January 11, 2011

Roadside Stagecoach Spotting in Kansas and Missouri

If you're driving through Kansas or Missouri, you will start to notice a similar roadside attraction - stagecoaches. Before highways or even railroads, the only way to really travel across the country was by stagecoach. The earliest stagecoach line to travel through Missouri and Kansas was the Santa Fe Trail, which in 1849 ran a monthly line of stagecoaches from St. Louis to Santa Fe, New Mexico, although the trail was first blazed in 1821. It later moved to Independence, Missouri and those crossing the wide open spaces of the country would travel the 1,200 miles of the Santa Fe Trail for $250 with only 40 pounds of baggage.

The trail was fraught with danger. Even as travelers struggled to survive the arid plains, deserts, and mountains there were more challenges to overcome. Stagecoaches were sometimes attacked by Native Americans. Rattlesnakes, lightening storms, and more all posed deadly threats to lives of those brave souls trying to cross the wild, vast space of the country. This brief history is, of course, only cursory, but if you want to learn more about the Santa Fe Trail, including its economic significance to trade as well as its military history, I encourage you to read more on the Legends of America website.

Many of the sites along the Santa Fe Trail are marked and commemorated as national historic landmarks. But also along the road are stagecoaches that mark intersections and businesses throughout Kansas and Missouri.

In the Westport neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri there is a large stagecoach at a major intersection. I've tried to find out when it was built or why, but can't seem to find an answer. It's simply there. I ran into the same problem when trying to find out about a stagecoach at an intersection in Overland Park, Kansas. As much as stagecoaches and stagecoach trails are commemorated as a significant part of Kansas and Missouri history, it seems these roadside stagecoaches has simply become part of the scenery - erected and forgotten as though it has always been there and always will be there. I now wonder if anyone else notices the stagecoaches, or if they simply drive on by.


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