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History Monday: The Old Time Stage Coach
By Mike Watson
: Before giving a history of this old time vehicle, we will give a little writing of how Columbians received their mail before the stage coach was introduced.
In 1854 the turnpike from Campbellsville to this place [Columbia] was completed, and a short time before that year our mail facilities were very poor and slow. Our mail from Louisville was sent via Elizabethtown, and from that point it came horseback twice a week. A mail once a week came from all the adjoining towns. Soon after we commenced receiving two mails a week via Elizabethtown, a semi-weekly mail was started from Glasgow. We were a very small boy at that time, but we remember the carrier from Glasgow handled the Louisville papers, which he received at Glasgow and peddled along the route between the two towns, and generally reached Columbia with several that he sold upon the Square.
Concerning the mail: James W. Jones, a mail carrier between Elizabethtown and Columbia, Kentucky, has been arrested on a charge of robbing the mail.--Public Ledger, Philadelphia, PA, 16 March 1843.
In olden times nearly all the mail carriers, excepting the one who brought the mail from Glasgow, were kept over nights by Mr. Andrew Russell, the father of the late Judge W.E. Russell. The mail carriers were partial to Columbia, and when a rain came before leaving this place, it is said that they would ride to the first stream and return saying that the creek was not fordable. Their statements were generally accepted and they were permitted to remain here another day, waiting for the stream to run down, as they claimed. On the other hand, it is said when they were coming to this place, finding the streams past fording, they would swim their horses across in order to get here.
We did not commence to receive a daily mail until after the turnpike was completed, and soon after the pike was opened, mail facilities became better and the stage coach was put on [the road] and a mail daily reached us from Louisville and from the upper counties.
During the Civil War, Thomas & Beckney were the mail contractors from Lebanon to this place, and during their region [tenure or time] is as far back as our memory goes. Mr. Thomas lived at Danville and Mr. Beckney at Shelbyville. They put on coaches which were conveyed by four horses, and stands where the teams were changed, every six or eight miles.
It is remarkable the number of passengers would get in and on the coaches. The inside packed as close as sardines in a box and the top and boot the same way. We remember of seeing the stage leave here one morning with thirty-two passengers and they were carried to Lebanon, the nearest railroad point. Guerrillas were thick during the War and often a guard of soldiers went on the hack, to protect the mail and express.
A short time after the Bank of Columbia was robbed by the James and Young Boys, and its cashier, R.A.C. Martin, killed by one of them, the stage coach was robbed about two miles this side of Campbellsville. At that time the coach left here at 1 o'clock in the morning. One the same night a highwayman had secured lodging with Mr. J.A. Johnson, who lived not far from the pike, a half miles this side of the Green River bridge.
The stage was due to pass this point about daylight, and the highwayman, for such he proved to be, told Mr. Johnson he wanted an early start. He was on his horse on the pike when the coach came up. He did not order it to stop, but galloped in front, and when he reached a secluded spot, at the point designated, he dismounted, went onto the pike, ordered the driver to stop, who was Bob Borders, and the passengers to get out. Our recollection is there were four passengers, three men and a woman.
One of the passengers was Judge M.H. Rhorer, now of Middlesboro. The robber ordered the men and woman to stand in line, and at the same time, keeping his revolver playing upon them. The passengers were not armed, and the robber soon got their valuables, in the way of money and jewelry. Judge Rhorer lost a gold watch valued at one hundred and twenty-five dollars, some money and a lot of blank checks on the Bank of Columbia.
The mail sacks were also cut open and the registered letters taken. The robber got on his horse and backed into the woods, keeping his revolver pointed at his victims until he got out of sight. It has never been known who perpetrated this robbery, but it was believed at the time he was a former member of the James Gang. Two weeks after the robbery some checks that were taken from Judge Rhorer reached the bank here filled out for certain sums, and sent by a bank in Southern Kentucky. At the time this robbery occurred the stage line was owned by George W. Borders, of Campbellsville.
This was a front page story in the Adair County News, 29 December 1920 and was likely authored by Herschel C. Baker, or perhaps Rollin T. Hurt.
The robbery described in the foregoing may have been perpetrated in the year 1882 as evidenced in part in an 1888 news article which also involved one of the Rhorer family:
Miss Mabel Rhorer, who has been spending several weeks with Bloomington [Indiana] friends will return to her home (Columbia, Ky.) this week. Mrs. S.C. Dodds will accompany her and will spend several weeks in her old Kentucky home.--It is to be hoped that Mrs. Dodds will not experience the same treatment accorded her six years ago, while on her return from a similar visit. At that time while riding in a stage from Columbia to Campbellsburg [sic, Campbellsville], Ky., a distance of twenty miles, and when within three miles of Campbells[ville], on the open pike and in broad daylight, the stage was stopped, the passengers ordered out, "hands up and be quick!" while the commander of the occasion proceeded to appropriate all money and valuables, "without any relief as to appraisement and valuation." After taking the tap from a wheel, and placing it in his pocket, the highwayman quickly disappeared in the woods, leaving the passengers, three gentlemen and Mrs. Dodds, to walk to town. -- The Republican Progress, Bloomington, IN, 8 August 1888.
And one other new item on the Lebanon to Columbia stage route from 1876:
The stage from Lebanon now runs through daily to Columbia instead of stopping at Campellsville, twenty miles this side.--The Interior Journal, Stanford, KY, 6 October 1876.
Postal road, 1851: [U.S Congress]: An Act to establish certain post roads in the United States... Kentucky: From Columbia, Adair County, to Campbellsville, Taylor County...--The Daily Republic, Washington, DC, 14 March 1851.
Postal road, 1853: An Act to establish certain post roads...Kentucky--From Glasgow [t]o Columbia via Sampson Jones's, south fork of Little Barren river...--Gazette Democrat, Little Rock, Ark., 21 January 1853.
Local mail routes in 1858: United States Mails: Post Office Department, December 31, 1857--Routes...[Number] 9620: From Danville, by Milledgeville, Hustonville, Middleburg, Liberty, Freedom, and Neatsville, to Columbia, 57 miles and back, twice a week to Hustonville, and once a week the residue... 9623: From Lebanon, by Bradfordsville, and Casey's Creek, in Neatsville, 40 miles and back, once a week... 9627: From Elizabethtown, by Hodgensville, Felixville, Allendale, Summersville, Greensburg, and Haskensville, to Columbia, 56 miles and back, every other day... 9634: From Columbia, by Glen's Fork, Millersville, Creelsburg, (local,) and Seventy-Six, to Albany, 35 miles and back, twice a week... 9636: From Columbia, by Mount Airy, Jamestown and Horseshoe Bottom, to Monticello, 41 miles and back, twice a week... 9637: From Jamestown to Rowena, 12 miles and back, once a week... 9639: From Campbellsville to Neatsville, 16 miles and back, once a week... 3640: From Campbellsville by Tampico, Sublett's Store, and Cane Valley, to Columbia, 20 miles and back, three times a week... 9650: From Glasgow, by Sugar Plant, Rockland Mills, East Fork, Gradyville, to Columbia, 43 miles and back, twice a week... --Louisville Daily Courier, Louisville, KY, 9 February 1858.
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