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July 13, 2010 > History: Stagecoach!

History: Stagecoach!

By Diane Curry

Stagecoaches played an important role in the settlement of the west. We all have images in our minds from old western movies of brightly painted Concord coaches, filled with hopeful emigrants, speeding across the vast land between Missouri and California. Those movie images were based on reality, of course, though the trip was not nearly as comfortable as they make it seem. Yet the time of the long-haul stagecoach was relatively short lived, ending in 1869 with completion of the transcontinental railroad. Stagecoaches were, however, used for local and more rural transportation for years to come.

At one time, more than one hundred local stage lines operated in California. The stages carried passengers and, sometimes, both mail and freight, mainly smaller packages. A stage company indicated that it had a contract to carry mail by painting "US Mail" on the side of the coach. The local agent for the company handled shipping arrangements for packages, mail, ticket sales, and loading and unloading of passengers and luggage.

Hayward was on the main stage route from Oakland to San Jose as early as 1852. In fact, William Hayward built his hotel and general store near what is now Mission Boulevard and A Street because the stages ran right down Mission Boulevard. It is possible, though there is little corroborating evidence, that Hayward worked with Guillermo Castro to make the roads through Castro's rancho and the neighboring Soto rancho (owned by Guillermo's sister) wide enough to accommodate the north-south stages. Regardless, Hayward's Hotel became a good spot to stop, halfway between the Oakland and San Jose, to change horses and for passengers to grab a bite to eat.

J.A. Talmadge, Moore Brothers, Duncan Cameron, and Charles McLaughlin all ran stages at one time south down Mission Boulevard and east out Old Dublin Canyon Road toward Livermore. The Moore brothers appeared to be the only owners that actually lived in Hayward however. Sometime around 1856, Moore and Cameron had a price war with Cameron undercutting Moore's fees from $1 to 25 cents. The companies competed in prices and speed, sometimes racing to see who could get from one destination to another faster.

It appears that famous stagecoach driver Charley Parkhurst ran the stage route through Hayward in the 1850s and early 1860s. Charley, thought to be a man until it was discovered she was a woman at the time of her death, had earned a reputation as a hard-charging, fearless, and extremely capable driver running some of the most dangerous stage routes in Gold Rush era California.

The first trains of the San Francisco, Alameda and Haywards railroad came to Hayward in 1865 but people still needed to hop on a stagecoach to get them to locales further south or east. This remained the case after the completion of the transcontinental railroad from Niles through Hayward to Oakland in the early 1870s. In fact, in an 1870 directory, five stagecoach drivers and one stage proprietor, T.X. Moore, still called Hayward home.

Two agents advertised for their stage lines in the newspaper in the early 1870s. One Mr. Feely advertised daily stage trips from Haywards (as the town was called at the time) to Danville and points in-between. The stage left Danville for Hayward every day at 6 a.m. and connected with the 9 a.m. train for San Francisco (really a train to Oakland and then a ferry to San Francisco). The stage ran the reverse leaving Hayward for Danville every day at 9 a.m.

In the same newspaper, William Liston advertised Liston's Line of Stages running between Alvarado and Haywards. This line ran the route back and forth between the two communities once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

While the height of the staging business occurred prior to 1869, it is also clear that stages were still used for many more years. The exact year of the last stage run from Haywards is unknown to this writer but it is probable that more frequent trains and the arrival of an electric railway from Oakland to Hayward brought an end to stages in the 1890s.

The stagecoach was an important part of Hayward's early development. Many communities throughout California probably have similar stories of stage lines but Hayward's stagecoach history illustrates how perfectly situated the community was - at a transportation and commerce crossroads - for this mode of travel.

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