Friday, December 2, 2016

Frink & Walker’s General Stage Office, two doors west, on the south-side of Lake Street, off the corner of Lake and Dearborn streets, Chicago, Illinois. (1844)

What the railroad station was to rural country towns, Frink & Walker’s General Stage Coach Office was to early Chicago. It was the center of public interest. Several times a day strangers arrived in town, residents set out upon long and often hazardous journeys, mail was received and dispatched and it was the transportation center of the growing city.
Frink & Walker’s General Stage Office, two doors west, on the south-side of Lake Street,
off the corner of Lake and Dearborn streets, Chicago, Illinois. (1844)
Although the first stage coach ventured west out of Chicago to Fullersburg, Illinois [1], 15 miles from Chicago, on January 1, 1832, then the Indian Boundary Line (Indian Boundary Park, Chicago), it was a man named Frink that set up the first successful stage line out of Chicago. 

His line was known as the Frink & Walker Stage Lines and their coaches started from a shanty-like building located in the heart of Chicago at the corner of Lake and Clark Streets. By 1835, Frink & Walker’s moved two doors west, on the south-side of Lake Street, off the corner of Lake and Dearborn streets.

From 1832 until the construction of the first railroad in 1848, the stage coaches of Frink & Walker were the only link connecting Chicago with the outside world. For several years after the primitive locomotives had come puffing in and out of town, the stages continued to run regularly, carrying passengers and mail to and from many places not reached by the first railroads. 

Even before Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833, the firm established a stage coach line to Galena in 1832. Oddly enough, that town was also the terminus of the first railroad. As settlements increased in number, Frink & Walker met the growing demands by establishing new stage coach lines to all parts of the Northwest, as far as Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien Wisconsin, and to the south, a line extended to St. Louis Missouri. Many a lady passenger became hysterical in the stage coach when the driver seemingly headed for the middle of Lake Michigan while fording the more shallow water in the delta to the Calumet River, in the days before bridges.

The stage coach office, from which all the coaches departed, and which was usually surrounded by an interested group of idlers [2]. Many of the stages, especially those obliged to traverse muddy roads, were equipped with six horses, and, in addition to the skillful driver, carried a postillion [3], who blew a horn gaily when the stage was pulling out, and played a fanfare on its arrival to notify the idlers that the stage was in with the mail and passengers. 

Now and again the passengers and drivers on these coaches had a brush with the Indians on lonely stretches of the road, but more often their experiences were confined to struggles with the deep mud of the roads through the woods and across the prairies. The extension of the railroad lines to all parts of the territory reached by the stages led to the abandonment of a picturesque feature of life in early Chicago.

Frink fought all the other stage lines, in true Chicago style, eventually emerging in complete control of the stages in and out of Chicago. By 1860, Frink & Walker stage coach lines were covering a radius of over 1,000 miles.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Fullersburg, Illinois was on the edge of Indian Country. It was where a roadhouse once stood along the Old Plank Road (now Route 34 / Ogden Avenue), a stop on the Walker & Frink Line. Known as Castle Inn, it is believed that Abraham Lincoln spoke from their veranda while riding his circuit. 

Lincoln's circuit extended thru 18 counties and that he went from Clinton to Monticello, then to Urbana, Danville, Paris, Charleston, Shelbyville, Sullivan, Decatur, Taylorville and Springfield. At different times in the course of Lincoln’s circuit riding he traveled thru each of the following counties: Sangamon, Menard, Mason, Tazewell, Woodford, Livingston, McLean, DeWitt, Piatt, Champaign, Vermilion, Edgar, Coles, Shelby, Moultrie, Macon, and Christian.

[2] Idler; A habitually lazy person.

[3] Postillion; A person who rides the leading left-hand horse of a pair or team drawing a coach or carriage, especially when there is no coachman.

1 comment:

  1. Fullersburg was a favorite picnic spot for many years. I wonder how many people know the name or the area at this time.


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