Monday, April 15, 2013

The Passing Of The Concord

April 8, 2013 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

One passenger wrote, "Our stages were the Concord type, miserable things to ride in. The motion made the passengers sea-sick, and the dust was terrible." Photo, circa 1887, courtesy of the San Diego Historical Society.
 There are many stories about stagecoaches lost along the Apache Trail over cliffs. The storytellers will tell the stages are still there with all their cargo waiting for some brave soul to descend on a rope to make a recovery. My friends, these stories continue to fascinate people, but they are not true.

The history of the Concord stages along the Apache Trail was very brief. The Concord stages were used only between 1906-1910. Other stagecoaches were used independently until about 1917. However, by 1915 horse drawn vehicles were, for the most part, replaced by self-propelled vehicles.

"Mesa-Roosevelt Contract Expires," read the Arizona Republican on March 23, 1910. This was the end of an era. The government contract to carry the United States mail to Roosevelt Dam from Phoenix officially expired on July 1, 1910. Roosevelt Dam was nearing completion and the self-propelled vehicle was replacing team-drawn wagons and stages along the Mesa-Roosevelt Road (Apache Trail).

According to the article, horse-drawn vehicles were giving way to the railroads, trolley lines and light self-propelled vehicles. It was apparent that the Mesa-Roosevelt Road was going to change. Since the completion of the Mesa-Roosevelt Road Mesa residents were accustomed to seeing Concord stages drawn by four horses going and coming daily from Roosevelt. The Concords had been an important part of the West. They linked the distant Arizona towns together and provided a means in which to carry the mail. It was the mail contracts that kept these stage lines going.

The newspaper article also predicted there would be stagelines still in use in Arizona for years to come. But the development of better roads and shorter hauls soon led to the use of lighter vehicles and self-propelled vehicles.

The Mesa-Roosevelt Stage Company was capitalized in 1906 at $25,000 and held mail contracts that necessitated covering 334 miles daily by their drivers. The contract between Mesa and Roosevelt was the most important one. The trip from Mesa to Roosevelt required ten hours road travel to cover the sixty miles over mountainous roads. Forty-five head of horses were kept at the various stations along the route. One of the greatest management problems for stage lines was to haul feed to each of the stations. Horses and feed were kept at several stations along the Apache Trail. These stations included locations at Mesa, Desert Well, Hall’s Station, Government Well, Tortilla Flat, Fish Creek, and Roosevelt.

During the four years of operation from 1906-1910, there was not a single fatality on the line due to any accidents, and there were some serious accidents. In one accident a stage plunged over a sixty-foot embankment breaking the legs of the driver, Frank Nash. With all the runaways, tip-overs and trips down Fish Creek Hill on two wheels, it’s a wonder these pioneers didn’t have a cemetery at each of the stage stations along the Mesa-Roosevelt Road. The safety record attests to the quality of the Concord coaches, including their ruggedness and durability.

The lighter wagons and self-propelled vehicles slowly changed the Mesa-Roosevelt Road (Apache Trail). The historic road witnessed the transition from horse-drawn vehicles to modern automobiles under conditions involving narrow roads, rough roads, sharp curves and steep grades.

Today, the Apache Trail remains as a monument to those early pioneers who contributed so much of their time and energy to the building of the Apache Trail and Roosevelt Dam. Take your time and enjoy your drive to Roosevelt Dam over the Apache Trail. It’s still 44 miles of rugged, adventurous, scenic wonder.