J. Stephens Abbot (Abbot-Downing)

Published by: David E. Sneed
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Image Courtesy of the Lemhi Historical Society & Museum – Salmon, Idaho
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For roughly three-quarters of a century, the legendary Abbot-Downing partners were crafting multiple sizes, weights, and designs of Concord stagecoaches. The types of designs are typically referred to as either a Hotel, Eastern or Western-style Concord. According to noted A-D historian, Ken Wheeling, there is somewhat of a scholarly dispute as to how many Concords were built by the duo of Lewis Downing and J. Stephens Abbot. While the old company record books apparently have a tally of 3,000, a few long-time researchers feel the number may be closer to 1,800 to 2,000. Of that number, Ken is only aware of 159 that have been found, at least as of 2024. That’s an abysmal survival rate of original Concords no matter which total number we choose to believe.  

The company also built other stage designs, including Passenger Hacks and an Overland also referred to as a mud wagon. Unfortunately, the record books for those vehicles have not survived and there are no conclusive numbers on how many A-D Overland models still exist. It’s fair to say the survival percentage is drastically low on these as well. Ultimately, each one of the original Overlands is a rare testimony to a time when the West was wild and horseflesh ruled the road.

The Civil War-era stage in the Wheels That Won The West® collection was built during the time when J.S. Abbot and Lewis Downing had separated. Handcrafted by the Abbot firm in Concord, New Hampshire, the body and the running gear are numbers matching, meaning they are original to each other, with one exception. Reflecting the trials of keeping stages running on the frontier, the forward axle of the Overland was replaced at some point with one from Concord coach #509, which is now at Wells College in Albany, NY.  

The matching numbers on the body and running gear of the Overland are a palindrome, meaning they read the same forward and backward. This stage was in a Montana museum during the 1950s and currently has about 90% of its history documented. It carries a storied legacy with stage lines in Utah, Montana, and Idaho from the early 1860’s until 1915, when most of these routes were closing.


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SHOWN: Midway Station on Trail Creek in Montana – The Heavy Overland facing the camera is our stage. It’s headed east toward Redrock, MT leaving the legendary Rocky Mountain Lemhi Pass behind it.

Image Courtesy of the Lemhi Historical Society & Museum – Salmon, Idaho


During some of our research for our Overland stage, I came across an article in the April 15, 1871 edition of “The Hub.” It was an obituary for J.S. Abbot and it contained some important facts related to the startup and evolution of the Abbot-Downing company. Below is a transcription of that account...


     We were pained to receive the following telegram last month: “Concord, N.H., March 16th, 1871. Mr. J.S. Abbot, senior member of Abbot, Downing & Co., died this morning.” By letters, since received, we learn that his death was quite sudden, although he had been confined to the house for some weeks. Mr. Abbot was born February 22, 1804, at Albany, Me., and learned the trade of a coach body maker at Salem, Mass, with Frodingham & Loring. In 1826, on Christmas Eve, he went to Concord, to build three coach bodies for Lewis Downing, Sr., and on Jan. 1, 1828, he became Mr. Downing’s partner, the firm continuing till Sept. 1847. In 1849, the present shops were built, and Jan. 1, 1865, the present firm of Abbot, Downing & Co., was formed.

     Mr. Abbot was quite a favorite among the people in Concord, being companionable and open-hearted, and he will be missed by a large circle of friends. In the procession of workmen who followed him to the grave, there were fifty men who had been employed in his factory for sixteen years and upwards, quite a number who were there for twenty-five years, and several who had been with him for thirty-five years. The death of Mr. Abbot will not cause any interruption or change in the business of the firm, which still includes two sons of Mr. Abbot, and two of Mr. Downing, who have taken most of the responsibility of the business since the co-partnership was formed. L. Downing, Sr., who began the business in Concord, in 1813, is seventy-nine years of age, and he withdrew from an active connection with the firm six years ago.

                                                                                            April 15,1871 “The Hub” Vol. 13 No. 1, p. 17




Whether researching an early vehicle, person, event, or some other aspect of history, it’s crucial to have as much primary source documentation as possible. These early accounts can help reinforce provenance credibility while uncovering details that, otherwise, might be deemed as hearsay, speculation, or complete balderdash. That dedication to supportable history is synonymous with the focus of the Wheels That Won The West® archives.




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