Ideally the changing stations twelve to fifteen miles apart. Of course there were exceptions, like the first station out of Miles City was 17 miles. (For instance in 1880 there was an 18-mile run to the first station south of Pantana on the Harshaw road, southeast Arizona. It was mostly up hill so that the driver really had to baby the horses up the grade. Next station was only 10 miles and where he could make up the time.)
These stations usually consisted of no more than a log cabin and barn, or corral, for the stock-tenders and fresh horses. The eating stations were normally separated by a distance of forty to fifty miles and in comparison could be small settlements. The overall average speed for stage coaches - including team changes and stops at meal stations was about six miles per hour - or 75 to 86 miles per day. One notable exception was the Virginia City to Helena run - 125 miles - completed in one long brutal day. On first class stage runs the new team of horses was already harnessed and hitched up, ready to make the switch in no more than two minutes. Passengers could only stretch their legs and use the toilets.
Getting a grasp on the mileage is confusing. NEW YORK TIMES of April 4, 1880 reported on Maxwells’ new stage line:
“….Some months ago a semi-weekly mail route was established between Miles City and Deadwood, in the Black Hills, 235 miles distant…..”
In 1878 however, the Daily Times at Deadwood published a mileage chart for distances from Deadwood to about two dozen locations. Miles City was listed at 250 miles. Having done some research on this topic years ago I found that in 1878 three travel groups had gone from Tongue River (Miles City) to Deadwood. The first was in March:
"There arrived in this city from Fort Keogh (Tongue river post) O. D. Clark, E. W. Clark and another. These three gentlemen made the trip in seven days, bringing with them, besides their riding horse, one pack. They report the distance about 200 miles and the traveling tolerably good, over the most of which a wagon road could be easily built. No Indian sign under twenty days old was seen."
[Black Hills Times - March 11, 1878, p. 2]
In April, Luther “Yellowstone” Kelly, 29, accompanied by Sergeant Louis Gilbert and Privates Fox and Leavitt of the Second Cav. were dispatched from Fort Keogh to try working out a new wagon road “from Tongue River to Deadwood.” "Luther Kelly’s arrival was announced in Deadwood on May 8. The day after came an article entitled: “Scout to find best route to mouth of Tongue River…..less than 200 miles.”
[Daily Times May 9 1878, p.4]
On July 5 a more sizable travel party lead by Morgan Earp departed Tongue River for Spearfish and then Deadwood. Earp’s partner James Fitzsimmons - of Fitzsimons & Reece Variety Hall - was to conduct business liquidations at Spearfish (of which he was a founding member) and also Gayville near Deadwood. They were roundabout on their way to Butte, M.T., to start another variety hall among other things - but first had to escort Earp’s wife down to the Union Pacific for her visit back home to Iowa. Meanwhile the Earp party had taken three weeks to get to Deadwood, suffering several delays providing assistance due to the constant flow of stampeders going the opposite way from the Black Hills to the Bear Paw Mountains north of the Upper Missouri River. It was incredible how so many people had taken off ill equipped and ran into serious trouble. Earp was interviewed at Deadwood:
“…… On the trip, he estimates that his party passed 500 stampeders, most of whom were not well armed and provisioned for the expedition, and some were quite destitute. At several old camping places, boards and boxes were found with inscriptions saying they were lost, and wondering how far they were from Deadwood….”
This was the first ad in Yellowstone Journal:
"DEADWOOD AND MILES CITY
Will commence running Coaches the First of April to
Deadwood, connecting there with stages
for all camps in the Black Hills."
Carrying the U.S. Mail.
Three Times a Week & Return
For rates of Passage and Express apply to
A. J. Maxwell, Proprietor"
[Yellowstone Journal - March ??, 1880]
According to “All Roads Let To Deadwood” the author didn’t do the best job for clarity in identifying the stage stations from Miles City to Deadwood, but the following numbers seem to match the distances in consideration:
1. Gray Dutch Inn
2. Beebe Station
3. L. O. Ranch
4. Mizpah Station at confluence of Sand Creek
5. Powderville Station
6. Hollyhock Annie Station eating
7. Little Missouri Station
8. Box Elder station
9. Telegraph Point
10. Stoneville (later called Alzada)
11. Baxter Crossing
12. Sourdough Flat
13. The Forks
14. Rathburn Ranch eating station.
17. Burton Stockade
Probably not all the eating stations are identified.
Here are some related items pulled from the Deadwood papers:
“Mr. Maxwell, who operates the stage line from Spearfish to Miles City, is making arrangements to put on a daily line of covered hacks between Deadwood and Miles City.” [Black Hills Daily Times February 1, 1884, p. 3]
“Maxwell, the Miles City stage man, was in the city yesterday arranging for the new coaches that will soon be put on. He expects to start up a daily about the 15th inst., drawn by four horses and with accommodations for eight passengers. Spearfish will be the end of his route, he having made arrangements with Rogers and Spear’s line to carry his passengers from that place to Deadwood. He proposes to have everything in first class shape and to make good time.” [Black Hills Daily Times March 5, 1884, p. 3]
Miles City & Spearfish
Connecting at Spearfish with Rogers Daily Stage for
The stage leaves Miles City Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, at 8 o’clock. For passage or any information apply to
A. J. Maxwell, Prop.
Main street, Miles City, M. T.
Daily Yellowstone Journal - March 5, 1884, p. 4
Tri-weekly Miles City and Deadwood Stage line; J. O. Hallowell & John A. Gaston. [Black Hills Daily Times, Sept 1, 1885, p.2]
Miles City and Deadwood Stageline.
A. J. Maxwell, John A. Gaston.
[Black Hills Daily Times, March 1, 1887, p.1]
Departures via Miles City stageline; J. C. Lanham, J. P. Horgan, John A. Gaston.
[Black Hills Daily Times, Dec. 10, 1890, p.3]