Civil War Era Stage

Published by: David E. Sneed
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Image Copyright © David E. Sneed, All Rights Reserved
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One of the goals with the Wheels That Won The West® collection is to locate and help preserve some of the rarest and most prominent wood-wheeled brands that rolled across the American West. It’s a search and rescue mission that’s led us to all fifty states and some foreign countries.

Among the survivors in our collection is an unrestored, Abbot-Downing (J. Stephens Abbot) Heavy Overland that saw more than a half century of service in Montana, Idaho, and Utah. It’s a Civil War era stage saturated with western saga. We’ve been researching this rolling history book for a handful of years and have found a number of primary source photos of it working in the West. We’ve also been able to piece together a significant part of its provenance and it has a number of tales to tell. It was among the first stages to service the gold rush in Virginia City, Montana and took plenty of harrowing trips over the same Rocky Mountain pass that Lewis & Clark went through with Sacagawea. I’ll share more insights into that background down the road. 

Today, I thought I’d highlight a before/after photo comparison showing the old 'Virginia' stage working in Salmon, Idaho around 1900-1905. Below the old image is the same location as we found it during a trip in 2021. The brick structure shown is the Shenon building, dating to 1895. Special thanks to the Lemhi County Historical Society & Museum in Salmon, Idaho for access to the early image. They’re good, knowledgeable folks and have been especially helpful in our research.

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ABOVE: The old 'Virginia' stage running past the Shenon building in Salmon, Idaho, ca.1900. Image courtesy of the Lemhi County Historical Society and Museum.

BELOW: The same Shenon building as it appeared in 2021.

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Abbot-Downing coach #509 pictured here is now located at Wells College in Albany, NY. This survivor is related to the Heavy Overland pictured in the historic pic above. We'll share a lengthy story later this year.

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