||One of major horse-drawn transportation projects of history. Was authorized by Act of Congress on March 3, 1857. Contract for semi-weekly service overland to San Francisco, California, was awarded to company headed by John Butterfield; another stockholder in the $2,000,000 venture was express pioneer William G. Fargo. The line employed some 2,000 people and used hundreds of stagecoaches and thousands of animals. In addition to receipts from freight and passengers, it had a $600,000 annual subsidy for carrying U.S. Mail. Company operated from September 1858 to February 1861 with a 25-day schedule for the 2,795 mile trip (8 to 9 days were allowed for crossing Texas). Route began in Tipton, Mo., and Memphis,Tn., uniting at Fort Smith, Ak., entering Texas near Sherman, thence westward through the Comanche-held frontier, leaving the state at El Paso.
Stage stations were located about every 20 miles and the best known in this vicinity were Fort Belknap, Fort Phantom Hill, Mountain Pass and Fort Chadbourne. Between Fort Belknap and Tucson, Az., mules were used to pull the coaches as they were less appealing to Indians. Each coach accommodated four to ten passengers at an average fare of $200 each; mail and freight charges were ten cents per one-half ounce.