Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Still On the Trail

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Tandem Ox Yoke
 Photo (C) Doris McCraw

The Smokey Hill River Trail, one of the more treacherous routes to the Colorado Gold Fields, gave way to the Butterfield Overland Dispatch in 1865. This stage line only ran for about a year before its purchase by Ben Holliday, known as the "Stagecoach King". Holliday in turn sold to Wells Fargo who sold to the United States Express Company.

According to records, the cost for an individual ticket was $175.00 one way. There were a total of thirty-nine stage stops along the trail. It was here passengers could purchase a meal for an additional fifty cents to one dollar.

Map of the Smokey Hill Trail 
from Legends of America

Additionally, the Army built several forts along this route to protect travelers from attacks. The Smokey River was a favored hunting ground for the Plains Indians. Some of the Forts along the trail were: Fort Downer, Fort Hays, Fort Harker, Fort Monument, and Fort Wallace.

Despite the presence of the Army, the attacks cost the stage line but ultimately it was the railroad that resulted in the end of the travel on the trail but what stories you find when you start researching.

From the Smokey Hill River Trail exhibit at the Elbert County
Historical Society & Museum
Photo (C) Doris McCraw

As for the forts, some of the names probably sound familiar and many are now museums.

For those who might be interested here is a link to a PBS show talking about Four-Mile-House, the last stage stop before arriving in Denver. Four-Mile House

Until Next Time Stay Safe & Stay Well



  1. Replies
    1. The more I research the more I find I want and need to know. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my 'journey'. Doris

  2. I always enjoy your historical posts. This was no exception. Thanks.

    1. You are welcome, Agnes. I'm really into the research on this trail. Doris

  3. I watched the PBS video about Four Mile House. It's not only fascinating to look back on history, but it's particularly interesting for me. I grew up about 90 miles from Denver.

    Love the maps you posted, too.

  4. And... Blogger wouldn't let me add my name on the Anonymous comment. I had to wait a few minutes and try again. Sorry about that.

    1. No problem. I loved the PBS piece also. At some point I'm going to go visit the place, now in Denver proper. The whole history of this trail and the westward expansion has me hooked. Doris