Butterfield Overland Mail Route

While searching the Internet for a story recently, I ran across a map and GPS waypoints showing the old Butterfield Overland Mail and Stagecoach route from St. Louis or Memphis to San Francisco and specifically, the route the stage took through southeast Oklahoma from Fort Smith, Arkansas to Denison, Texas. The stage line began in either St. Louis or Memphis and joined at Fort Smith, where the route was the same all the way to San Francisco. John W. Butterfield began the line in 1857 and it remained active until the Civil War began in 1861. The trip averaged about 25 days, and a two stagecoaches per week left either San Francisco on a Monday and Thursday morning. Passage cost $200 per person for the entire trip. The Butterfield Overland Stage Company had more than 800 people in its employ, had 139 relay stations, 1800 head of stock and 250 Concord Stagecoaches in service at one time.

As I looked at the route on Google Earth, I realized that nobody could actually ride the route today because of river crossings and private property issues. Most of the Oklahoma portion of the route followed existing highways and dirt roads, so I decided to map out this route through Oklahoma in a manner that someone on a dual sport motorcycle could actually ride.

This map shows the route of the Butterfield Overland Mail and Stage route across the southwest United States.

This map shows the route of the Butterfield Overland Mail and Stage route across the southwest United States.

Typical stage station on the Butterfield Overland Mail route. This one is in Fort Chadbourne. "Fort Chadbourne Stage Station" by Pi3.124 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fort_Chadbourne_Stage_Station.jpg#/media/File:Fort_Chadbourne_Stage_Station.jpg"

Typical stage station on the Butterfield Overland Mail route. This one is in Fort Chadbourne. “Fort Chadbourne Stage Station” by Pi3.124 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fort_Chadbourne_Stage_Station.jpg#/media/File:Fort_Chadbourne_Stage_Station.jpg”

Fort Chadbourne museum

Below is a picture of Trahern’s Station in Leflore County.
Trahern's Station

This marker is at the beginning of the Old Military Road from Fort Smith to Fort Towson. It also is where the Butterfield Overland Mail and Stage Route began in Fort Smith in 1857.

This marker is at the beginning of the Old Military Road from Fort Smith to Fort Towson. It also is where the Butterfield Overland Mail and Stage Route began in Fort Smith in 1857.

You can click the download link below this map to download my GPX file. Be aware that there are two tracks and one route in the file. The original track is labeled as V1 and is unrideable. The second track is labeled V2 and it includes both a “route” and a “track”. I recommend that you follow the “track”, not the “route, since each GPS routes slightly different and you may not be able to follow my tracks properly. So be sure and activate “Butterfield Overland Mail Stage tracks V2” on your GPS and try to follow that track. Let me know how it goes post pictures!

Below is a Google Map with both the original route and my updated tracks. I used Google Earth to try and map out a route that closely resembles the original route. Ride it and let me know if this works and whether I need to make updates. In particular, Pulsey’s Station might be a bit difficult to reach.

About James Pratt

I am an Oklahoma based writer, photographer, videographer and adventurer. I love telling stories about people. A motorcycle is my preferred means of travel, and I have over 5,000 hours piloting small airplanes.

Comments

  1. Not downloadable to MAC. Any suggestions other than buying a PC? 🙂

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