Monday, July 31, 2023

The First Nine Stagecoach Routes out of Chicago.

The earliest stagecoach routes were established in 1832 through the 1840s as Chicago rapidly grew and became a transportation hub. The routes had stops to change teams for meals, lodging, and nature calls. 

The stagecoaches allowed people to travel long distances quickly and were primarily carefree as paid passengers but for road and weather conditions. Transportation played an essential role in the steady growth of Chicago.

  • Chicago─Fullersburg (Oak Brook, today) route was the first stagecoach route out of Chicago. The route fare was 10¢ ($3.25 today) for the 15-mile trip between Chicago and Fullersburg. Frink, Bingham & Co. Stagecoach was established in 1832 by John Frink and Charles K. Bingham. The Chicago to Fullersburg route followed the "Indian Boundary" line drawn between the Potawatomi and Ojibwe Indian tribes in 1816. The line ran through what is now Cook County, Illinois. The Indian Boundary line connected Chicago with the Des Plaines River, a tributary of the Illinois River, which, in turn, is a tributary of the Mississippi River. Chicago's population exploded. The Chicago and Aurora Plank Road was built along the Indian Boundary in 1834 and was one of the first plank roads in Illinois. The Chicago and North Western Railroad was built along the Indian Boundary in the 1850s.
  • Chicago─Galena route was the most popular stagecoach route in Illinois. The trip took about five days. A single trail linking Chicago to Galena was formally established in 1839 by John Frink and Martin Walker, who, together in 1840, established Frink, Walker & Co., Stage Line in Chicago. It spurred economic growth in both cities and the birth of many villages, which began as stagecoach stops, and soon, supporting businesses popped up.
  • Chicago─Peoria route was first established in 1833 when a one-horse stagecoach was placed in service between the two towns, and it took 2 days (24 hours). A two-horse wagon was put into service the following year, and the route was extended southwest to Ottawa. The stagecoach line expanded to include Aurora, Joliet, and Bloomington stops. The stagecoach route continued to operate into the 1850s when it was replaced by the railroad.
  • Chicago─Rockford stagecoach route was among the earliest in Illinois. It was established in 1835 by John Kinzie. The route linked Chicago, a quickly growing town (Inc. Aug.12, 1833), with the village of Rockford, which was located on the Rock River. A popular route, coaches were often crowded, and the trip could be rough and uncomfortable. However, the route was also relatively fast, taking about 12 hours. This route was replaced by the Chicago and Galena Union Railroad in 1850. 
  • Chicago─Milwaukee was a Lake Michigan paddleboat route. The distance between Chicago and Milwaukee was about 12 hours by paddleboat at the end of the 1830s. The fastest paddleboat on the Chicago─Milwaukee route was called the 'Milwaukee,' which was put in service in 1839. The Milwaukee cruised 12 miles per hour, making the trip between Chicago and Milwaukee in just under 10 hours. Three meals, snacks, and perhaps Beer were available.
  • Chicago─Detroit route took about four days to travel. Many stagecoaches stop, changing horses and drivers, perhaps a different coach, saloons to eat and board, or boarding houses for a night's stay. 
  • Chicago─Joliet stagecoach route was initially operated by the Chicago and Joliet Stage Company as a mail and passenger route. The stagecoaches traveled round trip between Chicago and Joliet three days a week. The one-way trip took about four hours.
  • Chicago─Aurora route was initially operated by the Chicago and Aurora Stage Company in 1842 as a mail route, adding a large passenger carriage. The 4-horse stagecoaches traveled between Chicago and Aurora, a 30-mile trip that took about three hours, twice a day, each leaving at six in the morning and at three in the afternoon, making it possible to travel back and forth and be back home for supper. The route was often dangerous, prone to flooding and bandits. 
  • Chicago─Elgin The first stagecoaches on the Chicago─Elgin route began operating in 1838. The Chicago and Elgin Stage Company initially operated the route primarily as a mail route and passenger transport. The stagecoaches traveled between Chicago and Elgin twice a day, and the trip took about two hours. The Chicago─Elgin stagecoach ceased operating in the late 1850s, as railroads became the dominant mode of transportation, U.S. Mail, and shipping in the Midwest and beyond. 
What Stagecoach Travel in 1830s Chicago and Illinois was really like. 

The stagecoaches were eventually replaced by railroads, but they played an essential role in the early development of Chicago and surrounding areas. They connect Chicago to other parts of the state and the country, which promoted the city's growth.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

1 comment:

  1. Do you have a map showing the paths that the stagecoaches took to their destination? I'm curious as to which roads we use today were started long ago.


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