12. Overland Trail
Pioneers, Wagons, and a 575 Mile Journey.
The Overland Trail and Stagecoach Line was an alternate wagon route off the famous Oregon Trail. Pioneers crossed this area as they headed westward in the late 1800’s.
The Overland Trail (also known as the Overland Stage Line) was a stagecoach and wagon trail in the American West during the 19th century. While portions of the route had been used by explorers and trappers since the 1820s, the Overland Trail was most heavily used in the 1860s as an alternative route to the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails through central Wyoming. The Overland Trail was famously used by the Overland Stage Company owned by Ben Holladay to run mail and passengers to Salt Lake City, Utah, via stagecoaches in the early 1860s. Starting from Atchison, Kansas, the trail descended into Colorado before looping back up to southern Wyoming and rejoining the Oregon Trail at Fort Bridger. The stage line operated until 1869 when the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad eliminated the need for mail service via the stagecoach.
Benjamin Holladay (October 14, 1819 – July 8, 1887) was an American transportation businessman responsible for creating the Overland Stage to California during the height of the 1849 California Gold Rush. Ben Holladay created a stagecoach empire and he is known in history as the “Stagecoach King”. A native of Kentucky, he also was hired as a private courier to General Alexander Doniphan of Missouri. Doniphan refused point-blank to carry out orders to kill the Mormons during the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. Through Holladay’s friendship with Brigham Young, Holladay established a profitable freighting contract to Salt Lake City. His transportation empire later included steamships and railroads in Oregon.
Several modern highways follow the same route as the Overland Trail. Interstate 76 follows the South Platte River to Fort Morgan, Colorado, and U.S. Route 34 goes between Fort Morgan and Greeley. North of Fort Collins, U.S. Route 287 follows the path of the Overland Trail north to Laramie. West of Laramie the Overland Trail route was closely followed by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869 and the Lincoln Highway and Interstate 80 in the 20th century.
Remains of stage stops are scattered throughout Wyoming and northern Colorado including well preserved buildings at Virginia Dale, Colorado and Point of Rocks, Wyoming. The trail is occasionally marked with markers and historical signs where the trail crosses a highway. Switchbacks on the route can be clearly seen when on highway 287, just north of the town of Laporte, Colorado, above the present day Forks Lumber company, and portions of the route just east of that spot are well preserved and easily seen (although they are crossing through private property).
Wagons. Raids. Dysentery. See the harsh journey of a pioneer.*