Whetstone and her other grandfather, Levi Watrous, had a saw mill operation on Jim Creek.
She married Cecil Laughery and moved to Dayton in 1923. His parents and all of his siblings lived in Dayton so they settled into life in Columbia County where they raised three boys and a girl.
One of Dail’s passions was to write about the early history of Columbia County, some of the more colorful inhabitants and the Native Americans she met in her youth. Her grandfather Levi taught her some of the native language so she could communicate with the Cayuse and Palouse tribes.
Dail passed away in 1994 after spending most of her life in and around Columbia County.
Before Columbia County was penetrated by railroads, and when the only transportation facilities were stagecoaches to Columbia River points, and then by boat to Portland, an ice blockade on the Columbia shut off the county entirely. With each succeeding year the blockade came, and then the county was dead to the world until the river opened its channel.
An important institution was the Northwestern Stage Company for a number of years. The stage Company operated through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Utah, having started the stage lines in 1871. It carried passengers, the United States mail and Wells Fargo and Company’s express business. In consequence of losing its government contracts in 1878 it was compelled to go out of business, and at that time its line did not extend east of Boise City.
It had been operating 435 miles of daily stage line, from Bose City to Umatilla, 290 miles; Umatilla to The Dalles, 110 miles; a branch from Cayuse to Walla Walla, 35 miles. This stage line also ran to Dayton, up the Pataha to Pomeroy and on to Lewiston, Idaho.
In its service were three hundred horses, twenty on coaches, thirty-four stations and one hundred and fifty employees. Annually the animals consumed 730,000 pounds of grain and 825,000 pounds of hay.
The new contractor’s route was from Kelton, Utah to The Dalles, connecting at Pendleton for Walla Walla. Another route was from Walla Walla to Colfax through Waitsburg, Dayton, Almota and one from Dayton to Lewiston were let to other contractors. From the larger ones, shorter routs or spurs branched out. Concord Coaches were employed, drawn for four or six horse teams.